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The Topic of Cancer

Cancer is one of the most popular topics in literature, film, and television today. From Laurie McDaniel’s teen romances centered on cancer, to My Sister’s Keeper, to The Fault in Our Stars, cancer automatically generates gripping plots. Characters dealing with cancer instantly face huge stakes physically, mentally, and emotionally. Readers turn pages as fast as their fingers or e-readers will allow, eager to see if the heroes they are rooting for will make it to the end of the story.

However, the popularity of cancer raises some questions. Is the topic overused? Are characters with cancer truly three-dimensional, or have we gotten to the point where they are used as inspirations and little else? Do the high stakes associated with cancer actually turn readers and viewers away, and what could authors and directors do to keep the topic fresh? Explore these and any other related issues; the possibilities are endless.

  • Great topic. Also used in A Walk to Remember. – Munjeera 4 years ago
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  • Ahhhh! I can't believe I forgot that one! That would be an interesting one to explore because Nicholas Sparks wrote it as if the cancer was a big plot twist (which it is when you first read the book. Unlike in many instances, you don't know from the outset that Jamie is sick). – Stephanie M. 4 years ago
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  • Writing as someone who has experienced a cancer scare and has had two family members also undergo cancer treatment, I regard this topic to be highly relevant, especially with regard to our modern 'lifestyles'. However, the tendency to view cancer as the 'disease of the week' by some TV series and soap operas has lead it to be somewhat overused, plotwise. It's difficult to know what to suggest to any prospective author or director who may be considering covering this topic as everyone who has contracted cancer has a different story and a different way of dealing with it. There is no one-size-fits-all approach and as you quite rightly pointed out - the possibilities are endless. Just how far can we go without the exploration becoming too morbid or intrusive? The key, perhaps, is the person and not the disease. – Amyus 4 years ago
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  • I love your point. Yes, the media does tend to reduce cancer to the "disease of the week." We know a lot more about the cancer experience than we did in say, the '90s, when a sick or disabled character was only the focus of the occasional Very Special Episode. But despite our increased knowledge, I think we have embraced the idea that all cancer experiences are much the same. I'd love to see more characters with cancer who (1) Have lives/interests outside their diseases (2) Handle cancer in multifaceted ways and (3) Legitimately struggle with obstacles other than, "This disease may/is going to kill me." – Stephanie M. 4 years ago
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  • You could also explore the way cancer has been portrayed in other languages so as to get a more complete perspective of this global affliction. – Vishnu Unnithan 4 years ago
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  • Do you, by chance, have suggestions for world literature that deals with this topic? :) – Stephanie M. 4 years ago
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