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WHEN IS BRAIN TUMOR HUMOR FUNNY?

By Stacia Wagner
Friday, July 1, 2011

Jokes about sensitive topics can still make people laugh. I feel I have a good sense of humor including the ability to laugh at myself. As a cancer survivor, I can even make jokes related to my experience and laugh at them. However last week I saw Woody Allen’s new movie, Midnight in Paris, and did not laugh at the subtle brain tumor joke. This is no indication of the quality of the movie, but rather an instance where I thought the humor could have been offensive or may contribute to stereotypes related to a brain tumor diagnosis.

The scene involved the lead couple having a discussion in which the male character was trying to explain his out of the ordinary experience (I will be vague in order not to spoil the movie). What he was saying made no sense to his girlfriend. So she responded by saying “What’s wrong with you? Do you have a brain tumor?”

While this was not a pre-dominant or even significant part of the movie, it made me think about the “stigma” which may be a part of being diagnosed with or being a survivor of a brain tumor. Having a brain tumor may impact behavior or the way a person thinks, however it does not always or even predominately mean erratic or nonsensical behavior.  Many children, adolescents and young adults deal with people making funny of them or lacking understanding following a brain tumor diagnosis or treatment.  This can lead to lack of peer support and fear of disclosure. It also contributes to lower self-esteem.

After talking to many survivors, the jury is mixed as to whether this was funny or not. No matter what you think, it is important to help people understand the wide range of effects which may be experienced by brain tumor survivors. While many survivors have things in common, each experience, person and late effect is unique.

Let us know your experience and feelings on brain tumor humor.

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