In today’s society, it seems that an automatic coping mechanism for the less-pleasant things in life (like diabetes) is to resort poking fun at it. But is there a point where diabetes jokes cross a line?
Personally, I’ve learned to laugh at diabetes-related humor. I’ve never taken genuine offense to it, and seeing as my name is Molly, I’ve become accustomed to others making drug jokes around me.
However, I do know that some people aren’t as thick-skinned as me. I’ve noticed lately that comments pertaining to diabetes are nonchalantly dropped in conversation. For instance, earlier today my professor began class by tearing into a package of Pop-Tarts. He apologized to the class about eating in front of us, saying “I just need to eat this right now, I feel dizzy from not eating. Have you guys ever experienced that, like you’re having a low blood sugar or something?” I couldn’t help but smirk after he said this, but kept my mouth shut. I didn’t want to risk embarrassing him by saying how well-acquainted I am with that sensation.
And then there was this question on my first psychology exam of the year. It said something along the lines of “David has a greater fear of dying from a terrorist attack than diabetes because of his knowledge of the events that took place on September 11, 2001. However, his risk of dying from diabetes is much greater and therefore David is demonstrating which heuristic?” The answer readily came to mind for me: the representativeness heuristic. Since I was so confident about my answer, I spent more time focusing on how diabetes popped up in such a foreboding manner on an exam.
I can’t forget the many pop culture references made to diabetes, either. I love the show South Park, and I cracked up when they introduced a character named Scott Malkinson who is teased by Cartman for having “a lisp and diabetes”. South Park is notorious for its satirical nature, so I found myself amused rather than offended by the casual reference. On the same token, most people are familiar with Wilford Brimley, the star of many Liberty Medical commercials and the individual who has increased awareness of “diabeetus”.
As a result of all this, I’m asking myself why diabetes is constantly mocked and/or brought up in such a devalued manner these days. Is it possible that downplaying diabetes makes bullies think it is okay to tease kids, like Cartman teases Scott Malkinson, who are affected by this disease? I grew up as a diabetic, and with peers who were very understanding and accepting of my diabetes, but it saddens me to know that isn’t the case for all diabetics, juvenile or adult.
I’m interested in hearing what others think about this. Are diabetes jokes acceptable or inappropriate? Is there certain criterion that classifies a joke as being humorous or hurtful? Does it promote insensitive treatment of diabetics? Again, I’d like to emphasize my knowledge of diabetic humor bothering others, and just because I am not offended does not mean nobody is.