Thursday, January 29, 2015

The Theory of Everything Did Everything They Needed to Do...Here's Why

Awards season is rushing in, and this year I am way ahead of the current and have seen all but one best picture nominee. [Tangent: The trailer for American Sniper gave me a mini panic attack, so I have yet to take that plunge. I have to mentally prepare to be made to feel like an emotional garbage fire inside....it's the same reason that I saved 12 Years a Slave for last in 2014.] For the most part I have enjoyed all of them, [Tangent: Even though I am a little miffed Gone Girl and Nightcrawler didn't get more attention, because both of those movies were fantastic.] but there are always controversies...and one that I read about last week involving disability really burns my biscuits. [Can I make a credible counterpoint using "burned my biscuits"? Well...I'll try.]

I posted this link about  Eddie Redmayne and his "disappointing depiction of disability" a couple days back on my blog's Facebook page with the sentiment that I disagree 100%. However, I really felt like I could write scrolls on this topic...or at least a blog.

 OK. Let me start off with how I feel about this thesis statement from  the article:

"James Marsh’s movie exists for two purposes: to make able-bodied people feel good about themselves and to win Oscars. "
Here's what I, a woman with a disability,  know about The Theory of Everything. It's a movie I had wanted to see since the trailer came out, and after seeing it and inevitably crying profusely, my boyfriend I left the theater in awe because the nail was hit on the head pretty squarely. [Tangent: That trach scene hit me right in the stomach and induced some  snot crying.] It was a beautiful and honest depiction of what it is like to live with a progressive disease and adapt to new unexpected challenging as well as be someone in love with that person. Did I once say, "No they should have gotten an actor with ALS to play Hawking!" ABSOLUTELY NOT!


Finding an actor at the beginning of his diagnosis with ALS and following him through that huge life transition whilst factoring in the rigors of filming and his ability to emote accordingly...I feel like that is possibly the most impractical request you could make to a casting director. There's a market for that...it's called documentary and I have seen some great ones [Tangent: Get on Netflix and watch Hawking or So Much, So Fast.] . True, I am not an actress. I do not know what it's like to go out for roles of a person with a disability and then lose them to an able-bodied actor.  [Tangent: If you want that perspective, check out this article. ] However, I guarantee you if I was and was up against Eddie Redmayne...I would be A-OK with him getting the job, because his performance was brilliant.

Do I think people that don't have disabilities were leaving the theater saying "DAMN! Sucks for that guy!" No. Well, I mean maybe, but it kinda does...and if that's how they feel...that's OK.  It's OK to see the true story of someone else's life and struggles and feel a renewed sense of self and understanding of others. [Tangent: For example, when I saw The Imitation Game, I cried because his life was a struggle that I can't wrap my head around. It's one that I will never understand firsthand. Never once was I pissed because Benedict Cumberbatch wasn't gay. It's called acting, ya'll!]

Was I butt hurt that the movie also used his wife's perspective quite a bit and how she felt about his disease? NO! That was probably the most realistic element...probably because it came from her autobiography. It wasn't as if this information was all fabricated and pulled from the ether. Additionally, the Hawking family cooperated and signed off on the movie and casting and worked with Eddie Redmayne and Felicity Jones one-on-one, so why are people getting so damned offended. I have seen commentary likening it to a minstrel show, and find that a little unfair because the movie was extremely respectful.

see...everyone is cool with it!

 We all know that I am a pretty laid back person on these matters and don't like to get all up in arms about little nitpicky things [Tangent: Remember I was the minority who thought the hired disability escorts at Disney World weren't offensive, but were rather an interesting employment opportunity. Seriously, perspective, ya'll! So many bigger fish to fry. Let's chat accessibility and then you can start theoretically stripping people of their entertainment awards once that beast has been slayed.] , so I guess I assume most adults with disabilities feel the same. WRONG. A lot of them are mad as hell about it. I have seen several references calling this kind of thing "cripface" or that it was somehow wrong that a disabled filmmaker didn't step up to produce or be involved in the film. This is so sublimely irritating to me. These people showed up to tell the story, that clearly no one in the disabled community was telling...so why are you mad!??!?!? 

The Slate article points a very angry finger at the ending where this brief sequence occurs:
"There is a scene in The Theory of Everything in which Stephen Hawking sits on a stage. He is almost immobile in his wheelchair; Eddie Redmayne, the actor playing him, is at the bottom of his descent into disability. Hawking sees a woman in his audience drop her pen, and the film shifts into a fantasy sequence: Redmayne rises from the wheelchair, straightens the limbs he’s been twisting and twitching in his portrayal of Hawking, and walks over to pick up the pen. He hands it to the woman, smiling flirtatiously, suddenly free of his disability and once again a handsome movie star. Then he returns to the wheelchair and resumes his imitation of the effects of ALS, and the film’s action continues."
For this scene, frankly, I could either take it or leave it. On one hand, it did take me out of the movie a bit. [Tangent: It did remind me a bit of when I used to watch Glee and they gave Artie, the kid in the wheelchair, a dance sequence in his dreams.] I had a moment of "What the hell is happening!?!?", but then I understood the profound subtext. That simple moment portrayed the  times anyone who lives with adverse circumstances catches a glimpse of ways his life may have been different. It's such a simple moment and a peek into how Hawking would be if the chair stripped away. So many times people are distracted by disability, and that moment seemed like a moment of humanity, which kept my eyes from rolling too hard.


What did you guys think? I bet this whole controversy never even crossed your mind, right? 

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