By Jessica Lipman
For the past couple of years, movies have centered around the love stories of teenagers, which automatically attract and grab the interest of the general public. However, there has been a noticeable trend recently with such love stories. Recently, romantic teen dramas have focused on illnesses and diseases. While some viewers enjoy watching these storylines, others are not so impressed.
The newest illness-based romance film to be released is Five Feet Apart starring Cole Sprouse (playing Will) and Haley Lu Richardson (playing Stella). The movie portrays how cystic fibrosis, an illness that affects two teenagers and their relationship. The two have an instant attraction to each other but they must keep a safe distance away from each other--specifically five feet apart. As the connection between the two lovers intensifies, they debate whether the strict rules they must follow due to their illness is worth following anymore.
The movie idea may seem creative, but it is not original. Similar films include The Fault in Our Stars and Everything, Everything. The majority of teenagers have seen or read the book The Fault in Our Stars, which displays the love story of Hazel Grace (Shailene Woodley) and Gus Waters (Ansel Elgort). Hazel and Gus are two teenagers diagnosed with cancer who meet in a cancer support group. The teenagers spend more time together and develop a connection, but the story ends with Gus passing away because of a return of his cancer. Kristina Phillips, a Senior at Glenelg, explains that “The Fault in Our Stars started a new love story idea. It was one of the first movies I remember to show how serious diseases affect relationships.” Although this idea seemed original and creative when The Fault in Our Stars was released in 2014, other directors were quick to copy this concept.
Everything, Everything, starring Amandla Stenberg (Maddy) and Nick Robinson (Olly) depicts how a teenage girl must spend all of her life indoors due to her diagnosis of severe combined immunodeficiency (SCID). Maddy meets Olly, her next door neighbor, and the two fall in love. However, they cannot physically be together because of Maddy’s illness. Yet, the two teens risk everything just to be together. The film received low ratings, most likely due to the lack of originality. Glenelg Senior, Amelia Brinkley said she watched Everything, Everything and “it reminded [her] of The Fault in Our Stars. It had the same love story idea and the entire plot was predictable.” Even though these films are unoriginal, the lack of creativity is not the only thing upsetting viewers.
The main similarity these movies share is the idea of teenagers having a serious disorder or disease, However, many critics and viewers have wondered if the actors and writers are portraying such diseases properly. Senior, Piper Allmon stated that, “Writers for these movies can accurately describe them, but romanticizing these diseases is not okay.” In these films, the writers tend to not take the actual risks of the diseases seriously. In Five Feet Apart, the two teens must stay away from each other in order to not increase the risk of infecting one another from the different infections in each other’s lungs. Senior Carlie Olenick said that, “In reality, it seems as if those infected should or would listen to these rules to not harm someone they are in love with.” However, the films’ characters do just the opposite, which portrays the lie that illnesses do not truly harm others or put anyone at risk. Movie Reviewer Spencer Semonson for The Blue Fairy Blog, described how the unrealistic the portrayal of SCID, “posits that happiness stems from heath, romantic love, and freedom, three things that people with SCID will never have.” Although these films may be accepted and loved by some of the public, they do not provide the world with an accurate representation of those who actually live with these diseases.
Even though some such films are successful, like The Fault in Our Stars, these films continue to feed the population false information about serious conditions people live with and experience every day. The concept of this idea also reveals that the film industry continues to lack much-needed originality and creativity. Hopefully, the future of film will showcase diseases and real-life problems in their most honest form.