Monday, March 14, 2011

Celebrity Causes

One celebrity who has been in the news often is Jenny McCarthy, a self-proclaimed activist for austism. Her son, Evan, was diagnosed with autism at two and half years old, but cured by age seven, and ever since, she has stepped up as the face of austism, not only in terms of awareness, but with her new method of "curing" autism. She has started the foundation Generation Rescue (http://www.generationrescue.org/home), which is an international movement of scientists working together to research the developmental disorder that affects 1 in 1000 people worldwide.
Personally, Jenny McCarthy has not only founded this organization, but also is responsible for travelling around the talk-show circuit to promote her books and seminars on the idea she strongly believes in - that autism is a curable disease and that factors in childhood are what cause it. She has had many controversial theories about what makes a child develop autism, and has urged parents to follow her special diet for children, as well as delay manditory vaccinations.
 
By doing all this publicity, Jenny McCarthy is creating the preferred reading that she is a caring and loving mom, looking out for other mothers across the nation and preventing them from experiencing what she had gone through until she "cured" her son of autism. She wants to be seen as someone who is very knowledgeable on this topic, and is using her celebrity status to gain people's trust in her ideas. This social cause also makes Jenny seem more down-to-earth, because she is showing everyone that she struggles like many parents do, and that her life is not always perfect. By fighting so hard for beliefs on autism, we get the idea that Jenny McCarthy is strong-willed, caring towards children, experienced & educated on autism, and most of all, a mother like anyone else.       
However, the oppositional reading to all her work can be taken in a very negative way. It is no secret that Jenny is much wealthier than the average mother, so with nannies and top doctors, it might be unfair to say she has struggled with autism in the same way regular people and those with financial difficulties have. Her constant pushing of her theories make Jenny seem in denial of the fact that autism does affect a lot of people, and by brushing it off a curable disease, she can offend a lot of people whose children will suffer from autism their whole lives. Also, Jenny's points on stopping the vaccination can make people feel guilty, because if a viewer's child has autism and they received the vaccines (which are approved by doctors), she is essentially blaming the parents for causing their child's autism.
I think that this message that Jenny McCarthy is sharing with the world is not a positive one. It's great that her son has been "healed," but I think she needs to face reality. Her ideas are only giving people false hope, as they are based off of unreliable research, and have not been accepted by most health practioners for a reason. She acts in a manner that can be dangerous, because by following her "recovery plan", children may actually not receive the nutrition they need in their diet, and the illnesses they can catch from not receiving vaccines can be fatal. She creates the illusion that she is trained in autism treatment, but really she isn't someone to trust on this topic. She should think more carefully before she shares her ideas and take responsibility for the fact that she is role model to others and not a doctor.

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