Why are we still getting 'jokes' about seizures on TV shows?

I did not intend to spend my Friday evening considering about a number of the most terrifying moments of my life. However that is what occurred once I turned on my TV, hit play on an episode of Netflix’s Ginny & Georgia and heard a ‘joke’ about seizures. 

Within the third episode of the brand new present, Ginny’s buddy Max Baker (performed by Sara Waisglass) tells her crush after an ungainly second, “Severely, don’t fret about this. I am in all probability simply drunk, or on acid, or having a seizure or one thing. Severely, that is no massive deal.”

I used to be instantly incensed by this line. Only a few moments prior, I might been in a state of relaxed bliss, glass of wine in hand, and cosy below a blanket. However now my blood was boiling, and my thoughts turned to the sentiments of terror I expertise after having seizures. As a result of, as anybody who’s ever had a seizure will let you know: they’re no laughing matter. 


I’ve epilepsy and I have been residing with the situation since I used to be 16 years outdated. Since that prognosis so a few years in the past, it is deeply irritating and upsetting that we’re still getting ‘jokes’ about seizures onscreen. Ableist jokes on TV and films are completely not with out penalties, and so they’re not innocent enjoyable — they feed right into a tradition of dehumanisation that portrays folks with disabilities and neurodivergent folks as lower than human and fewer deserving of respect.

Ableist jokes on TV and films are completely not with out penalties.

What’s baffling to me about these so-called ‘jokes’ is simply how unfunny seizures really are. The truth of getting seizures is painful and traumatic. Once I get up after one, my tongue is reduce, bleeding, and bruised after my tooth have clamped down on it. For per week afterwards, it feels as if each muscle in my physique is aching and heavy as if I’ve run a marathon. Within the instant aftermath, I’m panicked and confused with no brief time period reminiscence and no recollection of the occasions that preceded my lack of consciousness. 

There’s a humiliation that comes with shedding consciousness in public locations and having hordes of staring strangers crowd round you, uttering your title as in case you ought to recognise the face of the particular person saying it. At college I misplaced consciousness on the most inopportune moments — I as soon as fell down steps in the course of my halls of residence eating corridor and had a seizure once I reached the underside. I handed out simply as I used to be about to have intercourse with somebody and ended up bare on his toilet flooring with paramedics crowding round me. I broke my nostril out of the country having a seizure in a lodge toilet. I awoke in a pool of blood, with no concept the place it was coming from or what had occurred to me. So, once I hear somebody making gentle of this neurological occasion, I battle to see what might be so hilarious about being in ache, feeling terrified and afraid that you just’re about to die? If that is your concept of a joke, god allow you to. 

Ginny & Georgia has been criticised for different causes other than this ableist ‘joke’. One scene that includes Ginny and Hunter arguing about their racial identities was criticised for perpetuating racial stereotypes. Most not too long ago, Taylor Swift and her followers called out the show for making a “lazy, deeply sexist joke” about the music famous person. “Hey Ginny & Georgia, 2010 known as and it needs its lazy, deeply sexist joke again. How about we cease degrading laborious working ladies by defining this horse shit as FuNnY,” Swift tweeted with a screenshot of the offending line. 

Hey Ginny & Georgia, 2010 known as and it needs its lazy, deeply sexist joke again. How about we cease degrading laborious working ladies by defining this horse shit as FuNnY. Additionally, @netflix after Miss Americana this outfit doesn’t look cute on you 💔 Completely happy Ladies’s Historical past Month I assume

— Taylor Swift (@taylorswift13) March 1, 2021

I am not saying that teenage characters on TV reveals and films should not be allowed to make foolish, ill-informed jokes. There are loads of examples on this present and in others the place an ignorant remark turns into a teachable second for the character — and the viewers — when one other character corrects them. Sure, we can caveat that Max is a personality who seems to say the very first thing in her head with out considering it by means of totally, however equating a seizure to being drunk or on acid is simply downright offensive, to not point out inaccurate. I actually imagine that TV writers have a duty to weigh up the broader implications of feedback like this — does this line feed into dangerous stereotypes about a neurological situation that is been mocked and maligned for hundreds of years? Does the remark serve the narrative in a significant approach, maybe by means of presenting a chance to teach a personality and the viewers at residence? 

Mashable has reached out to Netflix for remark, and can replace this piece if we hear again.

TV and movie portrayals of individuals with disabilities and neurodivergent folks still have a protracted option to go relating to tackling dangerous stereotypes and ableist concepts. It will be nice to see TV writers take into account the methods on-screen portrayals of individuals with disabilities can have wider societal impacts. It’d even be nice to see extra TV reveals and films that present the constructive points of individuals with disabilities’ lives — whether or not which means taking care to indicate these characters in romantic and sexual relationships, which may combat the desexualisation of people with disabilities — or simply not portraying folks with epilepsy as comedian gadgets in a sentence. (Whereas I am right here, the phrase “epileptic” is okay to make use of in entrance of the phrase “seizure,” however inappropriate when referring to folks with epilepsy. The proper time period is “particular person with epilepsy.”) It is price noting that seizures do not simply have an effect on folks with epilepsy, additionally they influence folks with diabetes, folks with autoimmune problems, along with folks with mind infections or head accidents. 

These jokes gasoline the stigmatisation of epilepsy that still persists right this moment. Chantal Spittles, of charity Epilepsy Action, commented on the Ginny & Georgia episode in an announcement emailed to Mashable. “We have been shocked to listen to the insensitive language referring to seizures in an episode of Ginny & Georgia,” stated Spittles. “For folks with epilepsy, having the situation isn’t a way of life alternative. They will typically must take care of each the bodily and emotional problem of getting seizures, in addition to battle damaging public attitudes about their situation. By making gentle of seizures, this present is feeding into damaging stigma which individuals with epilepsy expertise on a day by day foundation.” Spittles added that many individuals with epilepsy are scared to speak about it with employers, colleagues, household, and even pals as a consequence of fears of being shamed or discriminated in opposition to. “Epilepsy Motion works laborious to problem the unfairness and misconceptions surrounding epilepsy and assist extra folks perceive it. Epilepsy isn’t a laughing matter for folks with the situation. They should be handled with respect and understanding,” Spittles added. 

A 2019 examine performed by Epilepsy Motion and Bangor College found that stigma and stereotypes surrounding the situation still persist. 10 % of individuals surveyed had a damaging perspective in direction of folks with epilepsy, and 1 % had a really damaging perspective. 1 / 4 of individuals surveyed stated they’d be afraid to be alone with somebody with epilepsy, with just below 1 / 4 saying they’d really feel nervous about being alone with them and the potential for the person having a seizure. 


I am not asking for TV reveals to be good, however language actually issues… 

The stigmatisation of epilepsy and ableism I had grown up surrounded by made me afraid to overtly acknowledge my very own situation. Once I was first identified after having an unexplained seizure, I angrily refused to just accept the prognosis. Sitting within the neurologist’s workplace, tears streaming down my face, my first response wasn’t “how is my life going to vary now I’ve this situation?” however as an alternative, “folks are going to make enjoyable of me at college.” I had internalised ableism from rising up in a tradition that persistently derides and degrades folks with disabilities and neurodiverse folks. I had gone to high school listening to jokes being made on the expense of individuals with epilepsy. Rising up, I might hear issues like, “Mate, you appear like you are having a fucking ‘eppy‘” or “What are you doing? You appear like you are having some type of match.” However this denial had real-world penalties for me. Once I rejected the prognosis, I turned down remedy that might hold my situation below management, and I spent the following few years of my life having quite a lot of seizures — a lot of which resulted in hospital stays and brought on me quite a lot of stress, anxiousness, and ache.

Past the display screen, these remarks are fairly prevalent too. Pals who are conscious of my situation have made informal feedback about seizures in entrance of me, generally realising a number of seconds too late that they’ve simply cracked a crass joke in entrance of somebody it is going to undoubtedly offend. Previously, I’ve minimised my very own annoyance in that second, prioritising different folks’s emotions above my very own, laughing it off as a result of I do not need to be tough. The reality is, it actually hurts. 

I am not asking for TV reveals to be good, however language actually issues, notably when it considerations marginalised communities. Ginny & Georgia’s scripted remark is not innocent — it fuels the stigmatisation of individuals with epilepsy, which might make residing with this situation a lot more durable. 

Subsequent time you need to make a joke about a seizure, simply assume for a second about the truth of getting one. As a result of I can guarantee you, it is the least humorous factor I’ve ever skilled. 

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