Asthma and allergy stereotypes

Le Chiffre in Casino Royale may use a custom metal inhaler, but the implication is clear – he is not as masculine as James Bond.

“Mikey from “The Goonies,” who is portrayed as vulnerable and nervous and is seen taking puffs from his inhaler whenever a situation is particularly scary. Stevie from “Malcolm in the Middle” who suffers from severe asthma can barely make it through a sentence without gasping for breath and wheezing uncontrollably.

“Though he is also proclaimed a genius, it is this perceived weakness that becomes his defining characteristic.

“The stereotype even translates to cartoons, with Carl Wheezer from “Jimmy Neutron: Boy Genius” and Millhouse from “The Simpsons” represented as weak and timid individuals who are used as comic relief whenever they are upset and need a puff from an inhaler to control their symptoms triggered by anxiety.” [American lung association blog]

In the film Hitch, the lovable accountant Alfred uses his inhaler when he is scared to take action.  Until he is inspired to greater manliness, and he throws it away and mounts the steps to kiss his girl in passion, no longer shackled by his psychological, rather than medical, condition. [https://mbtimetraveler.com/tag/asthma-portrayal-in-television-and-movies/]

Even JK Rowling is guilty – see her TV show “The casual vacancy”.

Stephen King’s It has a hypochondriac asthmatic character Eddie Kaspbrak – although at least there is a genuinely terrifying scene where he has an asthma attack and his inhaler has run out – but even this has been triggered by bullying, enforcing the “nerd” stereotype.

Wheezy in Toy Story 2 is also a rather pathetic character.

Positive role models lacking. David Beckham and Harry Styles are some of the few.

Children with asthma, not surprisingly, are highly sceptical of such portrayals. Non asthmatic children obviously don’t appraise movie scenes for their meanings but they do judge the social context of the drama [https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/22574393/]

Few if any other medical conditions seem to get the same treatment…

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