Using Humor to Educate – 30 Rock and Diabetes

Did you catch The Jan. 22 episode of 30 Rock? If you did, you saw the subplot of Tracy getting “bad news” from his doctor about his risk of diabetes while Tracy dismisses it as a “white myth” that diabetes is related to food intake. I found the story quite humorous. It did a good job at attacking a serious issue – getting people to take their health seriously. While looking for the clip, I found an interesting article – Tracy Morgan actually has diabetes but spent years ignoring it until his body essentially shut down on the set.

Tracy and Kenneth: Dr. Spaceman has some bad news for Tracy. “I don’t know how to say this: Dee-AY-buh-tees?” He also notes that Tracy needs to make some serious lifestyle changes, or he could lose a foot to the disease. “Could I replace it with a wheel, like Rosie from The Jetsons?” a hopeful Tracy asks. Sure, Dr. Spaceman says, “but then you’ll have to register yourself as a motor vehicle.”

Kenneth, for one, is very concerned about Tracy’s medical news and launches a campaign to get him to eat healthy. Tracy, however, dismisses the link between diet and diabetes as “a white myth — like Larry Bird, or Colorado.” Twofer chimes in with a conspiracy theory about how the government promulgated false information about diabetes after the Civil War to keep newly freed slaves sluggish, which is why so few people know that it’s really caused by sleeping on your back. (I can see the show getting some heat from diabetes groups about this, but I rather doubt that anyone would turn to 30 Rock for sound medical advice.)

Kenneth, then, is forced to pull out his big weapon: the Hill Witch, his meemaw’s scare tactic to get the kids to eat their veggies. It’s such a weak gambit that even Tracy isn’t biting — until a freaked-out Jenna, her hair ravaged by a jealous Katie, shows up with a broom, screaming “I’m a monster!” Cut to Tracy shoveling broccoli and carrots in his face, and scene.

When I studied health psychology and behavior change, I learned that decision to confront or avoid personal health can be culturally or personality driven. Can anyone else attest to that? Do you think it is helpful when TV shows address health issues?

3 thoughts on “Using Humor to Educate – 30 Rock and Diabetes

  1. Rebecca, the study shows that for better or for worse, people DO take health cues from TV and shows with messaging embedded in them can do some good things…diabetes, HIV, STD safety, etc. so many of us are looking at that dynamic of embedding positive cues INTO media distribution channels like this. Here’s the Grey’s Anatomy example they used:

  2. Pingback: Excuse My Hiatus, Please | Thoughts from a white fat guy

  3. I agree with you Rebecca that decision to confront or avoid personal health can be culturally or personality driven, but the awareness created by the TV shows certainly increases concerns and for some people it may end the procrastination and they may take suitable action.

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