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May 1998, Week 2


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Film and TV Studies Discussion List <[log in to unmask]>
Donald Larsson <[log in to unmask]>
Mon, 11 May 1998 14:20:21 -0500
TEXT/PLAIN (65 lines)
Lang Thompson comments:
> One interesting angle to this is how some science fiction films or shows
> envision a world where disabilities are easily overcome, though for that to
> have any impact on the viewer they still have to represent the disability
> in some form.  So Geordi on Star Trek: The Next Generation is blind but
> equipped with wrap-around goggles that allow him to see (in the films, he's
> given artificial eyes which are colored so that they're obviously not real
> eyes).  Luke Skywalker loses a hand but gets a new one in the next scene
> and the subject is never mentioned again.  (When the "hero" of Evil Dead 2
> loses his, he replaces it with a chainsaw.)  Robocop and the Six Million
> Dollar Man are rebuilt.  Babylon 5 has one example when G'Kar's mutilated
> eye is replaced with an artificial one; a different color of course but
> then it was designed for humans.  (Though by contrast, Robert Silverberg's
> disturbing novel Dying Inside is about a telepath slowly losing his powers
> and trying to cope with that.)
It's further interesting that Geordie in STNG: FIRST CONTACT now has
eye implants to replace the visor.  But the visor gave him an
additional advantage of being able to sense radition beyond the visible
color spectrum.  Luke Skywalker does lose his hand again in the final
battle with his father in RETURN OF THE JEDI, as I recall.  And then
there are the Borg--whose implants can never quite be totally
removed--a different kind of "disability."  You can find an analogy in
comic books in Marvel Comics' Iron Man, who exoskeletal abilities are
what keep inventor/scientist/gazillionaire Tony Stark alive in the
first place (but that depends on which point in the magazine's complex
history you touch base with).
Perhaps the point here is that there's a tendency to portray disability
as an advantage over ordinary ability--either by compensation (eg.,
heightened awareness of hearing or smell if one is blind) or by a
prosthetic device that goes beyond ordinary abilities.  In either case,
there's a sense that something is in fact missing from ordinary
abilities.  I think of Freud's definition of Man as a "prosthetic god"
> On the other hand, horror films tend to play up disabilties for shock
> value.  Freaks is the obvious extreme (unless you want to count Dead
> Alive/Brain Dead) but there are numerous others.  Frankenstein (hunchback
> and blind hermit), Texas Chainsaw Massacre, The Hand, Monkey Shines, Basket
> Case and numerous others play off fears of disabilities.  One notable
> exception is Silver Bullet (based on Stephen King's Cycle of the Werewolf)
> which has a hero who's in a wheelchair.
At the risk of baldly overgeneralizing, one might say that horror is
almost always about some fear of personal violation.  Sometimes that
appears as a mental form that changes the nature or personality of the
individual (vampire movies, INVASION OF THE BODY SNATCHERS in its three
incarnations, etc.).  But at least as often, it depends on a fear of
the violation of the body itself--slasher films like those mentioned
above, but also JAWS, the ALIEN films, and so on.
Don Larsson
Donald Larsson, Mankato State U (MN)
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