I am very disheartened by how individuals with disabilities are portrayed (or, in this case, referred to) in the movies and on television. I believe that these references perpetuate the negative images that individuals with disabilities have fought hard against every day of our lives. To make it an object of humor is very detrimental. I enjoy humor, but never at anyone’s expense.
Personally, I am very offended by references made in the movie “Head of State” by Chris Rock and the other actors. I only stayed in the movie to see the outcome of the story line—hoping first that the movie would actually get a bit more interesting. In addition, I hoped that the inappropriate “villain” (played by Robin Givens) would eventually get what she deserved for making comments about men with spina bifida being “inadequate” in regard to sexuality. However, the story line didn’t lend itself to addressing the real issue—individuals with disabilities were portrayed not as the powerful individuals we are but rather as objects of humor or pity.
My husband (who also has spina bifida) was deeply affected by the comments made in the movie. We were out for a well-deserved rest at the movies and left feeling horrible! He commented, “Why spina bifida? Why did they say that? What’s ‘wrong’ with me?” We both struggled through years of dating, trusting individuals with very intimate details of our lives. And almost every time, at the end of the relationship, our disability issues were used against us to hurt us. I have to say that our relationship is wonderful, better than I imagined it to be in every way possible.
It’s unfortunate that others have to build themselves up by cutting others down. To me, this movie is a very sad portrayal of how unintelligent and uninformed society still is. To allow actors to use their talents in such a dubious manner is appalling. Having the opportunity to share our reactions though gives us back some of our power! We have the right to let them know that we will not accept it!
And as I sat in the theater I heard comments from the young people behind us that were very unkind. If the movie hadn’t brought this topic up, I think that these folks could have been friends of ours at some point in our lives—or we could have met some day and struck up a conversation about our lives as individuals with spina bifida.
I should have known better than to choose this movie, although I wasn’t warned about this type of content. My hope is that more individuals will talk with one another about their reactions to this movie and it may inspire a desire to let “entertainment” venues know we are not going to be quiet about this form of humiliation. It’s just one more barrier we don’t need.