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.