The fall 2013 TV season has begun and with it a whole new lineup of comedies. One of the more interesting shows is Michael J Fox’s The Michael J Fox Show.
In the show, art is imitating life as Fox portrays a character coping with Parkinson’s disease. Fox himself was diagnosed with the disease in 1991 and went public in 1998. Since then he has become a leading advocate in the support of research for developing a cure and advancing treatment for the disease. In 2000, he founded the Michael J Fox Foundation, which has become the largest nonprofit providing funding for research on the disease in the world.
By taking on the demanding role of a lead character suffering with Parkinson’s, Fox is demonstrating that there is certainly life after the disease and that with the proper support and medication, those suffering with the affliction can live whole and meaningful lives.
Parkinson’s is a degenerative disease that affects the nervous system. Its most recognizable trait is a noticeable trembling of the limbs. Hall of Fame boxer Muhammad Ali is probably the most recognizable figure suffering with the disease. When we see the great and gifted boxer we can’t help but feel sympathy for his plight, but Fox wants to change that dynamic. He wants you to empathize with those suffering from the disease, but he certainly doesn’t want your pity.
He wants to bring attention to the disease and inspire those who are suffering to continue to pursue meaningful lives and for those who are watching to provide continuing support and a normal environment.
In the show, Fox plays a highly successful NBC news anchorman (Matt Lauer is a contemporary rival), who returns to work at the behest of his family and colleagues after being diagnosed with the disease. He has a healthy sex life and is extremely active in the lives of his children.
By portraying a TV personality who comes into your home on a daily basis via the evening news, Fox is saying that those with Parkinson’s need not be stigmatized or pitied. Rather, with the proper support system they can be treated as regular people with high-functioning careers.
Although the show may come off to some as a lengthy public service announcement, it is one that should be well received. Fox is taking the bull by the horns and telling those with Parkinson’s to live their lives to its fullest. It’s a good message.