Asthma episodes: stigma, children, and Hollywood films

Med Anthropol Q. 2012 Mar;26(1):92-115. doi: 10.1111/j.1548-1387.2011.01198.x.


Asthma has been systematically stigmatized in Hollywood feature films, including films seen by children. Through content analysis of 66 movies containing one or more scenes showing asthma, and through informant interviews with a dozen U.S. children about representative scenes, the study explores how stigmatizing portrayals are interpreted, accepted, or resisted. Children suffering from asthma actively counterargued with incriminating excerpts, but in some respects their healthy friends were less critical. Overall, children viewed stigmatizing scenes in terms of the social interaction and the social ethics entailed. They did not scrutinize the characters for damaged selfhood, per se, but dwelled on the social processes out of which stigma is erected.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Anthropology, Medical
  • Asthma / psychology*
  • Child
  • Humans
  • Motion Pictures*
  • Social Stigma*
  • Stereotyping*
  • United States