HBO’s In Treatment was the first series I have seen Parkinson’s Disease (PD) addressed in prime time television. Michael J. Fox takes PD somewhere it has never been, prime time on a non-cable network. To bring Parkinson’s to the forefront of the mainstream is both exciting and potentially dangerous. Fox has been an outstanding spokesman and keeper of the flame in the public eye. His voice and face have paved the way for many of us with young-onset, dispelling the myth that PD is just for the elderly.
Fox’s uncontrolled movements (known as dyskinesia which is a side effect from medication, not Parkinson’s) are often accentuated and initiated by stress (possibly added by being on camera)..I know because it happens to me!
The Michael J. Fox Show has a challenging responsibility to entertain about a not so entertaining illness. I personally would like to see the show strive to accomplish the following achievements:
- As a person living with Parkinson’s Disease since the age of 17 (over 30 years), I can admit that there are humorous moments to this not so laughable illness, but I hope not to see Parkinson’s used as a punch line.
- I hope the show doesn’t downplay the seriousness of this neurological disorder.
- PD gestures are not slapstick, not humorous, and not publicly understood, but might be understood with the show’s help.
- I see this show as a tool to educate, inform, and inspire the public to learn about the symptoms of PD, medicines and side effects, and make a call to the public that PD awareness and support is crucial to making strides in better treatments and an ultimate cure.
- TMJFS is a wonderful place to address the issue of caregiver burnout, family distress and learning to talk about illness, the role stress plays, and denial.
These are but a few of the topics I hope Fox considers to address in future episodes of his show. As important as it is to laugh, so is the need to responsibly educate and inform.