Tuesday, March 13, 2007



I really wanted to see the movie. Waited for it with anticipation. As such I read much about the movie.

Yet no one warned me.

The movie begins with a scene that has a baby being held over a precipice being judged. Meeting a standard, the baby lives. But one view, from below, shows the skulls and bones of babies that were dropped, destroyed because of disability or difference. The image was chilling but 'fair enough' this was a historical fact. Many cultures - like our own - eliminate the difference as efficiently as they can. Ours uses science and genes, others used cliffs and rocks below.

But the film goes on from there to become the most disphobic film I have ever seen. Images of disability are paired (like they were in The Passion) with evil, with treachery, with lust. Never for a second are we allowed for feel any compassion for those with differences - they are there to provoke disgust. There is a message, one of the disabled who escaped their fate of death because of parental love is the villian of the piece. The whisper 'he should have died, he should have died' is subliminal but is there.

The movie is disturbing enough. But more disturbing is that not a single review I've read has mentioned the disability-baiting aspect of the film. There seems to be no compulsion to hold film makers accountable for their images, for their messages about 'death to the disabled'.

The black community, the gay community, both have come together to give out awards to film makers who give positive representation of each minority. Why don't we follow suit? Why is there not a media watch dog for disability - to alert us to negative images and to laud those with positive images.

How do we begin one?

Who could host such a project?

Could it be part of one of the disability film festivals?

I don't know, do you?


lina said...

Ok, I'll be the first to admit. When I watch a movie that has racial slurs or depicts ethic groups in a negative way, I almost always notice, and think to myself I better remember to talk to my kids afterwards to remind them that this is not reality - and that this is wrong.
But let me admit, that I almost never notice the negative portrayal of disabilities - I am guilty. But here is my promise. I will pay better attention -and remember to always talk to my kids and remind them, this is a movie, this is not reality - this is not right.
And with my promise I also want to join the movement to organize a disabilities film festival. I too think it's time to make some noise and work to change this situation.
Haven't seen 300 yet, and having read your review - not sure I will.

Anonymous said...

Maybe some national cross-disability organization could be persuaded to take up the cause? Maybe AAPD (if that's the right acronym--I believe it stands for American Association of People with Disabilities) (I assume http://www.aapd.org but I'm guessing for this one)

Or failing that, maybe an organization like World Institute on Disability (based in California; http://www.wid.org I think) could either get involved or help identify an appropriate organization to talk to.

Or -- Mobility International USA (http://www.miusa.org) is a little specialized for this particular, but they have some cool folks there and they have a LOT of contacts, so maybe they can at least recommend an organization or suggest contacts to talk to.

If you think this is something you want to pursue further, let me know -- I know a few people at MIUSA (probably the wrong unit there, but they can at least help refer us to the right people) so I could help put you in contact there. I sort of know someone at WID but my connection there is not as strong. For AAPD etc you would be on your own. I'm reachable at ashettle (at) patriot.net (of course, replace "(at)" with the @ at sign and close up the spaces.) (The only reason I'm anonymous here is because I'm too lazy to figure out how to register.)

I get bugged by stereotyped portrayals of disabilities in the media too, whether it's "they should die" or "look at those pitiable helpless creatures let's give them charity." Deaf people don't seem to be portrayed in the villan category as much -- maybe we're seen as too childish and "helpless" for that. I actually almost get happy when I see a deaf person on TV in the role of a criminal or whatever because at least we're not being portrayed as helplessly dependent. But, yeah, for mobility impairments I think it's different. It's a little different for each disability group I think.

Disability World, an on-line bi-monthly international web magazine by/for the disability community, recently posted a blurb about some media competition in which a wheelchair-riding college student did a short spot targeted at the Hollywood Industry entitled "Thumbs Down to Pity" (www.disabilityworld.org/01_07/video.shtml). You and the creator of this video seem to be pretty much on the same wave length -- you could try getting in touch with him and see if he wants to get involved too.

My one caution in all this is that many cross-disability organizations tend to end up focused on mobility impairments and vision impairments, without much participation from Deaf people, people with communication-related disabilities, or cognitive-related disabilities, or psychiatric disabilities. To see this done right, I would hope that it would include a cross section of various disability organizations. For example, the people at http://www.autistics.org might have ideas how to reach into the community of people with cognitive disabilities and maybe some other typically "overlooked" disabilities. And there's the National Association of the Deaf for the culturally Deaf community, though if they were involved then the Alexander Graham Bell Association would also want to be involved (non-signing, speaking/lipreading, non-culturally deaf community and hearing allies of same).

Anonymous said...

wow, anonymous, great ideas, is there a way I can get in touch with you? Dave Hingburger

Nancy I. said...

Dave, will you contact me - I wish to share something of the completely opposite impact with you. Does my e-mail appear to you? (I don't know how blogs work)

Anonymous said...

nancy, I tried to get ahold of you by clicking on your name but no profile appeared. I'd like to respond to you but don't quite know how. Dave

Nancy I. said...


Elizabeth McClung said...

I watched the film on DVD, not ready to sit through the testosterone drenched air of a theatre - my holy heck, what a pile of racist, homophobic, disability antagonistic crap - and that's ignoring comments like "Let us free the world from mystism....(and diversity?)"

First, did you notice that in the "seduction of the evil hunchback scene" there was a woman with amputation depectived as sordid and evil (it might have been the other woman going down on her in oral sex that gave it the "OMG how repulsive!" tone to our hetero male from Kansas - because women with amputations don't get sex, and aren't lesbians). The whole "physically imperfect/morally imperfect" aspect was there as well as the constant harping of sending well....every non white race against these brave white guys ("The barbarian hordes from the darkest reaches of the empire...blah, blah). You've got your Asian guy with a whip, you've got your tribal shields, and the evil black messenger of course. Not to mention the whole concept of "taming disability" - hey, they are sort of animalistic freaks who we chain up to let loose against the enemy since they don't feel pain like "real" humans. Clubbed hands, non traditional facial features, spinal twisting, one side overdevelopment, amputee, piercings (WTF?) - lots of representation - of course there was the "evil and inbred" mystics whose crime was to have facial blemishes and be horny. I've never actually seen a Rhino portrayed as "Evil" before until this film (I think it was "The dark monster drawn from the very wells of blackness" or something similar).

Anyway, I was glad you made some sort of comment on it - though I personally nominated for the Hall of Shame up there with Birth of Nations which simply reinvisioned the civil war with Klan as the good guys. This just reinvisioned the battle of the Spartans as the victory of hetero white guys to attack gays, disabled, lesbians, and any different ethnic background as a way to FREEDOM, and a fight against TYRANNY! (those always get shouted in the movie.