Is anyone else offended by Discovery! Health’s ‘tree-man’ advertisement?

by Rachel on May 18, 2011

I was watching TV tonight, and heard yet again about the upcoming special on Dede, an Indonesian fisherman with a rare genetic immune disorder who contracted Human Papilloma Virus, which caused “tree-like” warts all over his body, finally causing him to take on the appearance of having roots and branches.

Discovery! Health’s advertisement claims him as “half man, half tree” and calls him “tree man” not even mentioning his name! This is so offensive in my mind, advertising this man as a freak of nature, when he was sick with HPV that his body couldn’t stop. I am considering writing to Discovery! Health with a complaint about the offensiveness of their advertisement…he’s NOT a “tree man” and he’s NOT “half tree.” He’s all human, just like all of us, and I hate to see someone be made into a freak show. I had heard about Dede and his condition a year or so back, and felt for him, but knew he would be all right since his condition is under check now. He joined a local “freak show” before he was helped, just to make ends meet…do they have to make him into a freak show all over again??

If you want to know what exactly I’m talking about:

Should I write to D!H with a complaint about the offensive wording? Does it offend you, or is it just me? Every time that ad comes up, I just yell at the tv ‘He’s NOT half tree!” It upsets me so much that they are treating him as such a freak.
Yes, the site gives his name and such, but on the advertisement, it does not. It just calls him treeman, and says he’s half man, half tree. So ridiculous; no one is half tree!
I just realized there was a video on the link I provided. That is not the advertisement I’m talking about…I just provided that link as a reference to the show they are advertising.

{ 13 comments… read them below or add one }

lauren May 18, 2011 at 1:58 pm

wow your a really kind person,and if you want to take time out of your day to do that then go right ahead.may god bless you for your kindness

physicsdude2014 May 18, 2011 at 2:01 pm

The video you linked showcased him name probably more than his nickname. Think is very normal for a science show. I didn’t see anything that was overly offensive. Dede (the “tree-man”) is also probably being given a nice sum of money for doing this show, which he and his family seem to desperately need.

tzddean May 18, 2011 at 2:04 pm

Those “my shocking story” programmes always have those kinds of titles, they’re just to attract you to watch it. I’ve never found the programmes themselves to be very offensive. But if you feel strongly about it, then go for it.

Person With Disabilities --- PWD May 18, 2011 at 2:53 pm

Yes, I am offended by the way the advertisement is being worded. It is obvious that the advertisement is being done by Non-PWDs (Outsiders).

The PWD Community should write to the show’s producers and complain loudly. By doing this, the show’s producers will become aware of the PWD Community’s viewpoint and hopefully will take action in not making the same mistake twice in the future.

person with a disablity! May 18, 2011 at 3:21 pm

i never watch it but my mum and dad did, and they thought it was very good

The Mouse II May 18, 2011 at 4:02 pm

No- I am NOT offended.

I have seen the programme and found it was very good.

They called him a tree man because the condition DOES look like wood. The programme in no way degraded him nor made him a freak. He REALLY looks like that. Also, remember too that he lives in a culture that looks on “freaks” with a different perspective.

His condition IS rare… that makes him a freak of nature. That is, unfortunately, the truth.
There was also another person with the same condition in Europe, but not as severe.

I think rather than getting all worked up about the “semantics” of the advertisement, watch the programme and be educated.


Diamond May 18, 2011 at 4:29 pm

found it more offencive him being used in a circus with other people with disabilities

YO! May 18, 2011 at 5:01 pm

i saw it too.

have you considered that he might be half tree?

I wasnt offended, because the man chose to be shown on TV like that. He signed a contract giving permission.

Injun May 18, 2011 at 5:43 pm

You know those sneaky (outsiders) and those that take things to serious oops that is you!

It is advertising chill out!

Manga Panda May 18, 2011 at 6:42 pm

I think you should. You probably won’t be the only one writing in.

By the way, I don’t think it’s under check. I saw that last year and as far as I remember, he was still working in a freak show. Please correct me if I’m wrong, I’d really like to be, but I don’t think he accepted the meds he was offered.

tristi May 18, 2011 at 6:46 pm

not really, alot of people did not even know that could really happen

Erin C May 18, 2011 at 7:14 pm

You’re spot on! I found myself overwhelmed with compassion for the man and then when they referred to him as “Tree Man”, I turned off the television! How horrifying! It’s much like Mr. Merrick referred to as “Elephant Man”. If we have not progressed any as a species in over an hundred years, it sickens me. We don’t refer to an infant with a heart that hasn’t fully developed as “Grinch Boy”, for lack of a better analogy.

I’m definitely writing DH.

Alisa May 29, 2011 at 2:59 pm

Nothing wrong with Tree Man, it is the name he ‘owns’, dubbed by his supportive Indonesian community and caring family, and even cursory research would have told you this if you were so interested.

But no, absurdly without bothering to look further, you have flown into a tirade preferring to instead spend your time telling us what YOU think, and you are offended. Yes, after all it’s all about you. Chances are that it would be him that is offended by your opinion of his title.
Surely it is you who are way out of whack spewing your indignant outrage, formed by your middle class values and uninformed opinion at the documentary makers who have done more to cure this man than say… you have.

It’s all so comfy from your sofa isn’t it.

And BTW, for all your ‘caring’, you haven’t bothered to find out that he is home, 90% cured, requiring further surgery in future – absolutely because of the intervention of those dreadful offensive television producers.

Sadly, chosen ignorance and a inclination toward self interested personal affront can’t be cured.

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