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According to statistics, about 10% of human population live with some kind of disability (Disabled World, n.d.). Those individuals have to face many obstacles on a daily basis, like discrimination, disrespect, incomprehension, and even giggles. Disrespect is especially obvious when a person with a disorder cannot apply for a job or do other things that normal people find easy. The modern society should do everything to prove that disability is not inability. The media and films are some of the ways for reflecting and disclosing this problem from different perspectives. Particularly, The Miracle Worker (2000), Scent of a Woman (1992), Ray (2004) are the films to consider in this research.
Disability happens more often than people notice. Nevertheless, it is not only a problem in our everyday life but also a topic to discuss in media spheres. Noticeably, the television and films are popular examples of interpreting this problem in various ways. Media representations may provide not only accurate information and trustworthy ideas but also myths, distortions, or outright falsehoods. During the whole existence of film industry, producers from different countries have revealed their personal understanding of the issue. It is obvious that movies, more or less, reflect day-to-day life. Regardless of a nationality, location, or time period, representatives of different cultures have made films concerning the problems of disability. For example, there are some movies where the protagonists are blind, namely The Miracle Worker (2000), Scent of a Woman (1992), Ray (2004). The directors of the aforementioned movies have showed their personal attitude to the problems of blind people. Thanks to the film industry, the society is able to be more acquainted with the issues of disabled people, get some ideas, and make conclusions about it.
Before talking about disability from the social perspective, it is worth discussing it from the scientific point of view. Disability may be divided into two categories: medical and social. A medical disorder is a physical difference of a body: missing limbs or dysfunction of sense organs. As for a social disability, it is an attitude of the population to those who have some sort of impairment. The problem does not arise because a person is disabled. It only means that an individual needs more appliances to live with others, enjoying equal rights. Tom Shakespeare, who is a specialist in disability studies, states that “there is no a model to encompass the word “disability”. The reason is that “it is as complicated as concepts like gender, sexual identity and race”. As a rule, a health problem of an individual does not concern anyone else except for the affected person. The feelings and obstacles that accompany someone with a disorder are harmful and painful. For example, Frank, the protagonist of Scent of a Woman, was not able to travel by himself, so he had to ask for help and assistance. As well as Ray Charles, the blind musician from the movie Ray, was involved in various unfriendly situations. Some of his business partners attempted to entrap him and pay him less than he actually earned. The task of the society is to remove the “barriers” that disabled individuals have to face every day. As the majority of the world’s population does not have any deflections in health, the responsibility for taking care of those who are in need of additional attention lays on their shoulders. The task of bioethics and disability studies is to cooperate in order to understand why health is essential and continue to discover the sources of disorders. People with impairments have to apply more strength in order to survive, and they need to feel respect and kindness from the society.
Many researches, not only in the field of psychology but also in others, have studied the topic of disability. James Baldwin, the African American novelist, said: “No one is white before he or she came to America. It took generations, and a vast amount of coercion, before this became a white country”. This thought implies that something that society regards as “real” is in fact a cultural creation. There are various prejudices and biases created by different nations at different times. The majority of people follow the rules that do not have any sufficient evidence. It is wrong to apply a label to an individual according to his or her gender, race, or age. What is normal to somebody, might be odd and unacceptable to other person. However, it does not mean that something is right or wrong, it expresses personal attitude to it. For example, the terms of disability and non-disability are socially constructed. Treating somebody in a particular way is a result of personal attitude, thoughts, and feelings, which is common for the system of culture. For instance, during the speech of the main character of The Scent of a Woman, the crowd judged Frank like an incompetent person. However, shortly after he started to speak, the audience could recognize his oratorical abilities. Therefore, naming somebody disabled only because he or she is blind or uses a wheelchair is not how it should be. The difference is that the person needs additional time and an effort to deal with the distance. The term disability is invented in the society and it influences the way we think of ourselves and treat others. Thus, the topic of disabled people can have a variety of interpretations, and every individual has a right to understand it according to his or her personal aptitudes.
The Miracle Worker is a movie about a deaf- blind girl and her teacher, whose patience and kindness played a tremendous role in the improvement of the child’s health condition. This film also shows a relationship between family members and the parents’ attitude to their children. The Miracle Worker makes the topic of disability clear and visually understandable. Anne, the teacher, was an impressive example of a well-educated person who showed extensive knowledge in the field of psychology. Her ultimate goal was to teach a blind girl to be self-reliable and independent from the help of others. Noticeably, the beginning of Helen’s, the patient, education was hard and strange for her family members as they were not fully aware of psychological matters. Her parents experienced cautiousness, and sometimes even forbade the teacher to apply her technique, even though she wanted to educate their child. Finally, all the relatives and Anne as well showed great tolerance and patience. They trusted Helen’s teacher and their confidence strengthened because the girl demonstrated significant results in her development. The other most important feature of this movie is that love and support of close people can indeed do miracles. Nadia Tass impressively showed the adjustment to disability by concentrating attention on one particular family. The director of The Miracle Worker wanted to focus the audience’s attention on Anne’s patience, which could be regarded as a method for helping in a struggle with the disorder. The empathy of Helen’s relatives was also remarkable. In the beginning, they were skeptical about the health improvement of their little daughter. However, they had a hope and had to believe Anne and gave her a chance do something. Therefore, this movie proves that family support is essential for a disabled person, together with kindness, empathy, and patience.
Producers of Ray have demonstrated that an individual with a physical disability can be an extremely talented personality. The nonfictional presentation of people with disorders presents the belief that the right attitude helps to cope with any situation and to obtain a positive result. Scientists have confirmed that optimistic thinking has a useful influence on a person. The most valuable idea is that a handicapped person who overcomes obstacles and deals with various problems can serve as a model of personal achievement and adjustment. Any individual with an absolutely satisfactory health condition can think of those who have to struggle with some kind of impairment and discover that nothing is impossible for a person with a strong character. The biographical movie Ray is about a world’s famous musician Ray Charles, who became blind at the age of seven. A great attention is paid to his mother, who was the first one to influence the personality of her little son. She taught him to be self-confident and to fight for his future until the end. After giving a promise to his mother, Ray Charles started to rely only on himself. His health condition was not an excuse. On the contrary, it was a motivation to live and develop his musical talent. Noticeably, Ray had a good sense of humor and a very sharp mind. He was a smart businessman and a very respectful person among his partners at the same time. The protagonist of this movie was an idol for millions of people, and his disorder did not discourage him from achieving such success. The society perceived Ray as a very self-determined individual because he proved that a blind person can be independent and capable of realizing his or her talents.
Another movie that proves the statement that disability is not inability is The Scent of a Woman. The directors of the scene wanted to show the adjustment to the disorder of the men and his relatives. The main character of the film was a retired lieutenant Frank Slade, who became blind during his military service. Despite the fact that he was not able to see, the man has a great personality and many talents. Without any doubt, it was extremely tough for Frank to get used to the new way of life. However, thanks to the relatives’ patience and Charlie’s help, the young man who temporarily looked after Frank, he found strength to overcome his handicap. This movie is an example of how a person can remain strong, even when he or she has to deal with very stressful situations. In one of the scenes of the movie the protagonist danced tango with a young girl, who sincerely admired his dancing talents. Not only the girl but also everybody who was present there admitted his ability to lead, even though he was blind. Charlie said an important statement: “I have never seen anybody dancing tango and driving a Ferrari so well”. It is an excellent illustration of how a blind person can be good at something and be an example for others. In addition, this movie confirms that a blind person could be attractive to the opposite gender. The producers made many scenes to prove that the main character impressed women with his integrity and charm. Therefore, this movie is a proof that an individual with some disability can have a happy life and be useful for the society.
The topic of disability perceives by society much easier through movies and media. People are able to look at this problem through different points of view and make their own conclusions and thoughts. The movies The Miracle Worker (2000), Scent of a Woman (1992), Ray (2004) all represent the attitude of society to the problem of blind people. The films prove that not everybody treats such individuals kindly and there are many cases of discrimination and incomprehension. Those who cannot see might suffer from jeers and humiliation. Nevertheless, there are benevolent people who help and support disabled. A modern society should be tolerant to individuals with disorders and should demonstrate respect and kindness to them.