In a recent New York Times Opinion article, Angelina Jolie revealed her decision to remove her ovaries due to having a genetic predisposition to ovarian cancer.
Many have since applauded her for going public about this.
Her article has acquired international attention and has trended on various ?social media platforms.
Doctors estimate Jolie’s decision will cause more women to undergo genetic testing and consider elective surgeries. They call this “the Angelina Jolie effect.” While this effect has various positive aspects, its presence is a bit unnerving.
The power of the Angelina Jolie effect is best described by David Fishman, director of the Mount Sinai Ovarian Cancer Risk Assessment Program. “A Nobel laureate could give the same message (about ovarian cancer), and it might reach only a handful of people,” ?he said.
He also noted Jolie is using her fame in a “heroic way.” Jolie’s status as a sex symbol has further relieved many women’s concerns about losing their sexual identity in their battle with cancer. These are all the positive aspects of the Angelina Jolie effect.
But at the same time, we have to question whether the effect is at all necessary. Do we really need a high-profile celebrity to guide us to make decisions that are right for us? I sincerely hope the answer is no.
It seems strange to say that when it comes to health, a celebrity has more influence than a Nobel laureate who has dedicated his/her entire life to the medical field.
But this partly is what the Angelina Jolie effect is saying. And here I think the problem is twofold. On one hand, the Angelina Jolie effect speaks to the general public’s ignorance.
Or simply put, it shows how people are really stupid. In the face of choosing between the words of an expert and the words of a high-profile nonexpert, they’d choose to be swayed by the nonexpert due to his/her popularity.
On the other hand, it may be the case that the words of the Nobel laureate do not reach as many people. In other words, the Angelina Jolie effect shows how the media is disproportionately publicizing the issue. More health-related articles are dedicated to the words of a high-profile nonhealth expert than that of a reliable expert.
In the face of a relatively educated public, both these problems should be slightly alarming.
While the Angelina Jolie effect is in itself a positive one, its negative implications reveal some bigger problems about our health-related choices and ?considerations.