The Crisis of Alzheimer’s Disease in “The Father” and “Still Alice”: Media Representations of Dementia in Contemporary Film Narratives


Film and television have an essential impact on how we understand and respond to contemporary medical issues. In the case of dementia and Alzheimer's Disease, this has translated into a fear of and stigmatization of the disease. While the standard frames for dementia in contemporary media focus on the biomedical aspects, these representations often translate into negative images and feelings in film and television. Dementia is seen as a looming threat overtaking baby boomers, for example, and turning older people into living zombies. In films such as "Still Alice" and "The Father", there has been an attempt to expand this characterization of dementia in favor of a broader range of representations of individuals with dementia. While some have characterized these films as moving a big step forward in the depiction of dementia, the place, and experience of the caregiver, on the other hand, are portrayed as uniformly brutal. Thus, while there has been some progress in these films trying to overcome some of the stigma and center the experience of the patients, at the same time, the challenges experienced by the caregiver end up reinforcing the fear that the larger population has about this condition. This paper will explore the tensions around the stories in these two films and how they reinforce negative stereotypes about the disease. At the same time, I will look at how "epistemic injustice" can be addressed in these narratives as we advocate for "cinema education" to help audiences understand and de-stigmatize the disease.

Author Information
Margaret Tally, State University of New York, Empire State College, United States

Paper Information
Conference: PCAH2023
Stream: Media

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Posted by James Alexander Gordon