When the Simpsons premieres tonight at 8pm ET/PT, Homer will get “narcolepsy”. I’m thrilled to report that Executive Producer, Al Jean tweeted me: “The episode was modified somewhat after I read the extremely compelling article you wrote. Not sure you will be 100% happy…”
Thank you, Al Jean and the Simpsons for thoughtfully reading and modifying the episode somewhat after learning more about narcolepsy! However, I do not expect tonight’s storyline to be sensitive or accurate. Please join me in inviting Homer to join the NARCOLEPSY: NOT ALONE campaign in an awareness video online.
In June, Al Jean said in an interview, “it’s discovered that Homer has narcolepsy and it’s an incredible strain on the marriage. Homer and Marge legally separate, and Homer falls in love with his pharmacist, who’s voiced by Lena Dunham.”
Al Jean read these articles and responded kindly on Twitter:
Again, I tweeted with Al Jean earlier this week, learning this update:
Great news that Al Jean and the Simpsons took my thoughts into consideration and made changes! However, I am still unsure of the episode’s content. I was not given the opportunity to review or provide an expert consultation (routinely done when featuring serious diseases in the movies).
How I feel:
I stand by what I wrote in my previous blog post:
People see Hollywood’s version of narcolepsy on screen and assume that this is representative of the real condition. This perpetuates misperceptions leaving those of us with narcolepsy feeling misunderstood and isolated.
What really hurts is thinking about children and young adults with narcolepsy, these everyday superheroes, who will be watching the Simpsons. They will likely see a distorted version of their illness on TV.
This is not the first time the Simpsons will offend people. It is a parody, after all. I wish they’d chosen a different disorder, perhaps epilepsy or Parkinson’s disease? Oh wait, people wouldn’t laugh, even though narcolepsy affects quality of life comparably. I forgot, we’re the ones who are supposed to take a joke lying down.
Homer – please help raise awareness:
I can’t force the Simpsons to make this awareness video, I can only ask, from the bottom of my heart, to please consider making a positive difference on behalf of the millions of people (including many children) living with this serious and seriously misunderstood condition.
We are not alone:
When the Simpsons premieres tonight, I’ll be flying home from speaking at Stanford’s Medicine X conference.I *think* Virgin America has live-streaming TV and Fox, so I’ll try to tune in from the air. I’m so thrilled I spent the weekend raising narcolepsy awareness with innovators in healthcare, medicine and technology. In my ignite presentation, I spoke about reversing the cycle of misconceptions and shame for those with narcolepsy.
No matter what Homer’s narcolepsy looks like, please remember that WE are the experts on narcolepsy, not the media or movies. We are facing the very real adversity and deserve to feel proud, supported and validated. Moving forward, let’s continue to hold our heads high and remember we are in this together. We will overcome the misperceptions in good time, I truly believe this with all my heart.