[nabs-l] To Arielle: on spoofing meaning equality and acceptance and the importance of things as compared to the whole BLindness movie...

Carrie Gilmer carrie.gilmer at gmail.com
Mon Dec 29 20:14:19 UTC 2008

Dear Arielle,
It escapes me how the oldest and most stereotypical and totally common
portrayals of blindness as in the SNL skit played and pulled upon can now be
viewed as an indication of a gesture of inclusion. This isn't teasing like
everyone else at all in my mind. Also because someone sighted watches or
takes in the stereotypes when they are in a "happy mood" has no less of a
chance in internalizing it as fear and disgust than someone watching a tear
jerker depiction or a repulsive of frightening depiction. Really, in my
experience, in the end, whether it comes through laughter and as a joke or
some other way the end result is the same, "thank god I am not blind" or
"thank god my child is not blind" and some sense of inherent inferiority is
placed on blindness and internalized or reinforced. 

I saw a Hallmark movie on their network last night. I had not expected it
but one of the main characters was a blind child, perhaps about five or six.
The portrayal of blindness was not horrible like in the Blindness movie, nor
was it as a joke and she was not shown to be bumbling or completely unaware.
However this very young child had a dog, and it wasn't even a totally "real"
guide dog...no harness, but just a "good" super type dog. Whenever the child
was alone she had the dog on leash. It was clear the child needed the dog to
be a helper if no adult was right there. Otherwise if the child moved at all
she was picked up and carried, yes carried, by an adult. She was cute as a
button, bright and articulate. I don't recall any reference to Braille in
the film. She runs her hand over a face of someone close who is leaving in
one scene. The "mom" in the story spoke of some normal expectations
minimally and the last scene in the movie was of her ice skating--albeit
holding her grandfathers hand... Interestingly in one scene the mom says she
adopted the girl as being given up and at nine months unwanted..."no one
wants a blind baby I guess" was pretty close to the quote. This was not all
bad, but it did little to give new or accurate ideas. I really think if you
think that in the families and kids who watched this, they did not go away
with some sense of mixed fear, inferiority, pity, or false inspiration about
blindness you are naïve and mistaken. If things needed to be as blatant as
the Blindness movie to harm us, we wouldn't be so harmed. Mr. Magoo was a
common laugh when I was a kid, the same old lines and jokes...it had an
impact and it did not help us. 

Indeed Arielle, for the greatest part throughout history, and even today,
many are turned down for jobs or "helped" into dependency from "positive"
not "negative" emotions. It has been said that our road to hell was paved
with good intentions (for the most part)... and I think there is truth in
that statement. 

Carrie Gilmer, President
National Organization of Parents of Blind Children
A Division of the National Federation of the Blind
NFB National Center: 410-659-9314
Home Phone: 763-784-8590
carrie.gilmer at gmail.com

Arielle Silverman wrote:
> Hi all,
> I do think there is a fundamental difference between  the SNL sketch
> and the Blindness movie. In the Blindness movie, blindness is  used as
> a means of depicting "the end of the world" or "the collapse of
> humanity". The intent of the film is to shock, frighten, and disgust
> viewers and so whether or not viewers actually believe that the
> depiction of the blind is realistic, they will tend to experience
> negative emotions while watching the blind characters. The SNL sketch,
> on the other hand, is designed to make people laugh. Not only is humor
> at the expense of minorities commonly accepted in our culture, so
> people probably won't interpret these portrayals as being realistic,
> but also when people watch the sketch they are in a happy mood and so
> won't associate blindness with fear and disgust.
> That said, I'm not thrilled about the way Gov. Paterson was portrayed
> and I'm glad the NFB made a statement, but I don't think we should be
> expending as much energy on this as we did with the Blindness film. I
> also agree with the view that by using blindness as a characteristic
> to spoof, we are being regarded as part of the mainstream. After all
> many of us say we'd rather be teased like everyone else than treated
> with extra kindness and compliments. Perhaps this is really a gesture
> of inclusion.
> Arielle

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