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Mind•Eye Media:

Response to the Hallmark Channel Movie

As a loyal Hallmark Christmas movie viewer for the past 10 years and a practicing optometrist for more than 30 years, I was truly disappointed with the inappropriate and false nuances and references to optometrists in one of this holiday season’s Hallmark films – Write Before Christmas.

Unlike what the dialog suggests in the movie, optometrists are NOT “fake doctors.” They undergo many years of additional education after college, devoting themselves to earning a Doctor of Optometry degree and becoming licensed health professionals in the practice of eye care. Indeed, optometrists are trained and certified to conduct comprehensive eye examinations intended to identify, assess and address patients’ visual needs and problems, including many eyesight abnormalities. As primary care practitioners, they are able to diagnose brain tumors, heart disease and lung problems — even high blood pressure.

The comment in the film that optometrists attend “medical school” is incorrect as well. Optometrists attend colleges and institutes dedicated specifically to optometry.

Meanwhile, the script writer’s mishandled attempt to refer to optometrists with the comments – “He isn’t a doctor; he just fits bifocals” – is demeaning and just plain wrong. Optometrists do not “fit” eyeglasses; opticians do. Opticians are technical practitioners, who play a critical role in determining the necessary specifications of eyeglasses and other optometric appliances to ensure that they meet the strict requirements of the optometrist’s prescriptions for patients. However, opticians are not trained in the same way as are optometrists, who must undergo a four-to-five-year program following college graduation.

Frankly, I have enjoyed – and appreciated – the metamorphosis of the Hallmark channel as it has become more diversified in its casting and topics to reflect the overall changes in society generally and the channel’s many audiences specifically. Inclusion of Hanukkah as a theme and the assignment of more featured roles for women and minorities are examples of Hallmark’s social commitment. That’s why the pejorative “gag” of “fake doctor” in reference to optometrists and the disingenuous comments regarding opticians are seemingly so out-of-character – and unnecessary.

Unlike other Hallmark movies that have featured the “Fancy Suit Guy” and the “Handyman,” there was no need for a “Fake Doctor Guy.”

My hope is that Hallmark will take more care in the future to review – and, if possible, correct — movie dialog to ensure that it is not offensive to gender, to cultures, to the afflicted and to the many different workers and professionals who serve others daily.

Thank you for your attention.

Deborah Zelinsky OD

Executive Research Director and Founder

Mind-Eye Institute

Northbrook, Illinois

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