Cancer stories: Media influence within cancer experiences
Gallant, Christopher Robert
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The project component of the MFA thesis is a personal documentary film called Picture of Health ---the culmination of three years of taping in and around Buffalo, New York---investigates representation through the frame of the family album and the home movie. The conceptual basis for the film was to create a documentary that dealt with normally unpleasant events, which are often omitted from the family photo album and home movie, and reinsert them into my personal family narrative. The specific events dealt with in the film are my partner Ramona SantaMaria's brain tumor diagnosis on September 15th of 2003 as well as the illnesses of her father Richard SantaMaria and my parents, Robert and Maria Gallant. It examines questions that arise during the course of the illness and how the experience changes our overall perception of life. The written component of the MFA thesis looks at how perceptions of cancer are influenced by media. Cancer has been traditionally associated with a set of media that attempt to define the illness. Historically these media have represented cancer as a "death sentence" or "a monstrosity" (Stacey, 1997, p. vi), primarily because of the medical institution's past ineffectiveness in controlling an ever-increasing disease. The goal of this work is to critically investigate how traditional and contemporary images influence our current perceptions of cancer through the author's as well as surrounding family's personal experiences. Drawing from personal ethnographies and a broad set of literature, the thesis will investigate media associated with cancer, historically and within current popular culture.