I've been a fan of Fox's Scream Queens since the first season, and when I first learned that the second season would have a complete change of scenery — going from a college campus to a hospital — I was unsure of whether I'd still enjoy the show. However, once Season 2 started, I immediately saw that the show kept its perfect combination of campiness and horror (and they still have that phat '80s soundtrack!).
This go around, Dean Munsch started the Caregivers United in Restorative Etiology Institute Hospital, or CURE for short — formerly known as Our Lady of Perpetual Suffering Hospital — to specifically treat diseases that are normally considered incurable. In the last few episodes, audiences have witnessed patients with extremely rare diseases be cured, only then to be brutally murdered by The Green Meanie.
The hospital setting is making for technically effective horror. At the same time, Scream Queens (and the horror genre in general as of late) has come under fire for stigmatizing people with diseases and disabilities. That's because the diseases featured in the show are real — you can imagine how offended you might be if your medical condition were used for a horror series.
Whatever your opinion on this debate, here's what you should know about the real-life conditions being depicted in Scream Queens Season 2.
On The Series: Katherine is a woman with extreme hypertrichosis, or excessive hair growth, and she goes to CURE hoping for a remedy. Zayday initially decides to drill a hole into Katherine's brain to control Katherine's hair follicles, but Dr. Brock Holt (played by the still-so-fine John Stamos) and Chanel (of all people) come up with a less invasive cure by reducing the amount of vitamin K that she consumes, reducing the amount of testosterone in her system. This is so effective that Katherine ends up losing all her hair.
IRL: Hypertrichosis, colloquially called "werewolf syndrome," is defined as hair growth that is significantly above the normal age, race and sex of an individual. The disease is extremely rare; there have only been 50 documented cases in the modern era.
In earlier times, some people with hypertrichosis were exploited as sideshow artists in carnivals. The disease can be treated with hair removal — whether it's shaving, electrolysis or laser hair removal — but the hair will grow back, so the treatments have to be repeated. (The vitamin K treatment Katherine received doesn't actually work, or at least, there's been no official record of the special diet curing anyone.) Buzzfeed has a truly touching story about a family India that has hypertrichosis, and their road to treatment.
Neurofibromatosis Type 1
On The Series: Tyler is a young man who has neurofibromatosis type 1, and he goes to CURE for treatment. Dr. Holt informs him that his tumors can be treated with a "CO-2 laser," but the cost is extremely high. Chanel gets her ex-boyfriend Chad Radwell to pay for the procedure, but Tyler never receives his cure because the Green Meanie uses the laser to burn him to death.
IRL: Neurofibromatosis comes in two types. Type 1 consists of tumors on the skin, known as neurofibroma. Tumors can even form on the eye, causing vision problems. Type 2 involves tumors forming in the brain, spinal cord and/or nerve endings. Some individuals with neurofibromatosis don't have tumors at all, just spots on their skin. It affects 1 out of every 3,000 people.
The Children's Tumor Foundation, which raises funds for neurofibromatosis research, was extremely critical of the episode:
These sixty minutes of scripted programming have done a terrible disservice to the millions of people around the world living with neurofibromatosis – also known as NF – a genetic disorder that causes tumors to grow throughout the body. NF is a lifelong condition often diagnosed in childhood, and it can affect bones, vision, hearing, and other body systems. It can also sometimes lead to cancer. ... There is no "CO-2 laser” machine that can “shrink and eventually remove” the tumors, as referred to on the show. In fact, the notion of a quick fix trivializes the very real and very serious need to fund research for treatments and, one day, a cure for the 125,000 people in the United States and nearly 2.5 million people worldwide living with NF.
Jumping Frenchmen Of Maine Syndrome
On The Series: Chad's friend Randal develops the Jumping Frenchmen of Maine syndrome, accidentally shooting their friend in the face with a shotgun during a hunting trip. The least little thing makes him startle, whether it's someone placing a hand on his shoulder or clicking the button on a ballpoint pen. Dr. Holt and Dr. Cassidy Cascade (played by Taylor Lautner) treat the disorder by placing Randal in a room that's devoid of any stimuli to upset his nerves. The treatment works, but Randal is later chopped into bits by the Green Meanie.
IRL: The cause of the Jumping Frenchmen of Maine syndrome is unknown. It was first discovered sometime in the 19th century amongst French Canadian lumberjacks in Maine and Quebec that were living in isolation. It is believed that the cause could possibly be due to certain cultural factors or a neurological disorder. There is no cure, but it is possible for it to be treated by eliminating stress. Studies have also shown that the symptoms usually appear during puberty, but can decrease as the patient gets older.
On The Series: After spending time in Papua New Guinea, thanks her agent’s assistant routing her to the wrong destination for her book tour, Dean Munsch finds herself suffering from terrible headaches, extreme trembling, joint pain and problems with her gait. After she discovers that she unknowingly ingested human remains while in the country, Zayday diagnoses her with kuru, a contagious disease that’s contracted when eating an individual who had the disease himself or is exposed to an affected person's open wounds. The Green Meanie tries to attack her, but she whoops his ass.
IRL: The word "kuru" actually means to shiver or tremble in fear. The disease has three stages: loss of bodily control, an inability to walk, and later, being unable to speak. Some of the other symptoms include dementia, incontinence, inability to grasp objects, slurred speech and compulsive crying or laughing. Per Shirley Lindenbaum's preface of Kuru Society: Disease and Danger in the New Guinea Highlands, the kuru epidemic ended in 2009.
Persistent Genital Arousal Disorder (PGAD)
On The Series: Sheila (played by SNL alum Cheri Oteri) began suffering from persistent genital arousal disorder, or PGAD, after performing a complicated yoga pose. Her ailment only has one symptom: constant orgasms.
You may think that sounds pleasant, but on the contrary, PGAD has made Sheila's life extremely difficult, and she goes to CURE for help. Dr. Cascade concludes that Sheila pinched a nerve while doing the yoga pose, and performs a successful surgery to cure her. However, the Green Meanie appears while she’s being discharged from the hospital and dismembers her.
IRL: Persistent genital arousal disorder, or persistent sexual arousal disorder, affects women of various ages, from ladies in their teens to women going through menopause. It's unknown what causes the disease. Some believe it may be caused from Tarlov cysts in the reproductive organs; others believe it may be caused by a type of trauma. One sufferer from the UK links her PGAD to a fall she took down the stairs in 2001.
Like Sheila, many women with PGAD go through anxiety, depression and panic attacks, and lose interest in all things sexual. It can sometimes be treated with surgery on damaged nerves, anesthetizing agents, or therapy and support groups.
On The Series: The stress of finding Chad dead on their wedding day causes Chanel to break out in a series of rashes. Dr. Holt prescribes some colloidal silver for Chanel to clear her skin. The very next morning, Chanel's skin is free of blemishes…but it's also blue.
Dr. Holt swears that someone has tampered with the dosage (I personally believe that he did it on purpose as payback for Chanel dumping him for Chad), and promises to cure Chanel...after he finishes his laundry list of things to do. The Green Meanie doesn’t go after Chanel, but Hester does, dressed up as none other than Ivanka Trump. In the latest episode, Dr. Holt cures Chanel's argyria with a substance called Deferasirox that basically flushes the metal out of her body.
IRL: Agryria is caused by prolonged use or exposure to silver salts, not just from one dosage — patients often cut and polish silver for a living, or use eye drops, nose drops or prescription drugs that contain colloidal silver. Unlike Chanel, whose skin was the color of Smurfette's, argyria patients' skin is a metallic, bluish-silver color. The reaction to the silver salts is, unlike on the show, normally irreversible.
What do you think about Scream Queens portraying these rare conditions? Does the show need to be more sensitive? Let me know in the comments section below!
Sources: Healthline.com, Weinberg Plastic Surgery, National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke , WebMD, National Organization of Rare Disorders, DermNet New Zealand, Medscape, MNT, International Society for Sexual Medicine