I am a good complainer. I have no difficult expressing my displeasure in a situation. My letters of protest have even managed to provoke change and exact apology. Years ago, though, I decided that if I'm going to write complaints, I also had to write compliments. So it is that I've written about the wonderful customer service at the Indigo Bookstore, when in Ottawa I filled out a nomination form for a hotel employee to win some service prize because of his exceptional service. And now, I am pleased to tell you, I am rooting around to find the appropriate person and the right address to write and express my pleasure at the wonderful attitude towards disability expressed in 'How to Train Your Dragon'.
Because I had heard that the movie dealt with disabilities is such a positive way, I went to see the film. I knew nothing of the story, did not know what to expect. We arrived for the late afternoon showing of the film, and though it's an animated film, there wasn't a single person under thirty in the theatre. There was another disabled guy there, sitting just down from us. He had lifted himself out oh his chair and transferred into the cushy seat.
Right from the 'get go' we are introduced to an awesome character with a disability. He's a huge Viking guy who, despite having lost both an arm and a leg over the years of battling dragons, is still a dragon. They made his prosthesis on his arm so cool that it seemed, for a few minutes, that it was simply a drag to have just a hand. The dragon, too, needs an adaptive devise in order to resume dragon duties.
What's cool is that disability is never mentioned, it's just automatic that the Viking is still a Viking, the dragon is still a dragon, neither is 'special' both simply move differently than others. The movie never preaches about disability, in fact it never mentions it. It's just there. It's just real. It's just a cause for creative adaption.
The movie ends with a huge disabled twist that I refuse to spoil for you, it's massively powerful in how it handles the moment. Massively.
At one point I knew that the movie makers were winking to us, disabled viewers, in the theatre. I glanced over and caught the expression of the disabled guy in our row. He looked like he was taking a drink of cool water. Refreshed. Invigorated. Inspired.
At Vita we are working on a 'Disability Pride' programme that we are going to begin within the organization. We want to present positive images of disability, generate discussion about disability as a positive experience. This film works perfectly as I can imagine a discussion regarding disability and what it means (because it does mean something) with both staff and members.
So I'm off to find out who to write (if you know let me know) because this film deserves praise. The disability community has little in popular culture to celebrate - well, here's our chance.
See the film. Write the letter.