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Dear Health Community, Pop Culture Matters. Here's Why.

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It’s easy to say “I don’t care,” when a celebrity is in some new drama or comes forward with a new health diagnosis. In fact, a lot of people can’t find it in them to care when there are “real world” problems happening. As someone who is in the real world, has many problems, and who heavily pays attention to pop culture, I can confidently say pop culture matters, not just because writing about it is what secures my paycheck, but for a number of reasons, especially in regards to the health community. 

Representation matters (but not all representation is good representation). 

Whether it be about Hailey Bieber talking about her latest health scare, Demi Lovato talking about their eating disorder or battle with addiction, or Halsey recently revealing multiple health diagnoses, it opens a door to communication about life with different health conditions, and beyond that potential avenues for advocacy and activism. Sometimes it can even convince people to see their own doctors, and push for self-advocating in ways they may not have done before.

Additionally, another reason that pop culture matters is the response that it garners from the world, especially in health-based scenarios. 

Have you ever been in a social environment where you hear someone use the “r” word, not knowing that you’re autistic, or something similar to that? You could assume that this person may not be a safe person for you to be around. Now apply that logic to the public’s response to the media. 

When you see what feels like the entire world rally behind someone who is ableist or an abuser, it’s hard to not to take that personally. It’s a reminder of how many people out there hate you or don’t want to accommodate you. People tend not to censor their response when it comes to celebrities because they don’t know them personally. Isn’t it a little suspect they’re willing to be so cruel when they’ll never meet the person, or because that person will never find out? It’s even more telling when that person has such harsh opinions on a health-related pop culture moment, especially when it’s your condition.

Finally, disabled people are allowed to like pop culture for fun. No ulterior motive. No deep level critical thinking. We’re allowed to enjoy it simply because we enjoy it.

There’s nothing wrong with indulging in some good ol’ celebrity drama to take your mind off of your own life. It’s why I’m a massive fan of reality television. I get to watch people whose issues are whether or not they’re going to sell a house on time, or what someone else said about them, instead of worrying about my finances or thinking about my childhood trauma. 

I see it all the time, but this is a casual reminder to let people enjoy things even if you personally don’t care. Granted, if you’re out here leaving comments about how little you care…doth thou protest too much?

Pop culture matters, especially for disabled folk. I can’t tell you what to care about, but just because you don’t personally care about it doesn’t make it not important. Pay attention to it or don’t, but don’t brush it aside when it does carry societal weight, whether you like it or not.

Getty image by The Good Brigade

Originally published: May 12, 2022
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