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May 1998, Week 2


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Film and TV Studies Discussion List <[log in to unmask]>
Johnson Cheu <[log in to unmask]>
Fri, 8 May 1998 03:38:16 -0400
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Film and TV Studies Discussion List <[log in to unmask]>
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About what Dr. Goodman has said, I do agree that in relation to the number
of films with African Americans, for example, as either primary or
secondary roles, there are certainly less disabled characters. [though
Norden's book lists more than 25]  But the problem runs deeper than that.
I think the questions to be asked are:
1) Are we talking "mainstream" films or disability productions like Storm
REading, Vital Signs: Crip Culture Talks Back, for example.  What are the
differences there?
2) How mAny Mainstream films follow certain stereotypical stoylines-- the
"Triumpth over tragedy [the disability is ALWAYS the tragedy here]"
inspirational narrative, the embittered incurable worthy only or death [the
kill me or cure me paradiagm], or the infantile/asexual ploy.  In the face
of such stereotypes, are disabled people only "living their lives" a good
thing?  As a narrative, probably, but how many of even those secondary
characters [No Way Out, Gattaca] wind up being helpless prey/dying anyway?
Is it better then, to not explain Keri Weaver's disability? Yes, and maybe
no. My sense is to that even when you put a disability "up front" [like
Waterdance, Forrest Gump] most don't know they're watching a "disability
film" with Mask, and Miracle Worker, those tearjerker Movies of the Week
being notable exceptions.  People don't read disability till you point it
out, and then they can't get past ableist thinking. "Oh my God, it really
is Horrible" "If that happened to me, I'd kill myself."  "If I were
disabled Johnson, I don't know what I'd do." You might want to look at my
"Paralyzed Vet on His Media Image" poem in The Ragged Edge, Jan/Feb. 1997
3) I don't know where I stand here, but whAt too about nondisabled people
playing disabled roles.  Certainly we wouldn't asks "White" actors to play
"Black" roles anymore? But many an actor has piggybacked a disabled role
all the way to an Oscar nomination or an award. Anybody watching Port
Charles? The disabled actor [in real life as well as reel life] is supposed
to have a sex scene coming up, maybe?!
Johnson Cheu
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The Ohio State University*English Dept.*421 Denney Hall*164 W. 17th. Ave.*
Columbus, OH 43210*(614) 292-1730 (O)*(614) 292-6065 (D)*(614) 292-7816 (Fax)
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