I was reading People Magazine the other day (and YOU’RE WELCOME for singlehandedly keeping print media in business) and I came across a quick review of that show Colony on USA Network. It’s by Carlton Cuse, the guy who did Lost, and it stars a guy from Lost. You know, the show you’ve seen a billion subway ads for:
I wish I hadn’t recycled the magazine, but the review basically described the show as taking place in future Los Angeles, which has maybe been taken over by aliens or something? And like humans are now living in this walled off colony and Lost guy is hired by the aliens to seek out resistance fighters, but (GASP!) his wife turns out to be a resistance fighter. (L’ironie!)
Anyway, I don’t even know why I read it… but I did, and one particular line caught my eye. It was something about how in the future “healthcare is universal, but insulin has been banned” because the alien overlords want to weed out the weak, or something.
Quite a detail.
I’ll admit, it’s kind of been driving me nuts, this “review”. This show, actually, which I will absolutely never watch on principle, kind of makes me want to punch Carlton Cuse in his stupid, rich face. And maybe also Lost guy, while I’m at it.
You are probably wondering why some dumb TV show (that I haven’t even seen!) is getting to me so much, and you are very right to wonder. It’s mass-media entertainment and it’s not, like, outwardly offensive, but I freaking HATE that that detail has becomes sort of a defining feature of this show’s pilot, and consequently reviews of it.
Another review I read explains, “diabetes has been deemed ‘unworthy of treatment'” by the aliens or whatever. Apparently, if I’m following the reviews correctly, someone (the wife?) attempts to score illegal insulin for some kid who has diabetes. I don’t know – as I said, I haven’t seen it. But if that’s the case, then it’s a pretty cheap way to define “good” and “bad” in the world of his show from a guy (Cuse) who theoretically (with Lost) explored slightly more subtle interpretations of goodness and badness and human nature. Sure, take some poor kid with type 1 and deny him his insulin and see how helplessly sick he gets within moments, needlessly, simply because some jerk aliens decided he’s weak, and yeah, we’re gonna hate the aliens. Might be more interesting if this dystopia presented some actual moral dilemmas in terms of how you judge the overlords’ actions, but OK.
Lame storytelling aside, this show upsets me because it so casually reminds me how fallible I am. It speaks so directly to a basic human capacity that I lack.
When I was overweight I felt like I didn’t really “count”—like I wasn’t a *real* person. Like I was an imposter in the conversations and interactions I participated in- everyone else involved was real, was valid; I wasn’t. But still, my job was to pretend I was valid even though everyone could tell that I wasn’t because I was obviously — like, on the most basic, visible level — I was overweight, disgusting, gross. You could see it just by LOOKING at me; I didn’t count, but I somehow had to pretend that I did, and you had to pretend that you didn’t know that I didn’t count, and I had to pretend that I didn’t know you were pretending, etc.
It was exhausting, and depressing, and it pervaded every single interaction I had. Every. Single. One.
And now that my body has eased its way towards the “visually acceptable” (by society’s messed up standards), I am confronted by the terrible knowledge that this visual transition comes at the cost of my actual validity as a healthy, able-bodied person.
And that, Mr. Cuse, is true irony.
Of course, I am able bodied most of the time; I feel good some, or even, (on great days), a lot of the time. But at the end of the day it all feels like a big lie. Because if you take away these little vials of medication—created in labs, dispensed to me a little at a time by pharmacists—I am nothing. Literally, nothing. I have a day or two of relative normalcy, and maybe a week or two before I just straight up die. And there’s no alternative to that, no way to “strong” my way out of it. My body is broken and I am alive by the grace of modern medicine, nothing more.
On good days, that feels like a miracle; it makes me treasure everything—food, flannel sheets, laughing, holding Stefan’s hand, The Bachelor, a good poop, writing letters, drinking water. I feel gratitude, pure gratitude, for everything, everything, and that makes everything better.
On bad days, though, it feels like a curse. I feel like an imposter, like I don’t belong, like I am terribly, terribly weak. Like I’m living on borrowed time, time I don’t deserve.
I didn’t need Carlton Cuse to remind me of that in a bad TV show – I fantasize absurd dystopias all the time. Before, I think, I could have survived **insert disaster scenario here**. Plane crashes on desert islands, alien takeovers, any form of apocalypse or doomsday. But now? Now I’m the extra who dies right away so that the show’s true stars can demonstrate their incredible capacity for survival.
My obsession with such things, of course, stems from the horrible knowledge that I am that pathetic kid, symbol of all that is weak and helpless. He’s a better symbol, of course, because he’s a kid, but our bodies are both broken in the same fundamental way. I would be dead in the Colony. The aliens would have deemed me unworthy of treatment.
When I really break this down, of course, there’s a bigger irony at play, one that my self-pitying self would rather ignore (feel sorry for me, I whine!), but which actually pervades all of this. One of the things that is appealing about Lost or a show like Colony is that it allows all of us to pretend we’re infallible. Look how they all survived that plane crash; look how they’re resisting those aliens! We could all be action stars!
Of course, the truth is, not many people could survive on a desert island, and most of us would probably be killed in an alien takeover (also: why don’t the aliens just kill everyone, right? What do they have to gain by enslaving humans?). And of course, even those action stars among us who might survive, Tom Hanks in Castaway-style, or Lost guy in Lost-style, will. still. die. Maybe a few decades later than everyone else, but they will.
Because everybody dies.
In the same way that everyone is weak, everyone is an imposter, and everyone can be an action star, the truth is that everyone dies.
My terribly depressing (but also not, if you really think about it!) point is that in a way, we’re all that little kid who needs his insulin. Everyone has their “insulin” — mine is of course, actually insulin, but yours might be some other medicine, or, you know, like, food or oxygen or water. Take those away and none of us has a chance.
Life is terribly short and terribly fragile, and mostly we ignore that. Even me. Even though I arguably am a touch more fallible than the average person, still, sometimes I go 3 or 4 hours without thinking about diabetes at all. I feel normal, I feel healthy. I’m not thinking about death. We all mostly walk around thinking we’ll never die (or at least, not consciously thinking about our death 24/7, and in a way that amounts to the same thing, no?) and that feels good.
Because, for me at least, those moments when my mortality smacks me in the face, as it does so much more these days than pre-diabetes, can sometimes be so overwhelming that I almost wonder why bother. If I’m going to lose everything.
But then, of course, I eat, or I laugh, or I get between two perfectly clean flannel sheets or I smell garlic sautéing with olive oil and onions or I hear a really good song or I get a really great hug and I think, right.
That’s why bother.
I really, really don’t want to die. Not yet, at least. And I’m very grateful to modern medicine for giving me a way to not die. I guess, in return, I have to keep walking the tightrope between feeling false invincibility and feeling true fallibility and feeling grateful and feeing scared and feeling excited to be alive and horrified and hating Carlton Cuse and feeling weak and strong and everything in between.
Which, if you’ll permit me a moment of complete corniness, is what living is, right?