Essay on Semiotic Analysis of Flesh Eating Bacteria

Submitted By kyyle6
Words: 1628
Pages: 7

Flesh Eating Bacteria: Misportrayal of Horror in Popular Culture
The one thing all living beings have in common is death. The path to this destination varies for everyone, but the most common mode of transportation is through disease. Disease is accompanied by pain and suffering that an individual experiences after contracting a deadly disease. Certain diseases have a prominent presence in popular culture which affects how deadly or scary something can be portrayed. By analyzing mass media coverage of diseases, we can determine the various social reactions that stem from their coverage. I have decided to analyze a news article of Necrotizing fasciitis, a flesh eating bacteria, to determine how the media socially distorts our view on how this infection operates. I will examine the difference how the media and popular culture can make this infection incite fear and horror among those who read stories of people that have become infected with the bacteria. Necrotizing fasciitis (NF) is an infection caused by bacteria, most notably Streptococcus pyogenes, which destroys skin, fat, and tissue covering muscles in the body. It is a rare infection, but is extremely serious and medical care should be sought immediately. In fact, 1 out of every 4 people who contract this infection dies. NF is commonly contracted when bacteria enter an open wound. The infection can spread to the rest of the body and will typically cause gangrene. To treat someone with NF, surgery is required to remove any infected tissues to help reduce the spread of the infection. In severe cases, limbs and organs may be amputated to save a person’s life (WebMD). Luckily, NF is not resistant to the medical gaze. A doctor can diagnose the infected based on how rapidly a person’s symptoms have started. However, similar to the pilot episode of House, a doctor can misinterpret the symptoms, thusly the disease. For example, if Dr. House were to not meet a patient who contracted NF, he may not correctly diagnose the infection. The symptoms of NF are very similar to that of a stomach virus, which could be the difference between losing an extremity or being able to walk out of the hospital completely unscathed. The conceptual metaphor Doctors are always right can be applied to this scenario and proven wrong. These two theories mentioned, the medical gaze and conceptual medical metaphor, are predominantly used to conduct semiotic analyses of how diseases are construed in social media. According to Rich et. al, the medical gaze “indicates a mode of medical perception that enables the physician to look through the patient to recognize the disease” (Rich et. al). Sometimes, this theory can be combined with conceptual medical metaphors to help strengthen a semiotic analysis. Conceptual medical metaphors are used to compare an instance in the medical universe to that of something the general population can understand. Using both of these theories, we can determine the underlying implications of how flesh eating bacteria is characterized in popular culture. Since cases of flesh eating bacteria are not abundant, media coverage of the infection has not been exceptional. However, when there have been stories, they conjure up images of horror and death. The media coined the term flesh eating bacteria to explain the horror behind this infection. This makes a reader believe that this infection can be developed by anyone in any situation, when in reality that is not true. NF is such a rare infection; it is sometimes by luck that someone becomes infected. Even people who are in excellent health have been known to become infected. However, those with weakened immune system have an increased chance to contract the infection. Due to these two reasons, technically everyone has the possibility of catching the infection. As one reads about stories of someone with flesh eating bacteria, they read about how those infected have lost limbs because of the disease. They read how in only a few