I confess, at times, I don't like the Berkeley disability scene. I always feel like we are all in some contest and I'm not sure of the rules. It makes me nervous. But, I went to The Disability Film Festival this year.
"Are you nervous?" I asked filmmaker Russ Turnball of Terminal Devices Later, I felt like it was a stupid question. He was an experienced film maker. It was all because I would be very nervous showing a film to the Berkeley Disability crowd.
Anxiety is often why I go to comedy. Comedians were there. I wouldn't have set foot (or scooter wheel) in there if they weren't. My friend, Nina G, was hosting the festival with another great comedian from Montana, Mike. They joked about the everyday hassles of disability. It turns out pushy do-gooders that are really more like harassers exist all over the country for people with disabilities. Mike told a story of a woman chasing him around a store asking if he needed help until he dropped a salad dressing bottle breaking it. This then confirmed her world view that he indeed needed help.
|Young Russ Turnball with family|
The films were great. Especially Russ Turnball's Terminal Device:
"The cinema loves the one-armed bad guy, but just who is Captain Hook? Terminal Device is an autobiographical essay and an inquiry into cinematic representation. Refracted through pop cultural images, the director's story as one of the men with hooks acquires unexpected resonance. "Then my discomfort the scene was realized when a hippy white woman asked Turnball, the straight white male Canadian filmmaker:
"Can you talk more about the racism along with ableism in films with amputees? Also I was wondering what you made of the gay subtext of Peter Pan and Captain Hook?"
|"I do NOT want to talk about that, but thanks for noticing."|
Turnball DID talk about race and being "the other" in his film. It wasn't that this question was a terrible one... at least not the race one.
I do thank sweet baby Jesus he didn't talk about Peter Pan's gay subtext. Don't get me wrong, I'm a geek. I can talk about gay subtext until the day is long on (almost) anything. I can write fan fiction about it, but when it literally involves minors I would greatly prefer to leave it at the door. Turnball handled both questions beautifully. But, what does this have to do with him and all the other great points he brought up about disability identity in his film? Nothing.
|Captain Hook finds someone age appropriate !|
This woman asking this question because she wanted to show what she was aware of more than anything else. But, this is fine. When we are looking at art aren't we all narcissistic? But, still, I was kind of annoyed. I wanted someone to ask something specific to his film. I also wanted a little levity. I realize these were my own desires.
There was another issue. This was after the crowd had also shouted "Free Palestine" near a visiting Israeli 17 year old filmmaker. They didn't do it too aggressively. It was a micro-aggression. They did it as the panelist announced that the films fest was brought to us by The Jewish Museum.
I do agree with these white hippies views on Palestine whole heartedly. I just don't think the Israeli 17 year old wheelchair user needed to hear about our Berkeley views on Palestine. I doubt there was much he could do about it. The film his father did with him was a travel film. It taught me a lot about accessible issues while traveling in Europe. (Farewell Paris. Unless I want to lost 70 pounds so my husband can carry me in a baby bjorn. Not happening.) Like most people with disabilities at 17 this boy wants to think positive. He only has his able bodied family's and able bodied community's point of view and on disability.
One of the best moments of the panel was when panelist, Jim LeBrecht, asked the teen more about himself and what he was interested in. He loves theater. Hopefully Peter Pan isn't ruined for him forever, at least not by the subtext question.
Teens with disabilities have a harder time with independence. He is still probably far too young to make his own bio pick yet. His father reported he had to fight to go to public school in Israel. So, I'd hold off on those complex views about relations with Palestine just yet.
Personally, I sometimes feel a great pressure with in the disability community to literally solve every problem with every statement I make. I know this is pressure I also put on myself.
I think this is something the American disability community has internalized from the able bodied culture about us: We can't just be ordinary people. As people with disabilities we MUST be extraordinary and make others around us feel like they should be too.
This is why I probably commented to the panel about Russ Turnball's point in the film when he said Ash, played by Bruce Campbell, in the first Evil Dead (1981) was the only example of empowerment through chopping off his arm. Turnbull's film features many horrifying clips of men with hooks doing violent things. One that literally horrified me was a clip of I Still Know What You Did Last Summer with an utterly terrified young Anna Ferris doomed to be sexually violated by a hook before she died. The clip showed little blood, but the anticipation of it and her face was so much worse. I can only imagine what it would be like for someone with a prothetic hook to see themselves that way.
But Ash... Ash was different. Ash "maimed" himself to be free of a demon. He was liberated without that hand. I was disappointed that Turnball hadn't seen Evil Dead as a teen. Turnball was the epitome of a man who seems cultured without being the least bit of a snob or trying to show off his knowledge of subtext. I became a subtext geek, rather than a snob, when I excitedly told him, and the crowd, about Ash Vs. The Evil Dead.
The show features Ash thirty-five years later and still played by Bruce Campbell. Unlike Berkeley intellectuals It does not take itself seriously at all. But, I think that Berkeley intellectuals would hate all the blood no matter what. As bloody as the show is (very) all of the blood and guts tend to happen after the people have died or with demons, or in a dream. So, unlike the I Still Know What You Did Last Summer, the focus isn't on a human beings suffering.
Human pain ends quickly on Ash Vs. The Evil Dead , even when fear doesn't. Ash and his crew never cause human beings pain. They just cause pain to demons. The demons, called deadites, often possess human bodies. However, once they are found out, they make it very clear just how inhuman they are. They are way too strong. They no longer need eyes. They seem to feel no pain. In other words, they are nothing like a person with a disability.
Ash and his crew try to save people. Lots of times they are not so good at it.
I think this is just how I felt as I told the crowd Ash was still around. I was trying to save them from taking it all so seriously. I was trying to show them that this character who was empowered by "disabling" himself was now in his sixties. He still had his a chainsaw prosthetic arm and a regular prosthetic arm. He switches up the prothetics as disabled people do with all of our tools. This confuses able bodied as they think a person just uses one device all the time to "solve the problem".
I talked about how Ash used his chainsaw hand when fighting demons and how people often tossed it to him. I also told the crowd Ash was often stoned and not always the best decision maker. I said this made him a great anti-hero.
I didn't really do this as some conscious micro-aggression but there it is. I think I couldn't take the pressure of how we all had to be these great heroes. I didn't want us to miss out on all of our individual stories because we are trying to solve all these problems of not being seen as a group.
We can't free Palestine. We can't see all the gay subtext. We should be able to see each other if the rest of the world can't.
Maybe I should of said to the Berkeley crowd the show:
- Regularly passes the Bechtel test.
-stars a man with a disability
-Co-stars Jewish woman, a Latino man and a woman over fifty.
Turnball said while appreciated Ash and the Evil Dead stuff probably was too weird for him. It is very weird. I hope Berkeley didn't seem to weird to him for different reasons. Later we talked about how as a kid with a disability people take so many pictures and records of you and how weird (and sometimes horrifying) it can be to find that stuff later. People with disabilities share weird experiences. I want to say how much I appreciated his film. When we can really listen to each other's stories we can find out new things about our own. It also made me realize how much Terminator is a disability film. I never realized that even though it greatly influences my weird sci-fi writing work.