For the movie review assignment, I decided to watch the movie “The Fault In Our Stars.” Despite its popularity, I had never seen it until starting this assignment. Thankfully I was still able to watch and understand it through the many tears. The film is about a teenage girl named Hazel who is suffering from terminal cancer. She is forced to go to a support group by her parents and ends up meeting a boy, Gus, who is also a cancer survivor. The two immediately become great friends, which eventually turns into a love story. They take an adventure to Amsterdam to meet Hazel’s favorite author. While there, Gus informs Hazel that his cancer has aggressively returned. In just a short time, Gus passes but leaves a great and positive impression on Hazel. The movie captures some of the many struggles of having cancer, for those that have it and for those with loved ones who have it. I chose this movie for that reason. I believed that it would be a perfect fit for this assignment and it turned out to be just that. I also chose it because I had heard nothing but good reviews, was genuinely interested in the content, and wanted to see it for myself.
This film directly relates to the course “Culture, Health, and Illness” in a variety of ways. In Dr. Gabriel’s introductory presentation, she discusses the differences between disease, illness, and sickness. The first “refers to the biological and chemical aspects of disease. It is the physiologic malfunctioning of some aspect of the body” (Gabriel, “Culture, Health, and Illness”). From this scientific perspective, the patient is looked at as a set of symptoms that need to be cured, healed, and fixed. However, illness is broader in the sense that it includes “the way a person experiences sickness” and “includes the sociocultural context” (Gabriel, “Culture, Health, and Illness). Illness looks not only at the patient, but the family members and other acquaintances of the patient and how the situation is impactful to them as well. Sickness, in conclusion, is the combination of these two terms and encompasses all that they include. I chose to relate these two terms with the movie because I think the film very clearly portrays both aspects of sickness. In the beginning, Hazel discusses her cancer and all that she has been through in medical terminology. However, the movie is also good at capturing the illness perspective. Hazel shares her own personal thoughts about the cancer throughout the movie and how she personally experiences it. Her family and boyfriend Gus are extremely affected by her sickness as well. They feel the impact of the cancer as equally as her, just in different ways.
Another way I found this movie relates to the course is through looking at the patient as a person overall and not just the disease within the person. Hazel experiences this type of situation first hand when she wants to go to Amsterdam to meet and visit with her favorite author, but is at first given the “no go” by her doctors because she is too sick in their opinion. “Patients appreciate it when physicians take their time, listen to them fully, and appear to care about their overall well being, not just the problem” (Gabriel, “Explanatory Models”). By taking an ethnographic approach (Gabriel, “Explanatory Models”), doctors can more easily see what type of treatment would be the most beneficial for each individual patient and not specifically attempt to treat just the disease alone. This concept is also prevalent in Anne Fadiman’s book “The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down,” an ethnographic account of a young Hmong girl living in the United States suffering from chronic epilepsy. Her family and the doctors have deep mistrust in each other because of their different explanatory models (Gabriel, “Explanatory Models”) of the young girl’s sickness. The family sees her epilepsy as being brought caused by a bad spirit that needs to be rid of through ritual practices and other cultural ways. However, the American doctors simply view her condition as a set of symptoms curable through western medication methods. Both parties believe that the other is viewing the situation incorrectly and trying to help the young girl in ineffective and harmful ways. This distrust and non-collaboration leads to the girl’s continual health deterioration and eventual death. This is why sharing a common explanatory model, the contextual explanation of a sickness, is vital to accurately and appropriately trying to help and cure a patient.
I believe this film would be a good fit for this course because of its relationship with the course concepts I have explained above. While the movie is obviously meant to be a romantic drama, there are still many aspects that tie into ideas discussed in this class. Seeing some of the ideas we are learning about played out in someone’s life helps us to visualize and better understand some of the terms and concepts.
Gabriel, Cynthia, “Culture, Health, and Illness.” Presentation for the course ANP 370: Culture, Health, and Illness, online, 2016.
Gabriel Cynthia, ““Explanatory Models” and Interpretive Theory: Learning about Health through Ethnography.” Presentation for the course ANP 370: Culture, Health, and Illness, online, 2016.