Late last night and in the early hours of this morning a lot of coverage of the Boston Marathon bombing kept focussing on “zomg! Runners have lost legs! They loved running and now they have no legs!”
Imagine that’s you. You’re a passionate runner and now you’re watching TV from your hospital bed because you want to know what’s going on out there. To know how the events that injured you are unfolding.
The story you need to hear is that many, many amputees are runners. As an American you didn’t see any Paralympic coverage because it was only on telly for 90 minutes 2 weeks after the games ended. The only amputee runner you’ve ever heard of is Oscar Pistorius.
You don’t need the news intimating that you’ll never run again. You’ve already got enough on your plate.
I can understand why that angle would appeal to unimpaired newsreaders looking to tug on heartstrings. But it’s not helpful to the people who’ve just acquired an impairment; hearing you suggesting that they’ve just lost the hobby they love along with their leg.
This is one of those films that, if it didn’t have an impairment theme, no-one would give a fuck. It wasn’t bad, but it would never have been nominated for a million awards if it weren’t ultimately about non-disabled actors pretending to have an impairment for the purposes of winning an award.
I’d read people who live with mental ill health claiming that “it’s the most realistic depiction of mental illness they’d seen.”
I’m in no position to judge what any other person deems “realistic” because I don’t live inside their head. Of course there will be people for whom Pat’s experiences ring true. But statistically speaking, they are in a minority of mentally ill people.
The event that kickstarts the movie is Pat getting released from hospital. The reason he was sentenced to hospital was because he beat a colleague almost to death for having shower sex with his wife. In real life a person with mental illness is 14 times more likely to be a victim of violent crime than a perpetrator. So Pat’s story is only representative of a small percentage of people’s experiences.
What really struck me was that Pat and Tiffany found relief from their symptoms by diving in to a creative project. On one level it’s absolutely no different from me finding that swimming eases my joint pain.
But on the other hand it just made me go “huh?” A lot. I’m trying to pull off an artsy project at the moment and I swear it’s going to cause me a nervous breakdown. I’m spending a significant chunk of each day rocking back and forth asking “why aren’t they Emailing me back?” And most of the rest of the day telling myself “this is shit. That’s why no-one’s Emailing you back. You’re an idiot and your idea stinks. Of course no-one’s replying.”
(I just tweeted this over a series of 3 tweets to a friends on the subject of Judy Blume, and thought it was worth repeating here.)
Loved her till I read Deenie. Was then horrified by a character who was disgusted by “looking disabled”. Looking like me…
I now realise it follows her journey to self-acceptance. But aged less than 11 I was appalled by the hatred around “looking disabled”. It hurt that looking like me was considered so terrible.
This is a show that - from the title - could have been either brilliant or horrifically exploitative and cruel. Luckily it turns out it’s the former.
It’s based on My Mad Fat Teenage Diary which I haven’t read, but I understand the show is quite different. For starters I gather that the real Rae was hospitalised in the 80s, but the TV show is set in 1996.
I’m a year older than Rae of the telly version. She’s 16 in the summer of 1996, I was 16 in the summer of 1995. But it’s still close enough for me to feel like I get it exactly. It so reminds me of what it was like to be 16 in the mid-nineties, wishing you were thin enough to be considered attractive, people considering you as “one of the boys”, and most crucially: Trying to make friends and keep it a secret that you’re mental. A secret that I was actually pretty rubbish at keeping: Few pints down and I’d always burst into tears.
Of course the televised Rae is far more successful at making friends and having a thriving social life than I ever was. I was in this odd situation that I frequently went out for drinks during the week, but Friday and Saturday nights I was always home alone. At the weekends people wanted to party with their real friends, but on a weeknight people would have a pint or 2 with their tertiary friends, which was all I ever managed to be to anyone. So no-one ever took me to raves or offered me tickets to Oasis concerts. In fact I was 21 the first time I went to a proper music concert. (My uncle’s country band playing in the clubhouse of my local football team doesn’t count as a “proper concert”.)
So it’s a great story, but by far the best thing is the music. They play A Letter to Elise and suddenly I’m back in Cambridge buying Wish on tape in HMV. (I didn’t get my first CD player until Xmas ‘94, it came out in ‘92). I sit there watching it with the notepad app open on my phone jotting down songs/albums that I must check to see if I’ve ripped to iTunes, and if not I must dig out the CD.
All this wonderfulness and seeing Rae as a slightly cooler version of a young me made last night’s episode really disappointing. I’d never release an aviary full of birds that have lived their whole lives in captivity and expect them to not have been shredded by predators by morning. And as much as I wanted to fit in with the cool kids I’d never have stood up someone even more mental than me who desperately needed me just so I could go to a rave with the popular people.
Christ I did some stupid, ignorant stuff that turned out to upset other people when I really didn’t mean it to. I said things that I didn’t intend to be mean in the slightest, but when the person I said it to repeated it back to me I realised how dismissive or rude I sounded. So I know how easy it is to accidentally be mean when you’re trying to navigate through being a teenage fuckup. But killing an aviary full of birds and ditching someone whose life may be endangered by you doing so? I would never have done that. And taking last night’s episode down that route made me feel rather robbed of a character in whom I could see a young me. And Christ, with teen telly characters mostly being skinny unimpaired people; there’s really not many characters I can look at and think “God they’re so much like I was.”
Powerchair user in MacLaren’s!
Any theories on how he got down that narrow staircase?
I think this might be the first time I’ve ever seen a visibly impaired extra. You do occasionally get disabled characters in stuff. Sometimes they’re even played by disabled actors.
But you never see disabled people in the background doing normal shit like drinking a beer.
I’m in love with Sarah Lund. In a way I’m looking forward to the series being over: I’m quite “out of sight, out of mind” esque when it comes to crushes so with the show over I’ll forget all about how much I want her to knock on my door and rip my clothes off*. Falling for a fictional character may be the ultimate definition of futility.
But in this particular episode I lost a lot of respect for her. Even my desire dwindled slightly. Yes Sarah frequently theorises that someone may be the killer; finds out they’re not, and moves on to the next suspect. However in the episode in question her belief that Benjamin Kamper “must have” been Louise Hjelby’s killer came almost exclusively from learning that he was bipolar and had killed himself not long after Hjelby’s death.
Nine out of every 10 murders are committed by people who were “sane” at the time of the offence. In fact people with psychosis are 14 times more likely to be a victim of a violent crime than a perpetrator.
Lund is smart enough to know all this; the woman is a crime-fighting genius. She often makes wrong calls but it was because the evidence pointed in that direction at the time. There was as much evidence for Kristian, Stoffer or even Karen as there was for Benjamin, but Lund determined that Benjamin was the most likely culprit on the grounds of diagnosis alone.
Lund is not a perfect woman. She has more than a few flaws: She’s a terrible mother. When she gets an idea in her head mid-conversation she just walks off without ever saying “hang on, I’ve got to look into something.” She made her stepfather ill because she’s so inattentive to anything that isn’t work that she didn’t check if the pastries were nut-free. But one thing she’s never been before is prejudiced to a whole minority group.
Lund may not be perfect, but she is so much better than the judgemental, disablist arse the writers made her out to be until Benjamin was cleared of suspicion by the GPS data.
* = I still can’t believe she slept with Borch. He clearly hasn’t washed his hair in months. I wash mine every day and don’t get super hot women like Lund showing up at my door and jumping my bones. Perhaps I should give up personal hygiene? Is cleanliness where I’m going wrong?
I thought it was interesting that Grant said that Hacked Off felt like they had no power compared to the power of the press.
He’s a household name globally. When he talks, people listen. He got to present a documentary for Channel 4 talking about the issue!
Grant also got his day in court. He got to tell Leveson about his experiences of phone hacking and also to share the stories non-celeb hacking victims have told him.
Leveson refused to hear oral testimonies from disability hate crime campaigners. People talking about the link between scrounger lies in the press and the impact that’s having on disabled people being abused just weren’t allowed to speak.
I can appreciate that he may feel like David in comparison to the Goliath of the press. But some of us would be fucking grateful if we even had the power wielded by David’s headlice.
Edit: The Hacked Off petition got 50,000 signatures in 1 day. It took Pat’s Petition against the fatal cuts to disability support a whole year to reach that number. As Lucy points out: “You’re more likely to become disabled or be a carer than have a dodgy journo rummage through yer rubbish.”
I think we’ve all been in a position where we’ve been ill or injured in public and have looked or acted not at our best. I’ve broken bones in the street and screamed louder than most people can conceive of. I was once overwhelmed with tramadol nausea while driving, didn’t get to pull over in time and was left with no choice but to barf in my own lap because I couldn’t take my eyes off the road. This meant that when I got home I had to do a vomit-covered walk of shame from my car into my flat.
Thankfully none of these things have been captured on camera and posted on the internet. I’d be most embarrassed if they were to be. But I suspect that no-one would post these things online because of a respect - or at least tolerance - our society has for physical illness.
Not so for mental illness.
On Friday a man climbed up onto the statue of St George on Whitehall and took his clothes off. You can understand why people might, at first, think it’s funny and worth tweeting about: It’s not every day there’s a naked man just outside government. And if there is a naked man on Whitehall, he’s probably a protester so deserves his arse splashed across the news pages.
When he was brought down he wasn’t arrested; as a protester would be. He was detained under the mental health act. While one may not be able to do anything about the pictures of him on social media, the mainstream media had a responsibility to not behave in a way that denigrated or mocked him for being ill in public. Once stabilised he’ll have quite enough embarrassment about being naked so publicly without it being made worse by the press.
Which is why it’s so astonishing that Huff Post UK’s piece about his being detained on mental health grounds contains a photo gallery of him in assorted poses on the statue.
News outlets treat physical health very differently. On July 7th 2005 several news outlets broadcast images of people receiving CPR and were censured for it. When Fabrice Muamba collapsed on the football pitch the television cameras were all pointed away from him once the gravity of the situation became apparent. How can a photo gallery of someone having a mental health crisis be justified?
I’ve ended up less than decent in public-ish spaces when my clothes have been cut off me in A&E without curtains drawn around me. I was too preoccupied by my bones being in pieces to give a crap about modesty. It’s hard to imagine anyone would take photos and exploit that to gain hits on their website so why do the press think it’s OK to exploit mental illnesses in this way?
These are issues that must be addressed. This guy is not the first person to end up naked in public during a mental health crisis and almost certainly won’t be the last.
When I found out that this year’s American Horror Story was going to be set in a Catholic-run loony bin I was fully expecting your usual Murphy/Fulchuk disablist nonsense. I was fully expecting all the inmates to be horrifyingly violent creatures.
I was wrong. At least so far…
Instead of the patients being monsters, it’s the staff. There’s the doctor with a fondness for experimenting on his patients, dating back to his time working at Auschwitz (this season is set in 1964 so we’re talking about work he was doing only 20 years ago).
Then there’s another doctor who’s an Ed Gein-esque furniture maker. With a nice nod to Leatherface in the most recent episode.
There’s nun who once killed a child in a hit-and-run while driving drunk. There’s also the nun possessed by Satan himself.
In contrast the patients are all victims of staff brutality. The nymphomaniac has her legs lopped off by the Nazi doctor because she laughed at his tiny dick. One patient - Grace - was sterilised against her will for screwing another patient. You’d expect that that too would’ve been the idea of the SS doctor: Preventing the disableds from breeding was a huge part of the Nazi plan. But it was actually the idea of the drunk driving nun.
They’re some of the more extreme things we’ve seen. We’ve still not been told what Nazi Boy has done to the “creatures” in the woods. But we’ve seen your more basic physical punishments of arses being whipped several times.
The reason this is so interesting is because it’s actually socially representative as people living with psychosis are 14 times more likely to be a victim of a violent crime than a perpetrator. The media constantly tells us to beware of a the crazies, when really it’s the crazies who need to avoid the clinically sane. And that’s the last point you’d expect to see driven home in a Ryan Murphy show.
Bones makes me feel really tough. Like when they look at the skeleton of someone with vertebral crush fractures and say that he would’ve needed opiates for the rest of his life.
I was back to normal after 4 months, albeit slightly shorter than before.
This week they determined that the dead guy had fractured a rib, which had then broken clean through when he bent down to aid someone trapped under rubble. OK, when I did that “turning a cracked rib into a clean break” thing I was bending down to tend to a pumpkin plant in my garden which isn’t as butch; but still.
Before I started watching it someone suggested I might like it based on the fact that I have a condition affecting my bones. At the time I thought “huh”. But now I have to concede that he was right.
Interesting moment last night when Sheldon effectively said “look. I spend all day every day trying to act neurotypically. I need 20 minutes solitude at lunchtime to unwind.”