CF on TV: Bates Motel

Emma Decody (Olivia Cooke), Bates Motel

Emma Decody (Olivia Cooke), Bates Motel

Horror movies aren’t really my thing. I also have a deadly fear of stabbings. So that would seem to make me not the prime audience for the TV series Bates Motel, which, as the name suggests, is the prequel, of sorts, to the film Pyscho.

But then I read that there would be a character with CF, and that clinched it, because I’ve never seen a main character with CF on TV. Ever! So now I had to watch, mostly to see how the writers would portray a character who sounded an awful lot like me.

Emma Decody is a British transplant who lives in White Pine Bay with her taxidermist father. (Her mother ran off a few years ago) When the show starts, both Emma and Norman are juniors in high school and are in the same English class. Emma is smitten pretty quickly with Norman, who treats her a lot like the sister he never had, and it isn’t until the current season that they get together romantically, although Emma’s been hankering for it for a long time.

Emma, like Norman, is pretty much a loner, although she seems to get along OK with everyone at school. No one teases her or openly shuns her due to her illness or the oxygen tank she carts around. It’s established in the beginning that Emma’s disease is pretty progressed, and that she’s on the list for a transplant. That being said, Emma tries to live as normally as possible, which means going to school, helping her dad around the house, and even taking a job at the motel. She’s pretty insistent about doing things that people her age do, even when it’s a big strain on her (like jumping off a cliff into a pool of water in season two, like Norman and his friends were doing, or hiking up mountains with Norman).

Emma is, to my mind, portrayed well, sympathetically, and accurately. Olivia Cooke does a fabulous job bringing her to life. Her desire to be normal and to have a normal life are apparent, but occasionally her illness will flair up and interfere, like in a recent episode where she asked Caleb, Norman’s half-brother, to give her chest PT on the floor of the Bates house bathroom to help loosen the thick secretions that are what slowly destroy the lungs of CF people.

The thing I like best about this is that Emma is portrayed as a normal teenager. She has hopes and dreams and fears just like everyone else, and I especially like that both Bates brothers treat her as a friend and an equal, not as something strange or inordinately fragile. When they try to be too careful with her, she normally smacks them back to reality.

I’ve never seen Emma eat on TV, so they haven’t had to work enzymes into the show, or insulin. 🙂 But what I’ve seen is accurate and humanizing. The show gets good ratings, so I’m glad that more people can become aware of CF and what it does to people, and also that we’re “just like you!” (insert fakey smile here) Emma’s blog on the A&E website also links to organ donation, which is also a total plus.

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One thought on “CF on TV: Bates Motel

  1. Pingback: Seven Quick Takes No. 77 | Living Adventurously

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