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Netflix's New Movie 'The After Party' Has Been Criticized for Its Portrayal of a Seizure

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Since its premiere on August 24, “The After Party,” a Netflix original film, has drawn criticism for its portrayal of a seizure.

The film follows Owen (Kyle Harvey), an aspiring rapper, who struggles to redeem his reputation after going viral for a having a seizure and projectile vomiting on Wiz Khalifa during a performance.

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Prior to the show, Owen and his friend/manager, Jeff, had met Wiz, who offered them marijuana. They each smoke a little, and Jeff laughs, “I know this will come as no surprise to anyone, but Wiz Khalifa has some incredibly strong weed.” Owen gets on stage to perform and looks shaky and sweaty. The MC seems concerned about his condition, and makes a problematic comment about Down syndrome. “You look whack. You look like Klay Thompson with Down syndrome,” he says. “Don’t embarrass me.”

Owen successfully raps for about a minute before pausing, gazing around, saying, “Yo, Wiz, this sh*t is strong, n****. I’m f*cking smacked” and proceeding to projectile vomit on Wiz Khalifa and several others standing in the crowd. Owen collapses on the ground, shown in slow motion, and begins having a seizure, while someone in the crowd shouts, “Not my Yeezys, bro!” He vomits again on the ground around his face, and a man holds up his phone to take a video, yelling “WorldStar!”

The video gets posted to the “WorldStar” website, where it is titled “Wiz Khalifa gets puked on! #seezjahboy” and quickly begins racking up millions of views. A montage of responses follow, mocking Owen for trying to smoke when he “can’t hold it” and sharing clips of him having a seizure, dubbing his movements a new dance called “the #seezjahboy.”

“That name is completely offensive, but I have to admit, the seizure dance they got from it is kinda funny,” one news anchor says. Following this viral attention, Owen’s rap career is declared “done.”

The movie does not explain exactly why the seizure occurred, nor does it mention anything about Owen having a medical history of seizures or epilepsy. It is therefore assumed that his seizure and the vomiting were both the result of smoking very potent marijuana. However, there is not enough research or evidence to determine whether it’s possible for a one-time use of marijuana to cause a seizure.

This portrayal has drawn criticism from the epilepsy and seizure disorder communities, who feel it is an inaccurate and damaging representation of what it’s like to have a seizure.

Philip Gattone, the president and CEO of the Epilepsy Foundation, released a statement Thursday voicing his concerns about “The After Party.” According to Gattone, the film inaccurately portrayed seizures and those who have them.

Epilepsy is a neurological condition that causes seizures, which occur due to disturbances in the electrical activity of the brain. Approximately 65 million people around the world have epilepsy, and one-third of those live with uncontrollable seizures because no treatments have been effective for them. Not everyone who experiences seizures has epilepsy, however; some people may have non-epileptic seizures (also known as “events”) which are not caused by electrical activity in the brain.

Seizures can look different for everyone and take on a variety of different forms. A seizure occurs in three stages – involving a beginning, middle and end – and each stage can produce a range of unique symptoms. A person may experience very “visible” symptoms during a seizure, such as tremors, convulsions, sweating, changes in skin color or pupil dilation, but there are a number of other symptoms that may not be obvious, such as numbness or tingling, blurry vision, unusual tastes or smells, daydreaming or out-of-body sensations.

Epilepsy advocates have also criticized the film for making a joke out of seizures and perpetuating hurtful stigmas about those who experience them.

In his press release, Gattone wrote:

Making fun of someone having a seizure is bullying at its worst. When such responses are portrayed as acceptable behavior – even in movies – it is demeaning and hurtful to our epilepsy community and all of us. In fact, such treatment can put real people who have seizures at increased risk of injury and death. If someone is ridiculed for a medical problem, such as seizures, they are more likely to hide their illness and less likely to seek medical care or the help of others.

While we welcome opportunities to portray real stories of people with epilepsy in movies and in the media, it is a serious affront to our community when so-called entertainment mocks or jokes about having epilepsy or seizures.

Many of those who live with epilepsy or seizure disorders have also voiced their frustration.

Because of their concerns about “The After Party” furthering stereotypes and making a joke out of a serious health condition, epilepsy advocates are petitioning Netflix to remove the film from its platform.

According to Gattone, the Epilepsy Foundation has reached out to Netflix in the hopes of working together to ensure seizures are better portrayed in future projects.

The Mighty has reached out to Netflix for comment and has yet to hear back.

To learn more about seizures and how to help someone having one, check out the following articles from our Mighty community:

13 People Describe What It’s Like to Have Epilepsy

What to Do (and Not Do) If You See Me Having a Seizure

5 Things I Wish Others Understood About Living With Epilepsy

Originally published: August 31, 2018
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