The movie that I saw several days ago on television struck a chord deep within me. It wasn’t a blockbuster or, to my knowledge, the winner of major academy awards. It didn’t touch on significant social issues (not directly at least). It didn’t set any records at the box office either. It was a cute romantic comedy, similar to many I have seen over the years. Except for one thing.
In “A Lot Like Love”, one of the supporting characters is deaf.
The movie is about a young couple (Ashton Kutcher (Oliver) and Amanda Peet (Emily) who meet and fall in love, and it takes them seven years to get together. Sweet story. Boy meets girl. Happily ever after. Basic Hollywood stuff…
What is not typical is that Oliver’s older brother is deaf, and portrayed simply as a “regular Joe.” In the course of the movie he dates a woman who is not deaf, finishes law school, gets married and starts a family. The fact that he is deaf is not essential to the plot. It is simply used to add humor to some scenes in the movie.
“Notting Hill” is another film where a woman who has a disability is in a supportive role. She is a friend of the couple and her “wheelchair user status” also adds humor to some scenes of the movie.
I have been around a long time and have seen my share of “overcomer” movies, as I like to call them. You know the type. A movie where the main character conquers insurmountable odds in order to live a fulfilling and meaningful life. I do not in any way want to diminish the accomplishments of Jill Kinmont Booth or Helen Keller. They were both extremely talented women who did great things in life while managing difficult circumstances and severely disabling conditions.
But the movies about their lives were somewhat sappy.
Disability is not a fate worse than death and a disability alone does not automatically make someone inspiring. Just sayin’.
Back in the 1980’s, The Golden Girls was a hit t.v. show. In one episode, Blanche started to date a man who was a wheelchair user. Then she found out he was married. Before she kicked him out of her house she said with conviction “There is nothing special about you….You are just a jerk in a wheelchair.”
At the time, many people with disabilities cried “Amen”. It was one of the first times that a person with a disability was portrayed on television in a negative light. And that was a victory because his role wasn’t sappy, it was just true.
Just like in all other aspects of life, there are people with disabilities who are obnoxious and people without disabilities that inspire others every day.
I posted a few days ago about the anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act and how that law has enabled physical and employment access to many people who have those needs. That is true. Further, I would be among the first to say that society has come a long way in its attitude about accepting people with disabilities. But progress can still be made. I am not sure that people look at me yet and simply see “a girl in the crowd” or someone “just like everyone else”.
The movie a saw a few days ago touched my heart, because a person with a disability was portrayed as simply a person, with the same dreams and goals as many of his peers have. I could see this movie again and again. The message is a good one. And I can come up with lots of reasons to watch Ashton Kutcher. Grin!
They say good fiction imitates life. However, in this case, wouldn’t it be great if it were the other way around?