The Simpsons Modifies Homer Narcolepsy Episode “Somewhat” After Reading Narcolepsy Article

by julie on September 27, 2015

homer simpson narcolepsy julie flygareWhen 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.

homer simpson narcolepsy not alone

The backstory:

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.”

In reaction, I shared my feelings as a narcolepsy spokesperson and advocate in this blog post. Also, Women’s Health Magazine featured my story and New York Post ran this story.

Al Jean read these articles and responded kindly on Twitter:

the simpsons narcolepsy al jean response 1 the simpsons narcolepsy al jean response

Again, I tweeted with Al Jean earlier this week, learning this update:

homer simpson narcolepsy julie flygare homer simpson narcolepsy julie flygare 2

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:

Please join me in inviting Homer to join the NARCOLEPSY: NOT ALONE campaign with a short video raising awareness of the real symptoms – similar to Marge joining the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge.

narcolepsy not alone about campaign 2

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.

narcolepsy not alone awareness campaign narcoleptic i'm julie flygare and you're not alone with narcolepsy project sleep

Update: On Oct. 11, the Simpsons Executive Producer, Al Jean confirmed the lines added to the episode inspired by my article!

Home Simpson Narcolepsy Julie Flygare

What is narcolepsy? Learn more:

{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

Heather September 28, 2015 at 11:04 am

Awww…thank you Julie, yet again, for your amazing campaigning and diligence with raising awareness of Narcolepsy on behalf of us all. I love that Al Jean and the Simpsons have taken your comments into consideration. Definitely Homer needs to join the Narcolepsy Not Alone campaign (and help to get it onto the Ellen show as you had once hoped?!). Best always. Heather

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Katherine mcglynn September 28, 2015 at 1:27 pm

AL Jean needs to hire Julie Flygare as a consultant at the very least. Give credit where credit is due, say it in cash, and help Julie continue her good work.

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Ann Sciabarrasi September 29, 2015 at 4:26 pm

I just knew in my gut that you would be there standing up for all us. Thank you for all you do!

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Carrie-Ann Burns March 27, 2016 at 4:05 pm

I have yet to see this episode, or watch the new episodes of the Simpsons, but maybe I should check it out. I hope it was better than we were all predicting, though I do have a lot of doubt it will be.
Good on you Julie for keep pushing forward for proper presentation of this disorder through media and tv.

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