Analyzing an Inaccurate Anaphylaxis Depiction in a Movie
Last updated: February 2023
The other night, I was watching a new movie titled Glass Onion. It was fast-paced, and I missed much of what was happening, so I decided to watch it again. If you haven't seen Glass Onion yet, this is your official spoiler alert!
I turned on closed captioning on the second watch. As I watched the movie a second time, I noticed a scene where a character died because of anaphylaxis. This character had large muscles and looked like he could defeat anything coming his way.
"Hang on!" I told my husband, "anaphylaxis can't happen that fast!"
Media inaccurately portraying allergies
It drives me crazy when movies or TV shows inaccurately portray someone with respiratory allergies, food allergies, or asthma. With asthma, characters are usually sickly-looking kids who sit out gym class and then take puffs of their inhalers (and the inhaler technique is always wrong).
Popular media usually portrays characters with allergies as someone with loads of tissues, sniffling, and sneezing. Okay – fair enough on that one.
Food allergy portrayals
With food allergies, movies will show someone being bullied with their food allergen, which makes my blood boil! Or, they will portray someone having an allergic reaction, and the movie makes fun of it. This also makes me angry. There's nothing funny about watching someone's face swell up, break out in hives, or have difficulty breathing.
Sometimes, TV shows or movies portray someone eating a tiny bite of food, suddenly clutching their throat, and then keeling over. People don't die that quickly from an allergic reaction!
Breaking down this anaphylaxis movie scene
In Glass Onion, the detective does a recap at the movie's end. He reveals that the character I mentioned took a large sip of his drink which was spiked with pineapple juice. His pineapple allergy caused him to die of anaphylaxis in about 10 seconds.
The reality of anaphylaxis
Anaphylaxis is a serious allergic reaction that should not be downplayed. It can be life-threatening, but not within seconds like the movie portrayed. Let's talk about the reality of anaphylaxis, which can differ from person to person.
My symptoms can be different than others, and my reaction can differ each time. So this is just my viewpoint! Usually, my face will start tingling; then, it will begin to swell. My heart starts beating abnormally, my asthma flares up, and I feel my throat closing.
When I have experienced anaphylaxis, my symptoms usually begin about 30 minutes after exposure to seafood. This can happen through cross-contact or if my husband eats seafood and then kisses me. I'm cautious about avoiding seafood, but I also know I can develop a new food allergy at any time (which happened to me last summer).
Anaphylaxis takes longer than 10 seconds
I had different symptoms with the new food allergy I developed last summer. 30 minutes after eating chicken curry and lentils, my stomach was upset. I tried antacid tablets, but they didn't help. Then I tried liquid stomach medicine, but no luck there. It kept getting worse, and I realized I was going to vomit. It took me that long to realize that I was experiencing an allergic reaction!
This process took over an hour, and I knew I needed epinephrine. Fast!
False information is misleading
And in Glass Onion, the character feels his first symptom of anaphylaxis and then dies within 10 seconds? That's not right.
This false portrayal is reckless and leads those with food allergies to think the same thing could happen to them. Can people die from untreated anaphylaxis? Yes. But can it be treated with epinephrine? Also yes.
With the multi-million dollar budget directors have, it would be great to hire a medical expert to ensure their portrayals are accurate! Did anyone else roll their eyes when you saw that scene? Or did it scare you?
How often do you connect with others who have food allergies?