The Student’s Desk

That we may know Christ

Assuming the Experience of Disability: A Critique of the Netflix Film “Bird Box”

bird_box_(film)As someone living with a disability, one of the things that frustrates me is people without disabilities assuming what it’s like to live with a disability. While there may be some truth in their assumptions, these assumptions can also be very wrong.

Take blindness, for example. Most people have played some game where they have needed to be blindfolded. Therefore, being blind must be like wearing a blindfold all the time. Right?

This seems to be the assumption behind the Netflix film “Bird Box”. I wasn’t going to watch it, but when I saw a headline suggesting that the movie had inspired someone to drive while blindfolded which inevitably caused an accident (if that’s the right word – https://fox17online.com/…/driver-who-crashed-while-blindf…/… ), I was curious to know what fresh madness this was. So I watch it. Seeing how this movie is current, it’s well worth a comment. It wasn’t my kind of movie. It was more of a horror movie. To say I’m about to spoil the film would be overestimating its quality as you wont be missing much. But I’ll only spoil the relevant details.

The earth’s population is set upon by mysterious invisible creatures who make people see their worst fears. As a result, people either commit suicide or turn into a zombie-like state who in turn force others to look at these creatures who then suicide or turn into zombies. You get the picture. Lot’s of bodies. Lot’s of blood. Lot’s of mayhem. It’s hardly a celebration of the sanctity of human life. The only way to avoid being affected is not to make eye contact with these creatures. So you have our heroes in the movie running around wearing blindfolds, and driving a 4wd with the windows blocked out. Now, I’m sure they’ll be people who will watch the movie just to see how silly this is!

Now here’s why I’m raising the issue. In the movie, there is a group of people who remain unaffected by these mysterious creatures – people who are blind. So a refuge is set up in a school for the blind. Now, if you think blindness is like wearing a blindfold, it all makes sense. But if you know a bit about blindness, the movie looses all credibility – assuming it has any left by the time it gets to the school for the blind. While there is a form of blindness where there’s no light penetration at all (what may be assumed by most people), this is very rare. There are other types of blindness where people have some form residual sight, even if they can’t identify objects or people by sight. Other forms of blindness may allow a person to identify objects and people, yet their blindness can still pose a danger. This may explain the somewhat bizarre instruction by Jesus to a man born blind to “Go, wash in the pool of Siloam” (John 9:4). How can a man “Go” if he’s blind? It could very well be he had sufficient residual sight to navigate safely, yet unable to work or assume a productive position in the community. Yet it’s still right to consider him “blind”, and none of this doesn’t detract front the miracle of Jesus giving a man sight who had been blind since birth.

So, knowing this, I couldn’t help but wonder, how blind does someone need to be for someone to be immune to these mysterious creatures in the film? Would having advance cataracts have the same effect? It was yet another one of many loose ends left hanging by the film.

While I applaud the idea of one of the most vulnerable people in the community being framed positively as a “saviour”, I am again concerned that what is being portrayed is an abled-bodied person’s idea of having a disability. Ultimately, this is unhelpful for everyone. While people with disabilities may have commonalities, it remains to be appreciated that every disability is unique, and every experience of disability is unique. So we must treat portrayals of disability in the media with caution, and not use them to assume the experience of disability as we seek to connect with individuals.

 

First published on Jericho Road’s Disability Advocacy Facebook page, https://www.facebook.com/disability.advocate.nsw/

 

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January 16, 2019 - Posted by | Articles, Disability | , , , , , ,

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