This week, narcolepsy will be in the limelight on the National Geographic program Taboo: Strange Behavior. The show will air on the National Geographic channel on June 24, 2012 from 10:00 – 11:00 pm EST. This episode follows the life of one narcoleptic man, Dee Daud, who has a severe form of narcolepsy with cataplexy. A preview of the episode can be found here.
Narcolepsy may present with or without cataplexy. Cataplexy is a loss of muscle tone (without loss of consciousness) often in response to emotional triggers. Not all narcolepsy presents with cataplexy as does Dee’s, and not all cases of narcolepsy are as severe as Dee’s. Nonetheless, I am excited about it being featured on a prime time TV show.
Taboo’s self-declared mission is to “journey beyond your comfort zone to explore behaviors and lifestyles that are acceptable in some cultures but forbidden, illegal or reviled in others.” In this season, topics such as “murderabilia,” extreme tattooing and scarification, polyamory, and “furry culture” are presented alongside individuals living with Tourette’s syndrome, autism, and narcolepsy. The concept of presenting rare medical diseases alongside other “taboo” behaviors (as if narcolepsy is a culturally taboo lifestyle choice) seems to me to belittle, dramaticize, and promote further sterotypification of individuals living with disabilities. That said, I am excited to watch the program, and am confident that Dee and the program itself will help to promote awareness of narcolepsy and cataplexy; and, awareness of any kind can’t be bad.
After the program, I will be posting a more detailed recap of the show and how it may help or hurt the public view of narcoleptic individuals or narcolepsy in general, and I would love to hear your thoughts on the concept behind featuring narcolepsy on a program such as Taboo: Strange Behaviors.
After watching Taboo: Strange Behaviors I am pleasantly surprised. National Geographic presented Dee’s story along with Paul Stevenson (a man with Tourette’s and an accomplished Tourette’s advocate.), Bethany Scheiderman (a young girl with Trichotillomania), and autistic friends Larry Bissonnette (who is also an accomplished artist) and Tracy, who are advocates for individuals with autism, recently creating a documentary for autism awareness called My Classic Life.
Overall, the program was moving, inspiring, and very well done. At the end, the program even raised the question of whether it was individuals with disabilities whose behaviors were taboo, or if rather the reaction by society is what should be deemed taboo.
Many thanks to National Geographic and Dee Daud for raising awareness about narcolepsy (and other disabilities)!