Update on Multiple Sclerosis | UCLA Neurology
The Role of Multiple Sclerosis in the Movies and on TV
Multiple Sclerosis on the Big and Little Screen
Movies and TV shows often feature glitz-and-glamour storylines. But occasionally, serious medical conditions, includingmultiple sclerosis (MS), appear on screen, too, and sometimes even take a starring role.
In some cases the character with MS is based on a real person, such as cellist Jacqueline du Pré, played by Emily Watson in the movieHilary and Jackie. In others the character is completely fictional, such as U.S. President Josiah “Jed” Bartlett in the TV seriesThe West Wing, played by Martin Sheen.
In at least one case, life and art merged, when comedian and actor Richard Pryor, who had MS himself, played a patient with MS on the TV seriesChicago Hope.
And in the reality TV genre, Jack Osbourne competed in the popular seriesDancing With the Starsjust a year after he was diagnosed with MS.
Because the average viewer likely doesn’t know much about MS, movies, TV shows, and other media can help educate the public about the disease — how it affects the nervous system and can cause symptoms that range from mild numbness to chronic pain, overwhelming fatigue, and an inability to walk unassisted. Still, it’s important to remember that fictional characters — or even fictionalized characters — represent one person only, and MS is notorious for affecting each person somewhat differently.
Personal stories about MS captured on film, such as Jason DaSilva’s Emmy award–winning documentary, When I Walk, take the viewer even deeper into the experience of living with one person’s MS. DaSilva has primary-progressive MS (PPMS), a type, or possibly stage, of MS that is characterized by a gradual appearance of symptoms, leading to progressively greater disability.
Nick Irons’s documentary about swimming and bicycling thousands of miles to raise money for MS research gives a look at how multiple sclerosis in one family member — in Irons’s case, his father — affects the whole family.
Here's a sampling of hit TV shows, movies, and documentaries that feature multiple sclerosis and show what it's really like to live with the condition.
Additional reporting by Ingrid Strauch.
Video: Multiple Sclerosis: Signs, Symptoms and Treatments
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