In this post I am going to take a look at MacGregor’s Syndrome – a condition that plays a significant role throughout the movie, Batman & Robin (1997). The disease is mentioned multiple times in the film and forms part of the main storyline.
But what is MacGregor’s Syndrome, who does it affect, and can it be cured? More importantly, is the disease real?
Let’s talk about MacGregor’s Syndrome.
Who has MacGregor’s Syndrome in Batman & Robin?
In Batman & Robin two characters contract MacGregor’s Syndrome. Both characters are incapacitated as a result of contracting the disease and both are fighting for their lives.
The first character to contract MacGregor’s Syndrome is Nora Fries – the wife of Dr Victor Fries (aka Mr Freeze). Two years prior to the events of the movie, Nora contracts the disease and her husband works tirelessly on finding a cure.
The second person to contract MacGregor’s Syndrome is Alfred Pennyworth – butler and trusted friend to Bruce Wayne. It is not explained how Alfred contracts the disease, but it is made clear that at the beginning of the movie he is very sick and as the film progresses, he is dying.
In the case of both Nora Fries and Alfred Pennyworth, it does not appear as if the disease is contagious. There are no signs of contagion amongst any other character in the movie and neither Nora nor Alfred are quarantined.
What are the symptoms of MacGregor’s Syndrome?
It is established that there are four stages to the disease. At no point during the course of the movie are the symptoms or the stages of MacGregor’s Syndrome defined.
When Alfred contracts the disease he is simply shown to be very ill, but with no specific symptoms other than feeling weak and tired.
Alfred is said to have an early form of the disease, not an advanced stage. Even in the early stages Alfred is bed ridden and it is suggested MacGregor’s Syndrome can kill him.
Nora Freeze is in the advance stages of the disease, which will almost certainly result in her death. She is kept alive in a cryogenic solution, in a state of suspended animation, until a cure can be found to save her life.
Can Mr. Freeze’s wife be cured of MacGregor’s Syndrome?
According to Mr. Freeze’s notes, ‘cryo-freezing results in moderate reversal of caustic damage in the early stages’ of the disease. Mr. Freeze has managed to cure stage one, with a marginal cure for stage 2, but there are no known cures for stage 3 or stage 4 of MacGregor’s Syndrome.
With help from Mr. Freeze, Alfred is cured of MacGregor’s Syndrome and is shown to make a rapid recovery. However, when the movie ends Mr. Freeze is still working on a cure to save his wife.
Batman requests that Nora Fries be moved to the laboratory at Arkham Asylum – the prison for the criminally insane. Here Freeze will be able to continue his research beyond the events of the movie, with the hope of one day finding a cure.
Is MacGregor’s Syndrome real?
And now for the big question – Is MacGregor’s Syndrome real?
No, MacGregor’s Syndrome is not a real condition. It does sound like it is real though, doesn’t it?
In Batman & Robin, MacGregor’s Syndrome is referred to as “a rare disease”, but the truth is it is so rare that it does not exist – it was concocted entirely for use in the movie, which is why there are no specific symptoms.
The disease originated in an episode of the 1992 cartoon, Batman: The Animated Series. The episode – Heart of Ice – saw Victor Fries attempt to cure his wife Nora of a rare, unnamed disease.
When Mr. Freeze was included in the script for Batman & Robin, this rare disease was incorporated into the movie too. For the purpose of the film the disease was given a name to make it sound official, but the truth is that MacGregor’s Syndrome has no medical significance.
Why is it called MacGregor’s Syndrome?
So, why is the disease called MacGregor’s Syndrome? Well, as stated above, the condition needed a name and that meant picking a title that sounded like it could have a basis in the real world.
Rather than constantly refer to it as ‘a disease’ or ‘an illness’, it made more sense to title it along the lines of Parkinson’s disease or Huntington’s disease – only with a fake name instead. That way the disease would sound believable, but no one would have too worry too much about the specifics of the condition and/or its symptoms.
The ‘MacGregor’ part was lifted from the name of a producer – Peter MacGregor-Scott. The British-born producer worked with Columbia Pictures U.K., Warner-Pathe Distributors and Commonwealth United International throughout his career and was a producer on both Batman Forever (1995) and Batman & Robin.
Simply taking part of his name and adding it to the word ‘Syndrome’ made the disease seem real. It was effortless, but it had a greater impact on the story and gave life to something that was keen to take life away.
Thanks for stopping by – I hope this post has been useful to you. If you would like further information about the Batman movies then please take a look around this blog, where you will find answers to many Batman-related questions.
Below you will also find some recommended reading suggestions that you might find useful. Feel free to give them a read.