Fact Check: Interdisciplinary Facts and ‘Midnight Sun’

Posted in Movies, Theatrical by - March 23, 2018
Fact Check: Interdisciplinary Facts and ‘Midnight Sun’

Midnight Sun‘s protagonist is Katie Price (Bella Thorne). She’s a seventeen year old girl with xeroderma pignemtosum. This means she’s sensitive to sunlight and any exposure to it will mean death! She talks about it in a strange way. I kept telling myself that this is the kind of disease that some ANTM contestant has. She will reveal her condition to Tyra Banks because she’s in the bottom two that week. And she’s biding time before going home, which is a futile venture because she’s going home next week anyway. On the other hand anything is possible nowadays. I should also not be judgmental against people I’ve never met. Besides, other people have made fun of them and have accused them of being vampires. And I have my own skin disease so I should be more sympathetic.

So the movie is over. It took me a whole day to look up whether xeroderma pigmentosum or XP is real. And it is. The sun constantly bombards our bodies with UV rays. Evolution has made it possible for our skin to rebuild itself. People who expose themselves to sunlight without sunscreen will eventually get melanoma. People with XP like Katie will get those effects automatically. Scenes after her first exposure to sunlight we already see the effects on her. This is especially true with the discoloration on her nails. Besides from that she just looks wan, like somebody who hasn’t slept in a long while. Perhaps Director Scott Speer didn’t want to show XP’s real physical effects on her skin. That’s for another patient who can ugly herself in ways that Thorne can’t.

There are a lot of inconsistent numbers about the probability of getting XP. CBC reports at less than a thousand cases worldwide. Wikipedia hints at a 1 in 250000 chance that Americans of any race can have it. This means roughly a thousand people in America. It also says that the disease is roughly six times more common in Japanese people than in other groups. Which reminds me that the film is a remake of a Japanese film of the same name. This makes me resent the remake, since it relies on the fact that Western audiences don’t like reading subtitles. The powers behind the remake could have at least hired Asian actors. Sure, Bella Thorne is half-Hispanic and her co-star Patrick Schwarzenegger is a second generation immigrant. However, pointing that out seems like a logical reach.

Both Midnight Sun and online articles present conflicting information about how XP rapidly affects those who have it. A specialist tells Katie’s dad Jack (Rob Riggle) that she has two years after a triggering moment. Spoiler alert – she dies within the summer. A season when the young can celebrate their love before fate cruelly snatches it from them. The film also lets us assume that she dies in her boyfriend Charlie’s (Patrick Schwarzeneger) boat. In some ways, this checks out in real life. Two out of three patients don’t live into adulthood and more die by the time they’re 20. However, the neurological effects don’t hit XP patients as hard and fast as it does for Katie. She can’t even play guitar anymore. The movie speeds up the process where she becomes a memory for the others.

The Hollywood version of Midnight Sun brings back XP into public consciousness. Then people will forget the disease since the movie about it is forgettable. Other films, aside from the original, have tackled XP. The children in Alejandro Amenabar’s The Others have the disease, or that’s what Nicole Kidman’s character says. Brad Pitt’s first leading role is someone with XP. And of course, I’m kind of curious and I want to hunt this movie down now. There’s also a French film called The Moon Child about the disease starring Vincent Lindon. That title is a nickname that some people give to those who have XP. Bella Thorne is just the latest of a line of actors in films about the disease. Who knows? Maybe taking on this project might show that she’ll do more promising things.

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While Paolo Kagaoan is not taking long walks in shrubbed areas, he occasionally watch movies and write about them. His credentials are as follows: he has a double major in English and Art History. This means that, for example, he will gush at the art direction in the Amityville house and will want to live there, which is a terrible idea because that house has ghosts. Follow him @paolokagaoan on Instagram but not while you're working.
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