How ‘Supacell’ is raising awareness of sickle cell anaemia
(Credits: Netflix)

Netflix News

How ‘Supacell’ is raising awareness of sickle cell anaemia

With millions of viewers to reach, Netflix can go along way in doing some good in the world. For the creator of Supacell, a trending new show about a group of black south Londoners with superpowers triggered by sickle cell anaemia, he hopes that the success of the show can stop the stigma and raise awareness for the condition.

Sickle cell disease is a condition that alters the shape of blood cells into crescents or sickles. This can cause severe pain, sometimes even putting people into a coma or being fatal. People who suffer from it have a life expectancy that’s 20 to 30 years shorter than the general population. 

The disease mostly affects people with African heritage. In 2023, there was a major call for more black blood donors to come forward, as sickle cell sufferers often require transfusions. John James, CEO of the Sickle Cell Society, said, “Sickle cell gets very little attention.” However, since the release of Supacell, there has been a 20% increase in inquiries at his organisation.

The TV show, created by Rapman, or Andrew Onwubolu, is at No 1 in Netflix’s global top 10. It’s gained more than 18m views in its first few weeks on the platform. 

Amongst the comic book-like superpower storyline, the show intersperses real-life issues into the plot. From racism to inequality within health care, awareness for sickle cell is just one of the topics tackled here.

But it’s one that Rapman deeply cares about as he hoped Supacell would make the condition more understood or known. “Before Supacell, ask anyone about sickle cell and one out of five people know about it. It’s crazy how unknown it is, especially for a disease that affects so many people,” he said.

He told The Guardian, “I wanted it to raise awareness and make people who’ve got sickle cell feel seen and heard. I’m getting messages from young people and parents about how they feel so seen and before they wouldn’t talk about it with their friends and now they’re interested.”

He hopes that having now written the disease into a popular TV show, and sparking conversation about the condition, that it might go some way in removing the stigma and shame around it. “There are many thousands of people who live with the sickle cell trait and they don’t know it,” he said of the way shame can impact people’s health. He added, “That’s because previously people kept it on the down-low, there was this stigma attached to talking about it within families.”

As for the superhero element of the show, he sees that as being part of the awareness being raised too. “Sometimes, because of the challenges associated with this condition, they have to summon a superpower just to manage the pain and the complications,” he said. “They have to summon something from within that is almost a superpower.”