Hollywood Portrayal of Cancer

Sweet November and Autumn in New York are both love stories that are centered on the appreciation of the beauty of life. In exploring this theme, the movies placed the main characters in a situation where one of them is terminally ill. Sweet November is a love story that revolves around Nelson Moss (played by Keanu Reeves) and Sara Deever (Charlize Theron). Deever took it as a mission to help Moss overcome his obsession with work and success, and thereby allowing him to appreciate and enjoy life. This mission would be achieved in just one month. As the story unfolds, it is revealed that Deever is afflicted with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, a type of cancer that is the main reason for Deever’s decision to lead an unusual lifestyle of "curing" men of their misbehaviors towards women. The story ends tragically, with Deever ending her relationship with Moss and facing the consequences of her illness alone..
Autumn in New York is a love story between a womanizing older man and a young, vibrant woman. Early on the story, Charlotte Fielding (Winona Ryder) and Will Keane (Richard Gere) fell in love, and as Keane was ending the relationship in the same manner as he had ended his past relationships, Fielding agreed to the fact that they would have no future together because she was sick. The story ended in tragedy as Fielding dies of a rare disease after the last-resort surgical operation failed to save her life.
There are many similarities in the two movies in the manner that cancer was portrayed. First, the illness was equated to the certainty of death. The drama in both films revolves around the fact that the women have little time left. Both protagonists also dealt with the disease in a similar manner – they gave up on medical treatments. In Autumn of New York, Charlotte Fielding even signed a directive that no surgery will be made on her. In one of their conversations, Fielding told Keane, "I don’t want to give hope, when there is none" (Chen, 2000). The same attitude was somewhat projected by Sara Deever in Sweet November. She decided to take on a different course in life, away from the regular treatments usually provided by hospitals to cancer patients.
Both films in a way concluded that there were no other options for the two cancer-afflicted characters, and that subjecting themselves to medical treatments and procedures would yield the same result, that is, eventual death. The character in Autumn in New York died at the end of the film, while in Sweet November, the character decided to come home and perhaps yield to medical cure for her illness, although the last scene seemed to indicate that she would be spending the rest of her life wilting away and succumbing to death. She left the viewers thinking that she would die, in the same way that her lover agreed to letting her go and face death.
Both stories depict the dying characters, both of which were white women, still in flawless appearance. This would fall under what Comedienne Carol Burnett referred to as the Movie Star Disease (as cited in Lallanilla, 2005), where the ill character,

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