A "Favourite" Film Spotlights Gout

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A darling of Hollywood’s movie awards season is inviting discussion on an unexpected topic: gout.

“The Favourite” is an unconventional, star-studded biopic of 18th Century England’s Queen Anne.  The film revolves around the monarch’s personal struggles and romantic entanglements, but her excruciating battle with gout figures prominently.  In fact, “The Favourite” has brought British history, pop culture and disease-state awareness together to generate interest in a disease that’s as prevalent and painful today as it was when Queen Anne held the throne.

Gout’s impact is made real in this film.  Queen Anne calls out in agony over a gout flare.  She limps through the royal palace on crutches. At one point her staff apply raw steaks to her legs in an effort to dull the monarch’s pain.

And the depiction is making an impact.

Film critics took notice, with Reel Honey calling the movie, “a disgustingly beautiful look at love, rivalry and gout.”  The Washington Post describes the film’s Queen Anne as “half-mad with gout and grief.” Mentions of the disease also featured in film reviews by The New York TimesRolling Stone, and The Wall Street Journal.

And the depiction wasn’t lost on pop culture either.  

Edith Zimmerman of New York Magazine’s “The Cut” examined the disease in a Q&A-style article titled, “I Have So Many Questions About Gout.”  England’s “The Guardian” used the film as a chance to point out the growing prominence of the disease among Brits in “Gout is on the rise.”

Meanwhile, viewers had their say in the comments section of online articles.  

“Gout is outstandingly painful,” one commented.  “I can affirm from personal experience that on a scale of one to ten a heart attack is six whilst gout is eleven,” another added.  Readers with gout experience even advised one another. “Go to…a rheumatologist,” one reader emphasized, “It’s foolish to avoid a real medical doctor and real medicine with a condition this potentially painful and disabling.”

The conversation is apropos.  Today gout impacts 8-9 million people in the United States alone, with uncontrolled gout impacting up to one in 10 patients who don’t respond to traditional treatment.  

Part of the trouble is stigma.  Sometimes associated with overeating rich foods – or overindulging in alcohol – gout doesn’t just debilitate patients with excruciating pain. It can also leave them suffering in shameful silence, attempting to self-medicate with supposed “cures” like cherry juice and apple cider vinegar.

That approach runs counter to what patients actually need – treatment from a gout specialist and community support to help them handle gout’s impact on their day-to-day lives.  

“The Favourite” may or may not sweep Hollywood’s awards shows, but one thing’s for sure.  The film has sparked a disease-state conversation that’s well worth having – and about 300 years overdue.