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film criticism by maryann johanson | since 1997

question of the day: When did B movie starlets become medical experts?

As suggested by reader Jester, and as framed by Amy Tuteur, MD, at Open Salon: When did B movie starlets become medical experts?

Tuteur writes:

Ricki Lake is evidently an expert on childbirth, Jenny McCarthy is an expert on immunology, and Susan [sic] Somers is an expert on chemotherapy (in the immortal words of Orac of Respectful Insolence, she is currently carpet bombing the media with “napalm-grade stupid about cancer”).

What, you might ask, are the qualifications of these experts beyond their tawdry celebrity? Well, Ricki Lake completed two (count ‘em, 2) semesters at Ithaca College; Jenny McCarthy dropped out of Southern Illinois University in favor of a career at Playboy; and Suzanne Somers dropped out of Lone Mountain College after 6 months.

All three had advanced training as well. Ricki Lake has actually given birth to two children. Jenny McCarthy has a child she believed was afflicted with autism. And, Suzanne Somers actually had cancer. If that’s not enough to make you a medical authority, I don’t know what is.

Tuteur hits on a couple of obvious explanations for the fact that some people do seem to listen to celebrities about matters outside their areas of expertise: the general strain of anti-intellectualism in American culture, a lack of faith in authority figures and/or the government. Is it as simple as that? Is something else at work? Why would anyone take medical advice from the likes of Jenny McCarthy… and is it really any different from taking dubious advice from similarly unqualified friends or family members?

(If you have a suggestion for a QOTD, feel free to email me. Responses to this QOTD sent by email will be ignored; please post your responses here.)

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