Netflix are facing harsh backlash after the release of their latest Netflix Originals docuseries, Afflicted, which has been called “harmful” for people with chronic illnesses.

The series follows seven individuals, each of whom is searching for a concrete diagnosis of their chronic illness, including well-known myalgic encephalomyelitis (ME) blogger, Jamison Hill, and artist Bekah Fly, who has a severe allergy to mould and Lyme disease.

While many who watched the trailer hoped it would provide a realistic look into the lives of people with chronic illnesses – especially those who faced uncertain diagnoses – many took umbrage with what they felt were the producers’ attempts to make those involved in the docuseries look “unhinged”.

Critics of the show have expressed their thoughts about what makes the series so harmful. Some feel that the docuseries makes a “guessing game” of whether or not the illnesses they experience are real or psychosomatic, and that the medical professions and crew who took part in the show were both disrespectful and lacked knowledge of the conditions. Others, especially those with the chronic illnesses shown in Afflicted, called it “a slap in the face,” noting that the show’s participants are treated with contempt and suspicion, and reinforces harmful stereotypes about people with chronic illnesses.

The sentiment has been echoed by the subjects of the docuseries, many of whom have come together two write their sides of the story, saying that the show is edited in such a way that delegitimises their struggles with chronic illness. Jesse Bercowetz, partner of Bekah Fly, wrote that despite knowing their story would be framed as “weird,” given that they’re two artists who live in a van in the desert trying to live a mould-free life, they weren’t prepared for just how madly their story would be misrepresented.

“Afflicted claims to be a documentary. We would therefore have reason to expect some examination of facts — information that is not speculative,” writes Jesse in a post on Medium.

“Actually, the film left out some very important evidence that would legitimize Bekah’s case but which might contradict Docshop’s [production company] narrative, such as diagnoses and medical records. They also chose to omit many interviews with doctors that would have supported the stories told by the subjects of the film but not work so well with the apparent agenda Docshop was pursuing.”

The stories of the people featured in Afflicted, in their own words, can be found on Medium.

Netflix could not be reached for comment at this time.

Image: Netflix


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