Sofia Carson defends her film “Purple Hearts” amid criticism of viewers on problematic topics

To silence critics. Despite the negative reaction of viewers to several allegedly problematic topics in “Purple Hearts”, the star Sofia Carson is proud of the project.

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“Why I fell in love with this movie is that it’s a love story, but it’s much more,” the 29—year-old “Heirs” star told Variety in an interview published on Thursday, August 12. — These are two hearts, one red, one blue, two different worlds that are really brought up to hate each other. Thanks to the power of love, they learn to show empathy and compassion, to love each other and turn into this beautiful shade of purple.”

Carson plays Cassie Salazar in the Netflix movie, which premiered last month. In the picture, the graduate of “Cute Liars: Perfectionists” plays an aspiring musician who is struggling to afford a cure for type 1 diabetes. To cover the cost of insulin, Cassie agrees to marry a Marine (Nicholas Golitsyn) because of his health insurance plan and the monetary support of a military spouse.

Although “Purple Hearts” was initially advertised as a romance between a more liberal woman and a conservative man stuck in a fake dating scheme, it soon came under sharp criticism from critics. Several viewers were concerned about the misogynistic and racist subtext of the film. (At one point, one of the colleagues of the 27-year-old Cinderella actress even shouts: “This is for life, love and hunting some damn Arabs, baby!”)

“The way Purple hearts is not even subtle [so in the original], but frankly anti—Arab, anti-Latin American, racist, misogynistic and about military propaganda, but people with foam at the mouth, enemies of lovers,” wrote one social media user earlier this month, criticizing his plot. “YES, THEY ARE ENEMIES, BECAUSE HE IS A CONSERVATIVE SOLDIER, A PROFESSIONAL WEAPON, AND SHE IS A LATIN LIBERAL.”

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Another Twitter user added: “Purple Hearts is not a romance, it’s a horror movie, because I literally can’t think of anything more terrifying than marrying a military man to afford insulin.”

Despite the disappointment in the film, “Purple Hearts” remains in the top ten Netflix programs since the premiere. Carson, for her part, quickly defended the production from criticism.

“We wanted to present both sides as accurately as possible,” the “Feel the Rhythm” star, who was also an executive producer of the film, told the publication. “I think as an artist I’ve learned to separate myself from all this and just listen to what the world feels and reacts to the film. It was so beautiful, stunning, and so many people felt that they had seen or were comforted by this film. That’s all we could want [as] directors and artists.”

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Purple Hearts director Elizabeth Allen Rosenbaum also stopped the negative reaction.

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“There are flaws in them at first, and it was intentional,” the New York native told Variety in August. “For a red heart and a blue heart to turn purple, they have to be extreme. Some of the people around them are even more imperfect than they are. Both of them were neglected by the system; he is wounded in a war that does not seem to be ending, and she is slipping into the cracks of the healthcare system.”

She added: “I hope that anyone who is offended by this in any way understands that our intentions are very pure, and this is because we feel that people need to grow and need to start becoming more moderate.”

The film was praised for its accurate portrayal of type 1 diabetes. “As we’ve learned more and more about type 1 diabetes and Cassie’s development, we’ve learned that, frankly, he’s underrepresented in movies, on television and in the media,” Carson told The Hollywood Reporter on Friday, August 13. we should talk about the insulin crisis in this country and the health crisis in this country, about countless girls, men and women like Cassie who literally cannot afford the insulin they need to survive.”

The actress noted: “I have learned a lot about what it means to be a type 1 diabetic, what my daily life will look like. We also had a doctor on set who told me about the insulin pump, injections and how I should behave when I had a low blood sugar attack.”

Purple Hearts is currently streaming on Netflix.

— Update: 04-01-2023 — found an additional article ‘Purple Hearts’: How the Creators Tackled Diabetes Representation in the Film from the website for the keyword does sofia carson have diabetes.

“Purple Hearts”—a new movie on Netflix—tells the story of a young woman named Cassie who works as a waitress while trying to make it in the music industry. Diagnosed with type 1 diabetes just six months ago, she finds herself struggling to afford the costs of managing her diabetes, going to extreme measures to try to access the right diabetes tools and medications to keep herself alive. 

To build this character and ensure a realistic and normalized representation of type 1 diabetes, Sofia Carson, lead actress and an executive producer on the film, and director Liz Rosenbaum heeded guidance from Laura Pavlakovich of diabetes non-profit You’re Just My Type after watching “We Either Buy Insulin or We Die” by .

“We watched that documentary and felt very moved,” Rosenbaum said. “Sofia asked us if we could contact one of the women that was interviewed in the piece because she reminded us of Cassie. She was a photographer—someone in the arts—with all of these cool tattoos, and she reminded us of the essence [of Cassie]. She was really helpful for Sofia.”

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Drawing from real-life experiences to mold Cassie

“Laura was instrumental to me,” Carson explained to Beyond Type 1. “I asked her every question I could possibly think of: How did it feel at your initial diagnosis? What does the day-to-day look like? …her transition to the insulin pump from injections—all of those details.”

Pavlakovich’s advice helped Carson understand how to act when Cassie experienced severe high and low blood sugar levels.

“I think we were all truly blown away by how all-encompassing having type 1 diabetes is and how unfair it is that there are so many young people like Cassie who simply can’t afford the insulin they need to survive,” Carson said.

Rosenbaum credits Carson for leading the charge in ensuring Cassie’s type 1 diabetes experience was built with rawness and fact. And if you’re paying close attention while watching “Purple Hearts,” you’ll see a “Just My Type” bumper sticker on the back of Cassie’s beat-up car.

Understanding the emotional side of type 1 diabetes

Pavlakovich wasn’t the only type 1 diabetes influence in the film. Actress Breana Raquel—who plays Riley, Frankie’s girlfriend—lives with type 1 diabetes in real life. When she auditioned, she wasn’t aware that type 1 diabetes was a central part of the “Purple Hearts” narrative, having only read from a small part of the script to earn her role.

The rest of the cast and crew didn’t know she had type 1 diabetes either until they were all on set, and she introduced herself and her insulin pump technology.

Raquel formed a close bond with Carson during the filming process, providing details on the emotional side of living with type 1 diabetes. The technical side of the disease was up to the film’s medical team to guide.

Ensuring the technical accuracy of type 1 diabetes

Despite a limited budget, the cast and crew recruited Dr. Michael Metzner, a medical doctor who has served as an advisor on television shows like “Grey’s Anatomy.”

“He was there on set with us every day when we were shooting diabetes-related material,” Rosenbaum assured. “He was really helpful, and he also understands film where you have to make sure it translates in the moment.”

Medtronic—an insulin pump manufacturer—also played an important part in the production process. Heather Lackey, MS, RD/LD, CDCES, BC-ADM, senior principal clinical specialist for Medtronic Diabetes who also lives with type 1 diabetes, was put into a scene with Carson where she improvisationally showed her how to use an insulin pump—earning Lackey film credit as a medical Marine in a Naval hospital.

“We filmed it as she was walking Sofia through the process,” Rosenbaum explained. “[Sofia] was literally doing it for the first time. It was so remarkable and such interesting technology—that you can be regulated much more carefully. When Sofia hugged [Heather] at the end, it was all legitimate. It was all live. There was no script there.”

The path to normalizing type 1 diabetes in film

This wasn’t Rosenbaum’s first time encountering type 1 diabetes in the film industry. Before “Purple Hearts,” she saw how Nick Jonas, multi-talented entertainer and Beyond Type 1 co-founder, managed his type 1 diabetes behind the scenes.

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“I did a movie with Nick Jonas many years ago, and [there were] some sex scenes that we’d actually have to plan in advance…” Rosenbaum said. “He’d have bruises on the side where he was wearing it, so we’d have to plan so he could let those bruises heal…I thought it was so interesting because there are things behind the scenes you don’t realize until you experience it.”

Rosenbaum attempted to capture a similar experience in Cassie, but the film had to be cut for time.

“[We] shot a scene where after sex, Cassie puts her insulin pump back on,” Rosenbaum said. “Heather was really excited about these details you don’t normally get to see that are such a part of our lives that we wanted to capture and normalize so people could understand it…we were sad to have had to cut that.”

“Purple Hearts” captures many relatable type 1 diabetes moments. 

Some of these moments include:

  • When Cassie is at the pharmacy explaining the dangers of not being able to refill her insulins to the pharmacist 
  • When she grabs glucose gel off of her kitchen table 
  • When Cassie’s insurance denies her a refill of her prescriptions 
  • When she retreats to her car to check her blood sugar levels with a meter 

The film’s primary storyline—marrying illegally for healthcare benefits to survive—is inevitably a position many people with diabetes have considered for their survival.

“Purple Hearts” aims to leave viewers feeling informed + compelled to act

“Sofia and I were both really excited to explore and bring to the forefront the healthcare crisis in general,” Rosenbaum said. “Every person, especially in a nation like ours…deserves proper healthcare.”

“I feel like we as artists and filmmakers carry a certain responsibility to use our voices and platforms for art to do good and make a change,” Carson said. “To be a part of this conversation, in this day, and to shed a light on the healthcare crisis in this country and on the importance of equal access to healthcare, was tremendously important to us.”

“Cassie has to resort to such extremes and break the law in order to survive,” Rosenbaum explained. “I love the fact that it wasn’t preachy but bringing it to the forefront. For me, that’s the most fundamental and basic story point that I hope people take away.”

Raquel attests to this, saying she was “so emotional” when she discovered that type 1 diabetes was a central part of the narrative. 

“Cassie goes through such extreme measures,” Raquel said. “Her story is such an important message for people with type 1 and type 2 diabetes to see and hear. For diabetes to be in a movie like this—it’s so big for the diabetes community. And for the general public, it shows what a monster of a disease it is.”


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