Asthma is no laughing matter, and after years of observing the stereotyping in the media, it’s time for this severe asthmatic to stand up and say something.
We know who they are in the media we watch, they are easy to pick out. They receive the unfortunate title based on a feature like coke bottle glasses, weight, or horrible dance moves. Immediately, when she takes her inhaler…yeah she has asthma, probably a nerd. We all know that stereotyping is wrong, and yet, it is how writers, producers, and actors get the point across to viewers about the personality of the character.
As an asthmatic, diagnosed at age five, I took this to heart as a child. I already couldn’t breathe, had to leave the classroom to take a rescue inhaler, and in many cases missed school due to hospitalization. So, when I began noticing my friends distancing themselves, I too thought, well, I guess it’s because now I’m a nerd.
Media has created an unfair profile of those with asthma. As if we didn’t have enough to worry about (ahem breathing, for example) we are also aware of the fact that we are instant nerds. Yes, in recent years the term nerd or geek has turned into a term of endearment for those who are smarties. With the coming of “The Big Bang Theory,” I was surprised at the fact that CBS would adopt the asthma stereotype. I always have to wonder, which writer thought to him/herself, “what else can we do to make Leonhard’s nerdiness even more obvious…ah of course, an inhaler..for use after sex.”
According to the CDC, “about 1 in 12 people (about 25 million) have asthma, and the numbers are increasing every year.” It’s time to start thinking about letting this one die, folks. We know better than to make fun of people who are physically disabled because, in many cases, we can see their suffering. You may not be able to see an asthmatic having trouble breathing, but I’m here to tell you, they suffer. If you don’t have asthma, imagine being trapped under water, not being able to fill your lungs with air. Imagine your lungs suddenly shrink, and they are too small to occupy the amount of air you physically need in order to stay alive. Panicking yet?
The most inaccurate asthma portrayals are when the token nerd goes from geek to God by ditching his/her inhaler. Albert Brennaman, from Hitch, is the perfect example. Suave and sexy Will Smith (Hitch) has to help poor asthmatic dude get the girl of his dreams. In one scene, Albert is about to take a hit on his rescue inhaler, having no signs of an asthma attack, but at the last minute decides he doesn’t need the “crutch” anymore and whips it into the bushes, slinks toward his unsuspecting date, and lays one on her. He has transformed.
Now, if only it were that easy. There is no cure for asthma, not even sexiness.