I want to begin by saying that I have turned the subject over and over in my head and can't find a way to write about this without any spoilers. I will keep plot points as vague as I can while still getting my point across but if you haven't watched it yet and want to avoid anything being spoiled, you should probably skip this post.
*image description - movie poster for The Happys featuring 3 women and 3 men standing in a line.
The plot from their IMDB page - "Twenty-one year old Tracy walks in on her boyfriend Mark having sex with
a man and decides to leave him. After assessing her limited options,
she returns to Mark with a deal-if he agrees to marry her, she'll forget
the incident ever happened. Mark accepts her terms, but neither fully
understands the sacrifices they have to make. As their relationship
deteriorates, Tracy's world opens up when she befriends the quirky
residents in her Los Feliz neighborhood: Sebastian, a troubled recluse
who closed the door to society after being bitten by a poisonous spider;
Luann, a former child star and true free spirit; Krista, Mark's
hard-charging talent manager; Jonathan, a gay magazine reporter; and
Ricky, a hot Mexican with a failing food truck. As Tracy discovers her
sense of self and true passion for cooking, she is a catalyst that
forces them all to grow and connect in unforeseen ways."
I first became familiar with this indie film project because I am a fan of Melissa McBride. I was eager to help with fundraising for that reason alone but when I saw that it was also an LGBT ("Hey! That's me!) film I was even more excited. The project was completed and premiered at the Rhode Island International Film Festival where I was able to see it.
I think it's a fantastic film for many reasons but this isn't going to be that kind of review. It's the character Sebastian and the handling of his 'reclusive' personality that took me by surprise and became the most important to my mind. His story line centers largely around his social disabilities (although just how 'disabled' he is is open for debate depending on whether you subscribe to the social model of disability or the medical model - but that would be a different post entirely).
Without going into great detail and spoiling too much, there came a point in the story where it looked like he was going to be The Disabled Person Who Overcame and Did the Thing. My heart sank. I had been enjoying the film so much and I was afraid it was about to be ruined for me. But it wasn't. He didn't end up Doing the Thing. You know what I'm talking about, right? The soundtrack swells, little Johnny is suddenly able to walk and there's not a dry eye in the house.
We hate that and I am so grateful that it didn't take that predictable turn. We refer to that kind of stuff as 'inspiration porn'. And by 'we' I mean us actually disabled people who work hard trying to dispel this common trope that we exist to be objects of inspiration for the non-disabled if we are to be valued at all. It's not just a matter of it being a little annoying. It is dangerous for us to continue to be seen as objects or less than human. Every year on March 1st we have a Disability Day of Mourning for all those murdered by their caregivers. Most people aren't aware of this. Just a couple of weeks ago Japan had its worst mass killing in decades. 19 stabbed to death and another 25 injured. Where was the trending hashtag? There was none because the victims were all disabled. 'Inspirations' or 'burdens', society rarely sees us as fully human. I want to thank these amazing filmmakers for making Sebastian fully human. The average viewer probably wouldn't even consciously notice but it still matters.
But this is even more personal for me than what I have already discussed. At the time the fundraising campaign was going on I was Sebastian. I had recently become unable to leave my house and the depression that frequently accompanies my losing functioning skills (I'm autistic so losing the ability to function comes with the territory for me) was threatening to take hold so I threw myself into helping with this project as a desperate attempt to make myself feel better. It worked like a charm. I would like to thank these amazing filmmakers for that, too.
For those who know me, my being in a place where I was able to make that trip to see the film could appear to be The Disabled Person Overcoming and Doing the Thing but it's not. There are probably military operations going on around the world right now that required less careful planning than what this trip required for me. It shouldn't be 'inspiring' to do the things that non disabled people take for granted. It just takes us a little more work. I'm still very much autistic. Bottom line is, some days we can Do the Thing and some days we can't. Sebastian couldn't Do the Thing but it didn't detract from his value as a human being. Thank you guys for getting it right.