I wasn’t sure I could watch 50/50, but I’m glad I did … just as I wasn’t sure I could watch The Big C, but I’m glad I get to see that, too.
I’ve merely had cancer lite (twice: prostate and thyroid). Not having had to go through the horrors most cancer patients endure — chemo and radiation and clocks with 30-minute hours — all I can really speak to is the realized fear of it. I’ve long dreaded cancer, then I met my dread. Even though I tell my own jokes about it (want a limp dick joke? or a throat-slitting gag? I gotta ton of them), I didn’t know that I’d find others’ humor in it.
But I did. Each in its own way, the movie and the show take the muffler off of cancer: the hushed tones, the embarrassed awkwardness, the unmentionableness of it. They don’t exploit their tumors for cheap laughs. They don’t find nobility in metastasis. They don’t jerk tears. They simply have the courage to treat cancer for what it is: just another fucking disease.
50/50 is just a bromance with not only bad girlfriends and crazy mothers but also tumors and rude doctors getting in the way of getting drunk and laid. The Big C is darker. Laura Linney’s family is a sitcom family bizarre enough for cable. If these were shitty shows, cancer wouldn’t rescue them. But they’re each good. Yes, all the characters end up learning more about the meaning of life. But they did that, too, on Leave it to Beaver. That’s the point. It’s just life. And death.