Food Allergies in the Media: What the TV Doesn’t Convey

Recently, I’ve been seeing a lot of examples of how food allergies are portrayed in the media: and it is both hurtful and highly untrue.

Before we get into this article, I highly encourage you to look through this Instagram post by @thealanapp. This is the post that has sparked the idea for this article, as well as several other Instagram posts discussing this issue that I have been seeing in my Instagram feed recently. I will be referencing this post and the videos in this post throughout today’s blog post.

*Disclaimer: I am not a doctor. This article is not supposed to be substituted for medical advice of any kind. I am not liable for any advice that you do or do not take, and I am also not liable for any kind of action that was taken from this article. To read more about why this is here and my other disclaimers, click here.*

Now, the videos in this post are absolutely disturbing. To think that someone’s disability and LIFE should be used as a punchline or a joke in front of millions of people is incomprehensible to me. I don’t understand why; but, then again, the famous comedians and talk show hosts shown in the videos probably don’t think about why it’s bad, either.

I have quite a bit to say about this… so I will be individually addressing each video below first.

Jimmy Fallon

In Jimmy Fallon’s comedy sketch titled “Masculine Man Masks Commercial”, he said that the masks won’t make you look like “a big sissy with a shellfish allergy”.

Food allergies do not make you weak! On the contrary, having to deal with food allergies on a daily basis makes you a stronger person. Having to stand up for yourself; having to learn to walk away from bad situations; having to live with the fact that something, as dangerous as a loaded gun to you, can be right next to you at any time,  makes you a very strong person.

Seth Meyers

The “AllerG-Unit” is not a clique or a group. The nut free table, which was the peanut and tree nut free lunch table at my school, was a symbol of exclusion. It was a sign that you were different. I could only talk to the other people at that table at lunch, which is a major time to socialize at school, and because of that, those were the only close friends that I had. Out of a hundred kids in my grade, there were only five other people in my grade that I could talk to at lunch.

The nut free table is not a choice. I sat at the nut free table because I didn’t want to go into deadly anaphylactic shock. What I have to say about the nut free table is a whole other blog post on itself, which will be coming soon on the nallergy blog.

Now, to address the “razor sharp Epi-pens” that we have “strapped to ourselves” and are “not afraid to use”. Epi-pens are a LIFE-SAVING device. Epi-pens, and other auto injectors that are filled with epinephrine, are the only things that help during deadly anaphylaxis besides calling 911 (in case you’re wondering, you should always do both in the case of anaphylaxis). Epi-pens save many lives every year; they are not something we go waving around as a weapon. We also don’t go using them as weapons because if we did, we would be wasting hundreds of dollars (yes — Epi-pens do cost hundreds of dollars).

Louis C. K

The comedy sketch by Louis C. K was the most appalling out of all the videos. In his sketch, he said: “maybe, if touching a nut kills you… you’re supposed to die”.

Let that sink in.

According to this article, approximately 3 million Americans have a peanut and/or tree nut allergy. This includes everything from infants to young adults to senior citizens in nursing homes, and everything in between. Now, tell me; do any of those people deserve to die, because of something they can’t control? No. If your answer is anything but no, you need to reevaluate yourself.

I don’t understand why people think that food allergies are a joke. Food allergies are a lifelong disability; they are not a choice; we are not being Karens, and food allergy parents are not being helicopter parents.

Let me give you an example that will hopefully open your eyes to why this is so wrong to do.

People in the world have cancer. It is not a choice, and you can’t really do anything to prevent getting cancer. It is also deadly, as you probably know.

Now, would you ever joke that wearing “manly man masks won’t make you look like a sissy with cancer”? No, because people with cancer are very strong for going through something so scary and life threatening.

Would you ever say that people that have cancer in a hospital are a clique? Of course not; they are there to protect their life.

Would you ever, in a million years, say what Louis C. K said about touching nuts about cancer? I don’t even want to repeat it here because it’s such an awful thought. Of course not. They never chose to have cancer; they don’t deserve to have cancer, or any of what they are going through with their struggle with cancer.

Now, explain this to me; if you would never say any of those things about cancer, why would you say those things about food allergies? They are both deadly; neither of them are choices, but only things that happen to you. You don’t choose to have food allergies just as much as you wouldn’t choose to have cancer. Would you say any of those things to someone in a wheelchair? Someone without an arm? So why do people keep making fun of food allergies?

**Please please PLEASE do not think that I am making fun of people with cancer, or people that use wheelchairs or are missing arms. I am not, and I understand the severity of all of those circumstances. I sometimes feel like the only way to get people to understand food allergies is to compare food allergies to more known diseases and disabilities. I am also not comparing cancer and food allergies, as I know that they are very different. Cancer and disabilities of any kind should never be made fun of or joked about. I simply wanted to convey how appalling these jokes are in a way that non-food allergic people would understand.**

Here’s another thing that people don’t realize about making food allergy jokes; they make life miserable for us. We take one step forward for every food allergy awareness thing we do; when big brand comedy shows like The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon and Late Night with Seth Meyers make fun of food allergies, they are conveying to millions of people that food allergies should not be taken seriously, and the fight for food allergy awareness takes a hundred steps back for every joke made.

What the TV shows don’t show are the fears we live with every day. They never show food allergy bullying, or having to check an ingredients list a million times. They never show having to trust everyone else with your life, and going into anaphylaxis and having to inject yourself with an Epi-pen if someone doesn’t take your allergies seriously.

How are we supposed to make the world a better place for food allergic individuals when people keep thinking that food allergies are nothing more than a punchline? We have to keep advocating for food allergy awareness; that’s the main thing we can do right now. If we can all work to educate everyone on food allergies and the severity of them, we might be able to finally have a world that will accept food allergic individuals.

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