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Is That a Peanut Allergy in Your Plot Line?

>> Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Do you hear that sound, that screeching scrape followed by an odd grunt? I’m dragging my soapbox to Speaker’s Corner and asking authors, readers and watchers everywhere to lend me their ears.

Most people call me easy going. Slightly blunt and somewhat passionate, sure—but I don’t get my panties in a knot about too many things. Hence the dusty corner where I keep that soapbox. 

Seriously? Don't bring these to our house.
But we all have our issues, and for my family of five, peanuts are a serious issue. Like life threatening. 

Since my eldest son has a serious allergy to peanuts and tree nuts, we like to say that peanuts are evil (although I will contend that when smooshed into a small puck-like shape and covered in chocolate a la Reese, the taste is muy bueno!) 

Nothing peanut-related enters our home. I’ve noticed that the issue of peanut allergies, on the other hand, has entered the Dart world in an interesting way. It seems that many authors and scriptwriters have turned to peanut allergies as a plotline device. 

Don’t get me wrong; as a writer I can appreciate that everything is fair game when it comes to plot. I’m not offended that this issue or situation seems to showing up more frequently. What gets my goat is the way that peanut allergies are being portrayed and the lack of truth in those portrayals.

A few examples:

  • The Da Vinci Code (yeah, it’s an old one, but the very first one that caught my eye and apparently hatched the plan to get my goat) – Remy is killed by the villain, Sir Leigh Teabing, who covers his water bottle in peanut oil. Remy does not have an Epipen on him.
  • Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs – Sam Sparks has a severe allergic reaction inside the giant meateroid (yes, that is spelled correctly and no, it’s not a real thing) when she cuts herself on peanut brittle. She swells up and is taken back to the space ship for an Epipen injection, but not until a bunch of other things have happened.
  • The Firm (TV series) – Mitch McDeere temporarily gets bad guy Stack out of the picture by triggering an anaphylactic reaction. When Stack uses a phone covered in peanut oil, he reacts and McDeere uses the character’s Epipen within a stated 15-minute window of safety.

What’s my problem, you ask? You mean besides the promotion of false information that could potentially lead to a death triggered by ignorance and the inability to react? Not much, other than that.

There is a growing culture of awareness surrounding peanut allergies and other severe food allergies, such as shellfish. Those living within that culture, my family included, work hard to educate others about our allergies in order to promote safety. 

It’s not a pushy, you-gotta-do-it-my-way kind of thing. It’s about respect for life and consideration of limitations.

So when movies and television shows undermine that instruction by including incorrect instructions and implausible situations (anaphylactic shock can kill someone within six minutes, and carrying an Epipen at all times is vital to survival) and exploiting the vulnerability of those with allergies, I get a little upset. 

What does that mean for you, dear readers? 

First off, please don’t believe everything you see on TV or movie screens. Really.

Second, please feel free to ask questions about severe food allergies and find out the real truth from those of us who live with it daily. We want to spread the word and help people to understand. We aren’t here to spoil your fun or outlaw pb&j’s, but rather we hope to create a space where our loved ones can live and eat relatively safely.

Finally, if you’re an author or a screenwriter, please do your homework. And if the facts don’t fit into your plotline, keep your influence in mind when stretching the truth.

There could be lives at stake.

Less Serious Next Time, I Promise,


Joanne Sher September 13, 2012 at 9:11 AM  

If I write a peanut allergy into any of my stuff, you are the FIRST person I'll talk to :) Thanks for this! (and you look LOVELY up on that soapbox!)

Jennifer Major September 19, 2012 at 3:22 PM  

HI!! I heart your blog! I added you to my blog roll and look forward to getting to know you.
I have thyroid disease and remember watching a soap opera snippet about someone "coping" with it. Pah-lease! Oh, and don't get me started on Oprah telling people she healed herself with soy products. One NEVER mixes soy and thyroid meds.

Diana Dart September 19, 2012 at 7:16 PM  

Awww, thanks Jo. I'm taller up there, too. Cha ching!

And hello, Jennifer, my fellow redheaded Canadian :) Thanks for including TnT on your blog roll. I had no idea that you shouldn't mix thyroid meds with soy... and I take Levothroxin. Yikes!!!!! Thanks for the tip, and for the reminder that all those with influence should remember to get their facts straight (take that Oprah!)

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