Bleeding Disorders in Pop Culture

Bleeding Disorders in Pop Culture

A roundup of films, TV shows and plays that have featured hemophilia and other bleeding disorders.
Author: Donna Behen

Having a rare disease like hemophilia means you don’t often get to see people who share your disease portrayed in movies, TV shows and other popular media. But over the years, the arts and entertainment industry has featured characters with hemophilia and other bleeding disorders—albeit not always accurately.

Here’s a roundup of films, TV shows and plays that have featured hemophilia or another bleeding disorder in their storylines.

Old

In this 2021 movie by director M. Night Shyamalan, based on the 2010 graphic novel Sandcastle, travelers on a tropical holiday discover that the beach they’re visiting is causing them to age rapidly. Aaron Pierre plays an aspiring rapper named Mid-Sized Sedan who has hemophilia.

(Old is available to rent or buy on iTunes.)

Roz and Ray

This two-person play, which features a pediatric hematologist and a single father whose twin sons have hemophilia, chronicles the early years of the HIV/AIDS epidemic, when thousands of people with hemophilia died after receiving contaminated factor infusions.

The play premiered in Seattle in 2016 and has since been performed in several other cities. Playwright Karen Hartman says she was inspired to write the play in part because her late father, Gary L. Hartman, MD, was a pediatric hematologist/oncologist in San Diego during the early days of the AIDS crisis.

The Ryan White Story

This 1989 made-for-TV drama tells the true story of Ryan White, of Kokomo, Indiana, who was diagnosed with AIDS at age 13 due to contaminated factor infusions he received to treat his severe hemophilia. White and his family advocated for social justice and scientific research to improve the lives of those with HIV and AIDS. Both Ryan and his sister, Andrea, had cameos in the film, which aired a year before Ryan died.

(The Ryan White Story is available for streaming on Netflix.)

Royal Pains

Royal Pains, a TV show that aired on the USA Network from 2009 to 2016, is set in the Hamptons on Long Island, New York, and features a concierge doctor who makes house calls to the rich and famous. Ezra Miller plays the recurring character Tucker Bryant, a teenager with hemophilia. Inspiration for the character came from Enrique Lenchewski, DDS, the father of Royal Pains creator and co-executive producer Andrew Lenchewski. 

(Royal Pains is available to stream on Peacock.)

Grey’s Anatomy

Season 1, episode 8, of Grey’s Anatomy, entitled “Save Me,” features an Orthodox Jewish patient named Devo Friedman who needs a heart valve replacement. She is ineligible for a mechanical heart valve because she has von Willebrand disease, and her religious beliefs prevent her from accepting a valve from a pig.

(Grey’s Anatomy is available for purchase on Amazon.)

Nicholas and Alexandra

This 1971 Oscar-winning British movie is a partial account of the last ruling Russian monarch, Czar Nicholas II, and his wife, Alexandra. Their youngest child, Alexei, had hemophilia. The movie is based on a 1967 book of the same name written by historian Robert K. Massie, who was inspired to write it after doing research on hemophilia when his son, Bob, was diagnosed with the disease.

(Nicholas and Alexandra is available for purchase on Amazon.)

Rasputin and the Empress

Released in 1932, this movie is a highly fictionalized account of the final years of Nicholas and Alexandra and is the only movie in which all three Barrymore siblings—John, Ethel and Lionel—appear.

(Rasputin and the Empress is available for purchase on Amazon.)

Go Toward the Light

This 1988 made-for-TV movie is based on the true story of Ben Oyler, a boy with hemophilia who was 7 when he contracted AIDS through contaminated blood.

(Go Toward the Light is available for purchase on Amazon.)

Law & Order: Criminal Intent

In season 3, episode 14, of Law and Order: Criminal Intent, entitled “Mis-Labeled,” the murder of a pharmaceutical sales rep uncovers a scandal involving clotting factor that’s been contaminated with HIV.

(Law & Order: Criminal Intent is available for streaming on Peacock.)

In the Soup

This 1992 independent film stars Steve Buscemi as a struggling screenwriter who hooks up with a gangster named Joe, who agrees to bankroll his movie. Will Patton plays Joe’s psychotic brother Skippy, who has hemophilia.

(In the Soup is available for purchase on Amazon.)

The Doe Boy

In this 2001 independent coming-of-age film, James Duval plays Hunter, a half-Cherokee, half-Caucasian boy who has hemophilia.

(The Doe Boy is available for purchase on Amazon.)

Senior Trip

In this 1981 made-for-TV movie, a group of Midwestern high school students travel to New York City to celebrate their impending graduation. Scott Baio plays Roger, an aspiring businessman who tries to hide his hemophilia from his classmates.

(Senior Trip is available for purchase on Amazon.)

Have we missed any depictions of bleeding disorders in popular media? Please let us know so we can update this article. If you want to purchase any of these titles on Amazon, be sure to shop at smile.amazon.com and choose the National Hemophilia Foundation as your charity.