I chose to do The Fault in our Stars for the movie review because I have read the book and watched the film numerous times. I loved both and I think the film does a great job on making an impact on the audience, as it shows how teenagers have to deal with illnesses that no one should have to face at any age. The Fault In Our Stars is a different type of romance than expected about two teenagers. The initial plot seems typical as it shows a young boy and girl who ultimately fall in love, but unlike every other movie there is no happy ending. Hazel and Augustus both have cancer and have struggled with their diagnosis for a long time. When the film begins we meet Hazel who is a teenage girl diagnosed with thyroid cancer that eventually spread to her lungs. The doctors did not think she would survive her diagnosis, but with the help of experimental drugs and a clinical trial, she did. Hazel still has many health problems she has to deal with everyday, but she is living the best she can with her cancer. She joins a cancer support group and this is where she meets Gus, a boy her age who is fighting his cancer that has already taken his leg. When they meet they become friends quickly and bond over their illnesses in a witty and unique way. Their friendship eventually develops and they fall in love. The movie shows the hardships they face with their illnesses and in their relationship, both medically and emotionally. Ultimately they bonded in a very special way, as they could connect about their similar hardships that most people do not understand. Gus is not open with Hazel about the progression of his cancer, and instead plans a trip for the two of them to Amsterdam. In the end, Gus relapses and loses his life to cancer.
There were many aspects of this movie that related to things we have learned in this course. We discussed how doctors do not always consider all the factors when advising a patient on a treatment plan. Western medicine is known to be very advanced in biomedicine and sometimes forgets the cultural and personal beliefs behind a treatment (Gabriel 3.2). While we learned that many other countries take a different approach to medicine and consider the bigger picture and how medicine works with family life, the environment and the rest of the community. (Gabriel 3.2). I think this showed when the doctors were against Hazel going to Amsterdam. Although this probably wasn’t the best decision regarding her health, it was the best decision for Hazel. This was something that was going to ultimately improve Hazel’s quality of life. Maybe not in a strictly biomedicine perspective, but in an overall perspective it was beneficial to Hazel.
I also see similarities to this movie with the piece Juli McGruder wrote about mental health and how it affects an illness. Hazel initially met Gus at a support group her mother forced her to go to when her mother suspected Hazel of being depressed. She wasn’t optimistic about her condition and even got prescribed anti-depressants by her doctor. McGruder studied schizophrenia patients in Zanzibar and the negative stigma that is associated with mental illness. I think it can be the same with terminal illnesses such as cancer. When people know someone has cancer they treat them differently and this can be difficult for someone who is already suffering through so much. I think it is easy for people to become depressed when they are facing such a difficult and uncertain reality. Although Hazel seems depressed, when she meets Gus her attitude becomes better and her outlook on her future brightens as well. Even though she is still living with her illness she is trying to enjoy her life. Some of the families in McGruder’s study treated their ill family member ‘s the same as they would any other member. This helped their recovery a lot and overall had a better impact on the family. When Hazel meets Gus, he treats her just like he would treat any other teenager, and helps her believe she too can lead a normal life.
Another way that this movie related to this course was the extreme use of biomedicine that we use in this country. We touched on the term “medicalization” and how Western medicine compares to the rest of the world (Gabriel 4.1). Various parts of The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down came to my mind when relating this aspect to the movie. In The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down, Lia had epilepsy and her family had to deal with the way doctors treated patients in Western medicine, because they were not at all what they were used to. In their culture they had strong faith and beliefs in spirits, while Western medicine relies on chemicals and drugs as the best way to treat people (Fadiman, 1997). Hazel had spent her whole life being pumped with chemicals to treat her cancer, people like the Lee’s would have such a hard time accepting this because it is foreign to their culture. Although, in the US this is the norm and what we expect when treating a disease like cancer. Hazel had gone through a clinical trial and used experimental drugs as well. She still continued to take medicines up to three times a day and was continuing chemotherapy. This shows how much we rely on doctors and the medicines that are made available to us. Before this class, I did not think twice about how much Hazel’s treatment plan solely revolved around biomedicine, but after his class I had very different thoughts. Hazel was so young and yes ultimately wanted the best medicine to further her life, but she also wanted a life worth living. Hazel had a lot of internal struggle with her illness and this affected her relationships with others. She went to a support group, but not a very good one and most were only concerned on her well being based on tests and medical results.
I think this movie would be a good movie to add to the course because it relates to many different aspects of the course in an easy and relatable way. It shows how much we rely on the biomedicine in our society and is relatable due to the age of the characters. Personally, I had a lot of different thoughts on this movie after this class, from Hazel’s treatment plan to how other’s treated her. It also highlights the negative stigma that comes along with illnesses, and how there is so much more to an illness that the medicine.
Fadiman, Anne. The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down: A Hmong Child, Her American Doctors, and the Collision of Two Cultures. New York: Farrar, Straus, and Giroux, 1997.
“Medicalization” of everyday life. Cynthia Gabriel. Lecture 4.1. 2016. Accessed August 15, 2016. http://anthropology.msu.edu/anp370-us16/lecture-videos/medicalization-of-everyday-life/
McGruder, Juli. Madness in Zanzibar: An Exploration of Lived Experience. College University Press, 2003.
The “Does it Work?” question and the nature of science. Cynthia Gabriel. Lecture 3.2. 2016. Accessed August 15, 2016. http://anthropology.msu.edu/anp370-us16/lecture-videos/the-does-it-work-question-and-the-nature-of-science/