Medicine in Film: An Insight Into the Brewing Emulsion
Cinema mirrors a country’s hopes, ideals, aspirations and expectations from itself. It can be safely said that cinema is among the more important concepts which often alters the way the world perceives a nation.
A clear case highlighting the same is America’s sophistication and world-dominance, although the seed for which may have been planted by a few real technological breakthroughs but by and large, it is an idea pollinated and drilled into the minds of gullible people the world over by the impossibly unrealistic movies that Hollywood is notorious for churning out. A nation’s cinema is thus often considered as a very reliable indicator of the status of the society in general, whether or not reality agrees with it.
The Basis For The Union : How The Two Met
The powers of cinema were not lost even on our ancestors. From the early days of romance and drama to the depiction of more poignant issues in later times pertaining to the daily afflictions of people such as terrorism and other illicit criminal activities like smuggling and drug abuse; cinema has indeed come a long way in its ability to transcend all barriers, enthralling audiences across ages and holding people in awe.
Apart from the IT boom which the past decades have witnessed, medicine is probably the only other field where major strides have been taken at a breakneck pace, sending shock waves and ripples through the field of science. Since ancient times, for ordinary men who would be expected to suffer from hippopotomonstrosesquippedaliophobia, which is the fear of long words(something which could be considered as routine with respect to complicated medical terminology), medicine was never a science. It was just a mystical miracle with its results often being considered magical, as something which was easily appreciated but not fully understood. The result of this continued adoration was that respect for its practitioners was often very high in a layman’s heart. This ensured that they often placed doctors on an equal pedestal as the Almighty himself.
The Early Days
So, it was eventually just a matter of time before two widely different ideas which struck awe among the common folk came together and we saw the advent of movies based on medicine. These ranged right from initial bit-roles being played by a doctor in the hero’s shadow to later full-blown depictions focusing solely on the practice of the art itself and many other aspects related to clinical expertise. Indeed, it’s been a long journey with a rich history which has transcended language barriers the world over.
The Current Scenario
Movies and television series covering almost all aspects of medical practice have been produced. Usually, with a student’s entry into medical prep school, there also occurs an informal introduction for him into the world of TV shows like House MD and ER. Then there are films which deal with the ethical dilemmas of medical practice ( John Q, Million Dollar Baby, One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest) as also films such as Patch Adams and The King’s Speech which show how in spite of all the ground-breaking marvelous technological strides which we have taken and are proud of, the human touch is ultimately of paramount importance in clinical practice and that a unique approach may often yield unexpected rewards even in cases where all hope is otherwise lost. Films such as Concussion, Something The Lord Made, Awakenings and Extraordinary Measures depict the struggles and challenges often faced in life by those clinicians, who as a result of their research try to bring about a new perspective to medical practice either in the form of new treatment modalities or say, non-pharmacological options in therapy.
The Underdog Tales : Oscar Baits
There are countless films depicting the inspirational stories of people affected by severe disorders and how they battled on and won in spite of the seemingly insurmountable odds stacked against them. It is not surprising to note that such films, if done right, basically function as award-magnets and pocket numerous Oscars every year. Stellar examples of such work include My Left Foot (based on the eponymous book by Christy Brown), Rain Man (inspired from the real life story of Kim Peek), A Beautiful Mind (portraying the heartwarming story of the recently deceased Nobel Laureate John Nash) and I Am Sam (starring the evergreen Sean Penn in a mesmerizing role) to name a few.
An Interesting Take on Symptoms
Many released movies have had their entire premises based on the direct consequences of the actions of their diseased protagonists. Scratching the surface of this genre, one comes across such diverse films as Fight Club(insomnia), Finding Dory and Memento(anterograde amnesia), the Jason Bourne series(retrograde amnesia), Shutter Island (schizophrenia) and Pawn Sacrifice (paranoid delusional disorder) to name a few.
A Roller-coaster Ride of Human Emotions
Medicine and medical diagnosis invariably play a very key role in our lives. Hopes have been shattered, deepest secrets revealed and the real meaning of life often understood at a doctor’s clinic. The Fault In Our Stars,My Sister’s Keeper(dealing with issues of organ donation) Sweet November(about the effect fatal diagnoses have on our loved ones) among many other films deal with the way medicine toys with human emotions.
Lesser Known Flicks
Apart from these, there are also innumerable films which have medicine or med school as a backdrop. It may surprise the reader to know about films like Pathology, Gross Anatomy, Anatomy (This flick was supposedly considered good enough to even warrant a sequel: Anatomy 2) and Flatliners (starring such stalwarts as Julia Roberts, Kevin Bacon and Kiefer Sutherland).
Breaking Language Barriers
For those few who enjoy watching the more emotionally charged Indian films, even their industry is not far behind. They have produced films like Munnabhai MBBS (medical ethics), My Brother Nikhil (dealing with the social stigma of HIV), Paa (progeria), Ankur Arora Murder Case (medical jurisprudence), Barfi (differently-abled and autism), Black, Kartik calling Kartik (schizophrenia), Anand (lymphoma of the intestine: now, more correctly diagnosed as Non-Hodgkin’s MALT B-cell lymphoma), the biographical Dr. Prakash Baba Amte, Janma to name a few.
Even for the general masses, these make for a riveting watch thanks to the novelty of their concepts. In the coming days, we are sure to see many more such films grace the silver screen.
The power of the visual medium to leave a lasting impression should never be underestimated. It has been often observed that most people blindly believe what they see on-screen as ‘the gospel truth’ without even bothering to verify the facts. While many people are now aware about resuscitation skills in case of emergencies by virtue of both, efforts to spread awareness as well as an increased curiosity in utilizing medical knowledge as a tool to save life, an accurate technique is of great importance in these cases where people’s lives are at stake. While films like The Wolf Of Wall Street and Mrs. Doubtfire may have given a comedic twist to the Heimlich maneuver and others like Mission Impossible 3 and Casino Royale may have chosen to incorporate defibrillation as a plot device to heighten the suspense of various scenes, incorrect techniques like those demonstrated can lead to severe injuries like rib fractures which can further cause life-threatening complications.
Hence, it is of paramount importance that all medical professionals must be aware of the rights and wrongs being unknowingly preached and advocated among the public through movies. If used appropriately, they can become powerful tools in spreading awareness and information among people in whom it would otherwise prove to be a difficult, if not impossible task. Many intellectuals and social welfare organizations agree with this theory and make use of visual media (in the form of short films and presentations) to effectively get their point across and reach a very wide global audience.
The union of medicine and movies is an area of unlimited scope, bursting with limitless potential. This amalgamation can indeed make wonders happen, paving the way for a better and brighter future for our society. Together this field shows the promise of an exciting future.
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