Netflix Docu-series “Afflicted”. I Watched It So You Don’t Have To.

Thanks to one of my readers for the recommend!

The above is a vid made by one of the patient/participants in Netflix’s new docu-series “Afflicted,” a 7-part series which follows 7 chronically ill people around documenting their experiences with illness and treatment and which was pitched to the participants as a project that would give a credible voice to seriously chronically ill patients but which ended up doing the opposite.  This patient/participant basically disavows his involvement with the project and slams the director and others making creative decisions for lying to the patients about the nature of the show and the motive for making it, where the participants’ mental health (and by extension their physical ailments) were not taken for granted but rather were put up for debate.  There are also a couple of criticisms of the series online from the so-called “chronic illness community” framing the series as tasteless entertainment — an offensive medical mystery whodunnit crafted for the able-bodied to judge whether the symptoms and diseases these patients describe are “real” or all “in their heads”.  That’s a fair criticism of course and I will leave it for that community to rip it to shreds on the grounds of, essentially, ableism.  But let’s go further.

My main problem with this 7-hour series largely lies in the last half hour or so, where we see that nearly all the patients have shown vast improvements in their symptoms and qualities of life through engaging with various alternative treatments for their ailments.  For those who are wondering about the point and motivation behind this docuseries, I would suggest that it functions as effective pro-Alternative Treatment propaganda and that therefore, pro-Alternative Treatment propaganda is probably “the point” and the motive behind it.  If anyone cares to research this project to see who funded it, that would probably be a worthwhile endeavor as the only ones that come out looking good by the end are the alternative practitioners who have miraculously given most of these allegedly “crazy” patients their lives back, often despite themselves, although we never find out exactly how or why the treatments so consistently worked except via copious references to the “mind-body connection” and even the placebo effect.

I also found it rather inexplicable that the diseases they chose to represent in this project are mostly “strange” and little-understood syndromes like electromagnetic radiation sensitivity, multiple chemical sensitivity, chronic mold sensitivity and others but they also included one patient with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome as if CFS or any autoimmune disease is in the same category of strange afflictions that may or may not reside in the patient’s head (where “in their heads” appears to mean that markers of an illness do not show up on objective tests).  I’m not suggesting that the “stranger” afflictions are generally any less worthy of sympathy and belief, but autoimmune diseases are becoming more and more accepted and often do show up on objective tests; nevertheless Netflix pulls every autoimmune patient into its shifty whodunnit as if the very existence of autoimmune disease is in question and isn’t already settled using actual real “science.”

Similarly, chronic Lyme disease is treated as if it is a dubious “syndrome” rather than something pathogenic and identifiable that frequently shows up on objective tests.  And is it of any consequence that the only 2 male patients in this series had the 2 most objectively credible illnesses — CFS and chronic Lyme — while only women were chosen to represent the confounding “syndromes” most likely to be adjudged to be psychological rather than physical in origin?  Probably, and 2 of the women were also obviously Hispanic, and one was a Jewish lesbian, which would only — and foreseeably — tend to further diminish their credibility in the eyes of the judgey couch-potato crowd.

Of course, all the patients/participants in this series — as a precondition to their participation — were cleared as psychologically healthy before they were ever filmed, as the patient/participant explains in the above video, but Netflix interrogates their very sanity for 7 entire hours anyway.  And as if suffering from long-term chronic pain and disability — and being treated the entire time as if you are nuts and not really sick — won’t tend to make anyone nuts in and of itself.  In other words, even if any of these people were adjudged mentally ill, such as with anxiety, depression or even suicidal ideation or attempts for example, that is not evidence that their physical diseases are imaginary or caused by preexisting mental illness.

But Netflix and the creators of “Afflicted” don’t care about “science” apparently — more evidence that the Alt Treatment industry funded it?  I don’t know.  I’m not a big fan of the “science” or of Big Pharma and Big Medicine myself but what other explanation is there for repeatedly disregarding medical evidence in a medical docuseries?  What is going on here?  Is Netflix just going for the views by presenting a titillating medical mystery series aimed at judgey couch potatoes healthy people, as is suggested by other critics?  Or is there more to it than that?

Also of note were the family and caretaking situations of each patient, where the women were taken care of by husbands and sexual partners but the males were consistently cared for by family.  That’s where it always ends up for women isn’t it?  Palmed off by our families of origin onto sexual partners while men always have mommy and daddy to fall back on no matter what, and no matter how pissed off the parents may (or may not) be about it, men’s parents are always there to catch men when they fall.  Men almost never have to prostitute themselves for any reason, including to be assured care if they are injured or fall ill, but women consistently do.

Of course, this is not recognized or addressed on any level in this series, it’s just my own observation and is consistent with my own experience and that of other patients I know, and have heard and read about.  No or virtually no women can count on their families to care for them, and women who are not sexually partnered when they become ill are literally left out in the cold facing homelessness and unable to reliably treat their serious chronic illness once their own resources are exhausted, assuming they had any resources in the first place.  And in fact this series shows little else but sick people and their caretakers spending thousands, hundreds of thousands and even millions apiece on alternative care over time.  If Alternative Treatment interests did fund this project, best not suggest the treatments don’t work, then, and best imply that the relief they do offer for pain and symptoms are permanent and sustainable, and profound.

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10 thoughts on “Netflix Docu-series “Afflicted”. I Watched It So You Don’t Have To.

  1. I have no idea how I missed this blog post. My son recommended the doc to me. I am going to send this to him. Thanks for the video. What you said about women who have to turn to romantic partners is true. It is my exhusband who does the most for me and then my son when he is in town
    Where is my birth family? I need clarification, I thought you were pro alt medicine but in this post you sound as if you are against it. Could you clear that up for me?

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  2. Hi Michelle, thanks for your comment. Did you watch the series? It is truly awful and there is controversy about it online where all 7 patients have now come out and some of the doctors too, saying they were lied to and misrepresented in this series. It’s really stunning actually, first that it happened at all and secondly that the participants are standing up against it! Asking sick people to participate in the first place is asking alot especially when a lot of them suffer from autoimmune and other diseases that sap your energy. Then for them to gather the grit and energy to defend themselves afterwards, and even after that to tell their own stories in their own words is pretty remarkable. I shudder to think what the “crash” will be like for them later once the adrenaline runs out and they are left to deal with the aftermath of such extensive and prolonged energy expenditure and extreme stress. One of the participants said he is even getting death threats! That’s how much the general public hates sick people and refuses to believe or even care that people are sick.

    About my stance on alternative medicine, it’s not really necessary to address it here and is beyond the scope of this post (I have written about it elsewhere on this blog) but I recognize a likely or at least a possible propaganda campaign when I see one. That’s the point really, not how I personally feel about it. Alt medicine has HUUUUUUUGE financial power and could easily set something like that up if they wanted to, and as I have said elsewhere, even if various alt treatment works, and a lot of it probably doesn’t, but even when/if it works it’s still so expensive that it’s not attainable for many sick people and is not financially sustainable over time. That’s the issue I have run into with my own handcrafted treatment where I was feeling a lot better for awhile (not 100% tho) when I had the money to explore products and services, including literally tens of thousands of dollars worth of cannabis products along with various supplements, and 100% organic non-GMO food. (And before I got sick-sick I spent thousands on Chinese herbs, supplements/medical food, chiropractic, meditation/relaxation/therapy, acupuncture and various massage therapies like cupping, spooning, Rolfing, etc. and have done that my entire adult life as I had been having symptoms since I was a teenager and a lot of it did nothing!) The cannabis and supplements at least worked, but even when I found something that worked, as soon as my money ran out and I had to stop with the supplements and organic food my health plummeted. The MMJ is good for pain relief and that’s better than what I ever got from Big Pharma but it seems like I really need the supplements and food too, and it took me 3 years of my life and my entire accumulated wealth to figure out “what worked for me” but in the end it doesn’t even matter! If I can’t pay for it, who cares?

    I feel duped and like I fell for an Alt-treatment sponsored lie, where people are told to find what works for them as if that’s all there is to it! But what about the money? What about the apparent FACT that some illnesses are just not curable no matter what you do or take? It’s all about money in the end just like everything else. And about finding a CURE so you can stop bothering and inconveniencing people by being sick, and so you can go back to work and resume your job as a consumer like a good little corporate stooge. And when I told my mom about all of this, the first thing she did (besides blaming me for being sick and accusing me of not trying hard enough to get better) is to suggest fecal transplants and so-called Functional medicine. But she didn’t offer to pay for any of it. See? So in the end it’s also used against us because if we haven’t tried literally everything, including handling and ingesting other people’s shit, we haven’t done enough! Even when I found something that worked and had to stop because of money, the first fucking thing anyone suggests is to “TRY MORE STUFF”. It’s a consumerist mindset as well as a pathological mistrust and hatred of sick people, and a fundamental refusal to believe that some illnesses are not curable. I found relief, what else do people want from me? They want me to KEEP TRYING, KEEP CONSUMING, both of which imply it’s a moral failing on our part if we give up. It’s big business and another way to blame sick people for being sick, or for not getting and staying well.

    But in general, to answer your question, I am pro-Alt medicine, kind of. I think alt medicine can’t possibly be any worse than Big Pharma and Western medicine and most of it is probably better, or at least less damaging than taking poison and submitting to sadistic torture, even if it doesn’t work. And…rich people deserve relief too? I guess? I do 100% believe in medical cannabis though. Even if it’s “just” for pain relief and some degree of healing and no side effects, cannabis works better than Big Pharma poison and it’s relatively harmless. That’s all I can say for sure. There’s a lot of weird shit out there but at least cannabis reliably does what it says on the tin (it’s an effective pain reliever, anti-inflammatory and appetite stimulator among other things) and won’t make you worse.

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  3. Both my son and I watched the series. Neither one of us were offended by it but I had no idea that was going on behind the scenes. I could see no reason why anyone should be upset with these people so I was very surprised to hear this. Of course, I am viewing this from the perspective of a chronically ill person and my son as a love one to an ill person so neither of us could fathom why anyone would hate them. I personally thought they were very brave and I could not figure out how they were able to do it while being ill. I had the same thought you did: many, are they are going to be down for the count when this is over! After hearing what this young man had to say, I can understand why he is upset and, as I told my son, I would be upset also if I were in his shoes. After hearing personally from one of them, it now sounds as if this were used for entertainment purposes and to kick up some major dramatic arguments. My son felt it was obvious that they wanted a lot of drama in it. I have found that there is nothing dramatic about being chronically ill because I am bored out of my mind. I do not have the energy to create drama, let alone do the things I love. So, yeah, they had to work very hard to find drama in these people’s lives.

    Thank you for explaining your views on alt med. I totally understand. I now believe that it is very fortunate that I am too poor to ever give it a try. My son told me to just go to one appointment to see what they have to offer but I told him that I would end up wanting to try it even though I cannot because it is unaffordable. Why torture myself like that? I get so angry because people are always telling me I need to try alt med (not my son) and no matter how many times I say I cannot afford it they do not get it. Of course, the people saying it have money and cannot understand the concept of being poor. I cannot stand people who say “well, I would do ANYTHING to save my life!” I refuse to make the rich richer in a lame quest to prolong my suffering by living longer.

    As for cannabis. I prefer mine more pure, and do not buy the products. I use cannabis as I did when I was young. It took awhile to find the perfect dosing, though. I feel the same about cannabis as I do about tea: it is good for whatever ails ya’! It helps with my epilepsy, pain, anxiety and depression. Nothing else has been able to do that for me.

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  4. That’s funny what you say about drama. When I first got sick my mom started a whole family drama wherein “our relationship” was in jeopardy and she enlisted her sisters to contact me and to mediate the dispute. They expected me to drive or fly 500-1000 miles and meet them all in a “neutral territory” so we could hash out our issues. I was like, what the fuck are you all even talking about? What dispute? I had no idea what was going on! Not to mention I was too sick to even drive to the store let alone 500 miles for anything? WTF?! Turns out, after I lost my apartment in a hurricane, had to move in with my ex-partners mother, and was becoming increasingly ill by the day, I had no energy to give my mom constant updates on the condition of the hurricane damage, my living arrangement or my health, and she made it all about herself! And how I wasn’t prioritizing HER and her need to know the play-by-play of my reality when it had nothing to do with her because she was 1000 miles away. She had no concept of the realities of natural disaster victims, homeless/displaced people or people in substandard or unstable housing, or seriously chronically ill people and how any of this might tend to sap my energy, or how or why I might turn inward just to get through the fucking day rather than to give constant updates on the status of what were all long-term disasters with no clear, easy or forseeable solutions and which remained more or less the same from one day, week, month and even one year to the next. She hounded me for updates for years, years! Without offering to help AT ALL of course, and didn’t want the truth either, she just wanted assurances that everything was FINE just to make herself feel better. When things were NOT fine, they were so far from FINE I couldn’t even see fine from there and things would probably never be FINE ever again! I finally had to cut off all contact with her for my own sanity. What part of chronically ill (or NOT FINE) do people not understand? And why the FUCK would I spend all my time and energy explaining it all to people who DON’T FUCKING GET IT and who don’t care anyway (except for how it might affect THEM) when I live it 24/7 and can’t escape?

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  5. Wait!!!! YOU MEAN WE HAVE THE SAME MOTHER???!!! The reason my son so easily picked up on the drama is because my family is not content without it and my mom is the queen instigator. He hates drama and will leave whenever he detects it. Your incident with the “mediation” is common in my family. Do you know when MY son crossed over she tried to make it all about her? She hadn’t even spoken to him for years! I have not had a relationship with her for 4 1/2 years. Come to think of it, my younger son has not mentioned having any interaction with her in at least a year.

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  6. Haha! Yes I guess that makes us sisters. You’re lucky you didn’t end up with my dad though. He’s a real piece of work (and a Western medical doctor). How did I get so lucky? I can’t even imagine what I could’ve done in any past life, alternate dimension or dream to deserve this. I feel like I’m in hell, literal hell.

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  7. I guess I am very lucky that my dad was a mail carrier!!! I come from a family with a long line of abuse and my dad was pussy whipped into obedience. Very sad. You did nothing to deserve this. I have written on this topic many times in the past. It is called pre-life planning. You are not being punished. Believe me, I know it feels that way but you are not. Source God is not who people want him/her/it to be. They want to humanize him/her/it, make Source vengeful and wrathful but that is us when we are incarnated, not Source.

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  8. I was just kidding really. I don’t believe I’m being punished, but I also don’t believe in the pre-life planning stuff either. I’m very open minded at this point though and don’t disbelieve in anything, but I also don’t believe it. I think pretty much anything is possible. I mean, I know we’ve been lied to our whole lives about what’s really going on everywhere with everything so who even knows what’s real when you really think about it? All I have is my own perceptions and my own values, that’s all any of us really has in the end isn’t it? Even though I also cannot necessarily trust my “gut” anymore since my literal gut is failing and has been for a long time. But what choice do I have but to use my own discernment and try to figure everything out for myself considering all the lies and propaganda? I read/watch a lot of different sources and just try to feel my way through it, but mostly I just consider that pretty much anything is possible.

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