Race, sex, culture, religion, those with disabilities and those without, where do we draw the line at using these issues for comedy entertainment without thinking of the people who are linked to them?
Being a part of many different forums some of which regard epilepsy, I noticed one particular comment from someone who was very upset. They had watched a television show where the characters had used seizures as the butt of a joke. I looked at the comments that followed from many people. It was interesting to see how varied the reactions were. Some were scathing, projecting their wall of defence. Others were more relaxed with their views, expressing that they can’t alter their situations so they opt for laughing as it’s better than the alternative.
I believe that it is important to be able to laugh at yourself. Laughter can so often lighten a serious situation. Research shows that laughter releases endorphins which are the brain’s ‘feel good’ chemical (www.scientificamerican.com/article/why-laughter-may-be-the-best-pain-medicine/). But it’s not just the endorphins that are advantageous there are also a number of both short term and long term benefits. The link below goes into greater detail of how it can improve your health.
One of the popular jokes repeatedly used is the link between tonic clonic (grand mal) seizures and dancing. The referral is both positive and negative.
Whilst I feel that humor should be included alongside a condition, I thought honestly about how I feel. When I see something related to epilepsy I sometimes can’t help but cringe a little inside. This feeling makes it completely contradictory to my beliefs that it is okay to laugh about it as the positive pro entertainment comments I agree with. Nothing can be changed about my condition therefore it makes sense to go with the flow and laugh about it. It makes sense, right? So why do I still have conflicting sentiments about this?
I wonder if perhaps it’s like someone reaching inside to the sensitive place that epilepsy lives that many haven’t or can’t deal with. Perhaps it makes us feel exposed. Maybe it really is the fact that someone is creating laughter at our expense, a general situation that very few people are comfortable in. Possibly, it evokes feelings of anger in some because although it is a subject matter used as a source of humor, the writers/comedians etc. don’t know what it’s like to experience seizures and all the effects that it has upon our lives. If they themselves had been faced with those circumstances would those jokes be as funny so much that they would still want to use them? All of this is speculation.
Part of the problem is that this issue has been combined with use in a negative purpose at people. The name calling starts to occur and families shun their own flesh and blood because of it. It contributes towards the understandable emotional reactions that people have. By using certain terminology for unsavory purposes it develops negative connotations. Due to incorrect usage, this has induced a natural sensitivity for anything remotely concerning this subject.
A point of confusion stemming from the last topic is political correctness. Everybody prefers different terminology and this where I, along with many other people, get terribly confused! I attended a political correctness workshop a number of years ago which went through various themes and the language which was currently used. Surprisingly, the speaker covered epilepsy.
I’ve always referred to myself as an epileptic. I have epilepsy therefore I am an epileptic. To me it’s a natural assumption. However, he stated that we were now not to use that term as it was offensive to those with epilepsy. We were now to say ‘person with epilepsy’. I’m not going to lie, it really got my goat! Who was this man to tell me what I should and what I shouldn’t be called? I couldn’t remain silent (unsurprisingly!) so I stood up and asked why this change had been brought about. I explained that I had epilepsy and I refer to myself as an epileptic because that is what I am. There were no two ways about it. He responded with very little. I had challenged him with a question for which he had no answer.
Many now refer to epilepsy simply as ‘E’. I am of the understanding that many can’t bring themselves to say the word. That shows the sense of shame they have which has sadly been caused by verbal abuse and hurtful and upsetting actions by others. This is why when returning to the varying responses in the forum including mine; they were disparate because their experiences have been so different.