Movie Review: Why ‘The After Party’ perpetuates stigma

Carbamazepine, Clobazam, Diazepam, Divalproex, Eslicarbazepine acetate and Zarontin are words that are probably strange to you, but not for people who suffer from epilepsy: a neurological disorder that causes seizures. “The After Party”, Netflix’s latest hip-hop and rap comedy, is a movie that deals with this matter in an inaccurate way. In a failed attempt to be an inspiring and funny, writer and producer Ian Edelman goes on the side of dark humor, perpetuating existing stereotypes on epilepsy.

Owen, who performs under the name OH!, is an aspiring rapper who, along with his best friend and manager Jeff, tries to get into an after party in New York City. There, they hope to finally meet Rahmel, a famous producer who will make them successful in the world of rap music. From beginning to end, Owen (Kyle Thomas Harvey) and Jeff (Harrison Holzer) are in a constant search for an opportunity to talk to Rahmel. Both adolescents jump from one place to the next, making the storyline repetitive and unfocused.

“The After Party” portrays Owen’s epilepsy in a disrespectful and inappropriate way. Viewers might think that the film is going to be about a boy with a medical condition who, despite his disorder, pursues a rap career. Unfortunately, the film cruelly highlights the embarrassment of public seizures.

In an attempt to raise Owen’s popularity, Jeff finds tickets to get into a bar’s rap battle. There, both characters meet Wiz Khalifa, who offers them marijuana. At the beginning, Owen refuses, but after a little pressure from Jeff, he accepts the drug. Finally, Owen goes on stage and, while he is rapping, has an epileptic seizure. As is common during an epileptic seizure, Owen convulses and vomits on Wiz Khalifa. People start mocking and recording the boy while he is on the floor convulsing. The video goes viral on social media and Owen becomes the internet “sensation” known as “Seezjahboy.”

On Aug. 28, 2018, Philip Gattone, President and CEO of the Epilepsy Foundation released a statement on “The After Party” film. He said, “Making fun of someone having a seizure is bullying at its worst. When such responses are portrayed as acceptable behavior—even in movies—it is demeaning and hurtful to our epilepsy community and all of us. In fact, such treatment can put real people who have seizures at increased risk of injury and death. If someone is ridiculed for a medical problem, such as seizures, they are more likely to hide their illness and less likely to seek medical care or the help of others.” In fact, the K.I.P Epilepsy Coalition have created an online petition, asking Netflix to remove the movie from its platform and to give a public apology to the more than 65 million people who suffer from this serious brain disorder.

There is nothing wrong with portraying people with epilepsy, or any other kind of medical condition, in films, but the problem is when these performances open a door for people to make jokes and mock others in the name of “entertainment.” There is a human factor behind this disease that cannot be ignored. Sadly, “The After Party” does not portray or educate people about epilepsy. In addition, the movie does not provide truthful information on what to do if someone is having a convulsion or seizure. The way Owen has a seizure perpetuates the existing fear towards this medical condition. This is not a joke; people need to call out and stand against the entertainment industry when they are disrespecting human integrity.