True Blood Botched: A Small Town Retelling of The Dr. Andrew Wakefield Autism Odyssey

How'd autism quack Andrew Wakefield succeed in scaring so many people? I kept wondering how one tiny bit of the worst kind of "scientific" dreck managed to get so much attention not to mention millions poured into research.   Something I've wondered long before The Lancet pulled the plug on that sloppy, unethical piece of b.s.  Somehow The Lancet editor's expanation of "systematic failure" just was not cutting it.  How on earth did this happen?    

Google Images provided some answers in an instant.  Voila... 

Brad Pitt and Brendan Fraser rolled into one lab coat. 

There it is. A certain boyish look and no doubt charm.  He'd pack conference panel discussions in a second. In academia? Forget it. Professor Wakefield, OMG.  It's a low bar, trust me.

Got made-for-tv all over it. No big-screen actor's gonna risk their box-office by crossing Jenny McCarthy, head cheerleader of the holistic Hollywood anti-vaccine camp, but maybe someone looking for a break...

Screaming babies injected with toxins. Greedy pharmaceutical companies. Doctors on the take. Government cover-ups. Then, gradually, the mood shifts, the questions start mounting.... wham, the downfall of our deceptively dashing hero. The plight of our post-modern deconstructed society, the quest for truth in an information-saturated new media environment. Distrust in science and experts. The rise of the amateur Playboy Bunny medical expert.

I cannot wait to see the birthday party scene!  You know, his son's party where the autism doc draws blood samples from children for his soon-to-be world-renowned research.   Then pays them what I'd like believe is hush money.  Okay, made that up, the hush part, but he did fork over money.


SETTING: The well-manicured suburban backyard of Dr. Andrew Wakefield on the morning of his son's "Caribbean Castaways" birthday party. Kids jumping on the Deserted Island Bouncy House and eating Pirate's Booty. Moms in ballet flats and chunky necklaces hunched over their lattes and Blackberrys at the fire pit. Several nannies. A dad on a cell phone.

Tall man in khakis and a stethoscope strides across the suburban Shipwreck fantasy.

Ballet-Flats Mom: Who's that!

Yoga-Pants Mom: Must be the dad, some famous doctor.

Dr. Wakefield (working the British accent): Hello, Ladies...

Mothers stare, smile, then suck in guts and think about Botox.

Wait. Did I mention blood? Of course! TRUE BLOOD! Andrew Wakefield meets True Blood, it's perfect. The blood letting. Town folk running scared and worried. Suspicious of vampires/science. I think we could use it.

Anna Paquin/Sookie Stackhouse as concerned mommy who bridges the divide between the believers of pseudo science and those of science. Dr. Wakefield played by vampire Bill Compton, that is, Season 2 Bill. My apologies to Steven Moyer, adored Season 1 Bill. Someone's gotta be the bad guy.  Lafayette, the snarky, cross-dressing queen in the role of suspicious nanny. My apologies in advance, also to Alan Ball and HBO. 

Back to the party..

Dr. Bill: I made up a game special for you kids.  I call it "Pin the Patch on the Pirate".

Kids cheer.
Sookie/Mom adjusts the strap of her hot pink sundress
Lafayette/Nanny envisions the good doc in a leopard print thong.

Dr. Bill: Put on your blind folds. Then I will spin around and around and look for the bravest pirate on my ship. The bravest will only feel a real quick, small pinch, and um, (trying not to think of the blood) and will keep their arms very still (still thinking of that sweet, juicy liquid) for a minute...

Lafayette/Nanny: Crazy man say what?

Dr. Bill: Then I'll put a patch, a pirate's patch on your arm. Your young, soft arms.

Kids cheer.

...then you'll get to sit and rest in the pirate's cove with a cookie and some orange juice.

Lafayette/Nanny: Man sell his own mama.

...And the bravest of you, the ones who don't cry or move, when you're feeling up to it you can pick a prize from the Treasure Chest. Now, who wants to go first?

Sookie/Mom: Ah, Bill, dear, I don't think that's an granny always said...

Dr. Bill: My Sooooookie, we're just having a little fun. I will not allow any harm to come your way. I will protect you, Soooookie.

Lafayette/Nanny: No way crazy man coming near me.

And of course we gotta have hot vamps Eric and Pam holding court, maybe as the new neighbors who've just moved out to the 'burbs from the city. 

Dr. Bill (fangs glistening): Come on children.  Follow Uncle Andrew!

Kids screaming and running.

Sookie/Mom: Bill, sweet heart, you're scaring the kids.

Eric (in black tank top and leather pants): Humans.  Bill, honestly, I don't know what you see in them. 

Pam (sequinned gown, stage make-up): I am so glad I didn't have any of those (sneering at children).

Sorry, my readers, I just finished catching up on the TB episodes I somehow missed.  Forgive my artistic liberties.  After all, our dear doctor took a few of his own, well, more scientific ones.


Anonymous said...

Very funny. Yes, Brad Pitt and Brendan Frasier.

Anna said...

Love your new Hollywood take on autism. I wish Jenny McCarthy would give it up. Keep it up, thanks.

Polly Palumbo, Ph.D. said...

Many thanks for reading! Couldn't help but see the dramatic potential in this doctor's downfall.

The Fearless Formula Feeder said...


You should seriously pitch this to Comedy Central. I think you have a new career as a screenwriter, Polly!

And I have to say... I noticed the cuteness factor of Wakefield as well when I first saw him on some news special... between him and Jenny, they certainly have the looks/camera friendly, pop-culture charm on their side. We need to hire some hotties to represent real science...

Polly Palumbo, Ph.D. said...

Honestly, who is writing the your hubby busy?...speaking of...

Are you suggesting I add "screenwriting" to my list of non-marketable (i.e. no job market/low pay) assets - excellent parallel-parker, boggle champ, and former academic????

You know, I've often thought it would be terrific if John Stewart and friends branched out into the parenting news sphere. Though it might be so rich with comedic potential and thus downright distressing I might have to drink myself to sleep afterward...

Barbara TherExtras said...

This is not a comment for this post, Polly - I could not DM to you.

Thought this might relate to formula fed infants issue -

From @janetlansbury

I <3 adoptive parents! Formula & #adoption - "I'm proud of my decision." via @FormulaFeeder #breastfeeding #FormulaFed

Polly Palumbo, Ph.D. said...

Thanks, Barbara, wonderful personal account of breastfeeding hype first thought it came from janet, as I was reading on my phone, now I see I must credit you with the nudge!! Enjoy the long weekend!

Iron Chef Kosher! said...

Well, Brad Pitt & Brendan Frazer if they REALLY let themselves go.....

Seriously - thank you so much for this sanity!

Polly Palumbo, Ph.D. said...

Hey I.C. Kosher! Okay, how about Brad Pitt and Brendan Frazer on a bad day if they'd gone to med school, skipped the last couple decades of personal trainers, were meglomaniacs, and had nasty addictions to pain killers. Not that I've heard anything about the last bit, but, just imagining..