Monday, September 26, 2016

The Magnificent 8

Probably no one saw him. He was only there for the briefest of seconds. But it mattered to me that he was there and it mattered even more what he was doing. It was in one of the bigger scenes in "The Magnificent 7" which opened this weekend in Toronto. After our travels to the States we had little energy for much but we both wanted to see the movie so we managed to organize ourselves to get there on time.

I had read about how diverse the casting was, and it was. They managed to actually hire Native American actors to play Native American roles. That's how diverse it was. It was actually fun to watch the interplay of the actors in their roles, with their ethnicities adding to the plot and the play. There wasn't an overtly gay character in the piece but there was certainly a couple of men whose relationship was overtly undefined and whose bonding was very deep, so one could at least speculate.

All that diversity up on the screen.

And then, for an instant.

Just for an instant.

A man in a wheelchair, sitting on a porch.

I was startled so much I almost fell out of my wheelchair. I don't expect to see disabled people in movies, in backgrounds, in crowds, let alone in leading roles. Now I have no idea if the actor playing this role had a disability, I somehow doubt it, I mean diverse casting doesn't actually mean us, does it?

But leaving that aside, let's look at what was happening in that second. He was having dinner and he was being helped to eat. I couldn't see him clearly enough but I think he was an elderly man in a wheelchair. But he was being helped to eat, sitting on the porch, in plain view.

This was set in a town with limited resources. With starving people. With people struggling just to get by and survive. The whole premise was that they, as a townspeople, were being oppressed into poverty by a robber baron from whom they needed rescuing. So in a place where starvation and deprivation ran rampant, a disabled man was having dinner on a porch.

Remember those kind of math questions that Nazi's used, some of which have made it to North American textbooks? The 'who would you throw out of the boat first' questions? The questions that asked who should be the first to die during times of shortage and desperate survival? Remember those?

This is the kind of math that's being done now, in subtle ways, about disabled lives. The idea of burden and cost are back with a vengeance. Disabled people fight just to be a part of the discussion about disabled lives. That's where we are now.

So in these times it was comforting to watch a scene that indicated in 'those' times, disabled people weren't hidden away, weren't confined to the captivity of indifference.

He was on the porch.


Being lovingly assisted.

He was home. In his community. Sharing what resources they had.

I wonder if some film maker will ever think to zoom the camera in and really see this man the way that I did. And I wonder if they realize that there is a story to tell there. An important story. Because he must have meant something to someone, he must have been loved by the town, he must have a story worth telling.


Alicia Butcher Ehrhardt said...

We're all at risk under scarce resource conditions: the disabled, the young, the old, the sick.

We hear stories of old people who take themselves away from the tribe when they are old and not able to function well enough any more - and die to save the tribe having to make the decision.

That doesn't excuse times when the resources are there - and corrupt politicians and paperwork and mismanagement are swallowing them up.

It doesn't excuse 'caring' jobs being done badly.

It doesn't excuse the institutions of the past.

Excuse me, but I'm the only one of my kind that will ever exist, and I value that - as long as I can.

Belinda Burston said...

I remember my granddaughter telling me when she was in grade 11 about one of those "discussions," at school and becoming so angry at it. I explained the subtle breaking down of morality and where that leads. The brain washing! There are so many fruitful things that could be discussed and they do this! So glad the movie went in the right direction at least, in valuing all people.