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Friday, June 20, 2008

30 Days in a Wheelchair


I have posted a few clips from You Tube and I hope I have properly attached the episode 30 Days in a Wheelchair from the FX program directed by Morgan Spurlock. As many know, Spurlock is the director of Super Size Me, an outstanding documentary about the fast food chain McDondalds. If you have not seen this film, you are truly missing out on a devastating critique of the food sold at McDonalds.

The episode, 30 Days in a Wheelchair, from the FX TV channel series left me with decidedly mixed feelings. Overall, I thought Spurlock did an outstanding job depicting the social and economic reality reality many people with spinal cord injury encounter. The sense of culture shock for newly paralyzed people comes across with the force of a blunt punch to the nose. It prompted me to recall how outraged I was when I first experienced gross social injustice. But what bothered me about the entire episode was the unrelenting focus on what paralyzed people cannot do. Each and every scene highlighted the obstacles paralyzed people encounter. Yes, each and every problem has a solution but why such a negative focus. This critique is flawed I suspect in that I am all too familiar with the social consequences of paralysis. Perhaps the general public totally unfamiliar with life for those that use a wheelchair will be enlightened. I suspect this is Spurlock's audience and hope that the proverbial light bulb will be lit and people will learn the major obstacles paralyzed people encounter are social. This is the real message of the episode, one I hope that comes across loud and clear. In the end though I am not convinced this is the message people will get. Will those unwilling to open their mind simply think "Thank God I am not paralyzed like the poor bastards on that show". This is why I have reservations about the episode and its focus on what paralyzed people cannot do rather than what can be done and achieved, a critique I am not sure is on target. I am curious as to what others think of the show.


lauredhel said...

I can't get to the video right now (IPs outside the USA are blocked), but I'm wondering how this is any different from blackface.

People can't "know what it's like to have CFS" just by deciding to stay in bed for a few weeks, and I'd be righteously pissed if anyone pretended they did.

william Peace said...

It is very clear that the person who is "in a wheelchair for 30 days" makes no effort to pass as a truly paralyzed person. The 30 days theme is the main idea of Spurlock's series. A person is taken out of their environment and placed in a radically different setting. I will try to get the video to work.

Greg (Accessible Hunter) said...

I liked the show, it did a good job on how disability effect's the family and how we can still play sports, date and have sex. It left alot out but it starts a conversation. three stars out of five.

william Peace said...

Greg, Thanks for your reply. Overall, the episode was good. I guess what seemed to be conspicuously absent was the utter lack of reference to economic inequality. Unemployment is rampant among the disabled in general and it is not even mentioned in passing.

Anonymous said...

I thought this video did a pretty good job of showing what the actual daily part of living in a wheelchair is like. My dad has a C6-C7 SCI, so of course I have a different perspective than someone who uses a wheelchair. But from my viewpoint, it was pretty realistic. Of course the show isn't perfect, but he did spend thirty whole days in the chair. It's not like a two hour seminar that tries to approximate the "disability experience". Ray did mention how hard it would be for someone who didn't have as much money as he does. He definitely understood the economic inequality even if they didn't spend enough time on it. Thanks for posting this video and giving me a chance to say what I thought.

william Peace said...

Ames, Your perspective is indeed different and I was very happy to read what you wrote. One of the best parts of this blog is getting replies from people whose parent has a spinal cord injury. I often wonder what influence my disability has on my son and his views of the world. To read replies from people such as yourself are thus particularly interesting and rewarding.