A number of films feature psychosocial disabilities simply because some people suffer from these illnesses in real life. Through analyzing films, one can comprehend the attitudes of society toward people with these disabilities. It can be a special emphasis on their capabilities or a barrier on their participation in the community. Since these individuals have to relate with society in order to grow and mature as individuals, films try to convey their stories to the audience. Through film, the societal attitudes and on how these affect the lives of people with disabilities are explored.
These may be strategies that either help or delineate the societal attitudes on those who have psychosocial disabilities. (De Leon, 352) Therefore, it helps to examine and understand the contributions of these societal attitudes and theories of personality in order to comprehend the relations of those who have psychosocial disabilities to society. The way they cope with their illness and react to loss is slowly observed and from there, the method to relate is determined. It is important to describe the developmental concepts of the person suffering from the illness.
His regard on body image and self-concept are factors on how he adjusts with his disability. By reviewing the psychosocial models of adaptations to the disabilities and emphasizing on the patient’s experiences, behaviors, reactions and phases, it is easier to come up with the conclusion on how he can adjust to society. A technique films use in presenting psychosocial disabilities to audience is to figuring out the patient’s commonalities that are both personal and transpersonal to society. By observing the experiences and the reactions from these events, the onset and root of the disability is discovered.
(Farrington, 135) Films dealing with psychosocial disabilities increase the understanding of society to what people with these disabilities have to go through. Some will say that these are just movies; however, these movies are inspired by real life. By becoming familiar with the psychosocial adaptations of both the patient and society, counseling and therapeutic procedures will benefit those who need it more because their techniques in coping and adjusting have been tried and tested. This paper will discuss three films that show psychosocial disabilities: 1.
) autism in “The Rain Man”, AIDS/HIV in “Philadephia” and mental retardation in “There’s Something about Mary”. All three films are popular and have been watched by most Americans, therefore it is easier to cite examples in these movies on this paper. For coherence, this paper will present how the disability was represented in the film by describing the patient’s functional limitations. It will also discuss how the disability affects the patient’s body image and self-perceptions. Then it will proceed to the reactions, as well as the coping strategies of the patient with his disability.
At the same time, the paper will indicate how society’s reaction towards the patient and his ability affect his attitudes. ”Rain Man” (1988) follows Charlie Babbit (Tom Cruise) and his transformation from a selfish yuppie to a selfless brother. This is because of the days he spent with his older brother Raymond (Dustin Hoffman) who is the benefactor of their father’s financial assets but is autistic and has difficulties in communicating. Charlie’s initial reaction to their father’s decision of leaving $3 million to his autistic brother is general as that of most people.
He believes that Raymond does not understand the whole concept of money. Therefore, Charlie was determined to get his share. He goes on a road trip with Raymond, only to be annoyed by his neurotic habits. It even gets to the point that he thinks Raymond is pretending to be autistic in order for Charlie to not get his share of the fiscal assets. Autism is a brain development disorder that affects communication and social interaction. It results to repetitive and restricted behavior. In the film, Hoffman does acts that autistics usually do.
An example is the memorization of details which most “normal” people do not pay attention to. In one scene, Charlie and Raymond are supposed to fly to California but the latter resists. He then cites knowledge from both media reports and the encyclopedia on airline accidents and crashes. Raymond creates a scene when Charlie forcefully drags him to the terminal. (Stowe, 12) This is only the beginning of the sling of Raymond’s eccentricities which Charlie has to adjust with. Charlie uses the two-lane highways because Raymond is convinced that highway driving is fatal.
He also refuses to go out when it rains. The whole road trip annoys Charlie because he wants to get his inheritance as soon as possible. On the other hand, the people who meet Raymond are amazed of his uniqueness. In a restaurant, one waitress is baffled on how Raymond knows her name and her home phone number. Apparently, he has read up and memorized the directory. The same waitress drops a box of toothpicks on the floor. Raymond calculates the number of toothpicks on the floor and gets the right number. Autistic patients often prefer to do things in order.
In the film, Raymond wants maple syrup served before the pancakes. When he does not get his way, he throws a tantrum which brings Charlie to a boiling point. He grabs Raymond’s neck and says, “Stop acting like a retard! ” Autistic patients also like to keep notes. In the movie, Raymond carries a red spiral notebook where he jots down “squeezed and pulled and hurt my neck in 1988. ” Charlie’s relation with his brother Raymond is an allusion of society’s interaction with autistics. Initially, there are feelings of annoyance and irritation. Eventually, these strong quasi-hateful emotions will soften.
Like Charlie, society has a growing sense of responsibility to protect autistics from the negative aspects of the world. (Turnbull) ”Philadelphia” (1993) tackles HIV/AIDS. The main character is Andrew Beckett (Tom Hanks) who is a University of Pennsylvania law-school graduate. He works for a large law film in Philadelphia. He has not come out of the closet. Also, he has AIDS. It gets to the point where his condition has developed Kaposi’s Sarcoma. This is a form of cancer that is apparent because it comes in multiple tumors on the skin and the lymph nodes.
Through a scheme that involves the deleting of the files on the case he has pondered on, he is fired from his job. In the library people leave immediately as soon as they see Andrew with the blotches on his skin. Witnessing the discrimination Andrew has to go through, Joe changes his mind and takes on the case. HIV or Human Immunodeficiency Virus is a retrovirus that results to AIDS or acquired immunodeficiency syndrome. The immune system fails to function properly. This leads to life-threatening infections in the human body.
Throughout the film, Andrew and Joe establish respect and trust for one another. Joe’s homophobia is not an issue. Despite the shock of the Pennsylvanian population, Joe presents to everyone that Andrew is not a virus in society. He berates Andrew’s boss of perjury by humiliating Andrew claiming that he is incompetent, simply because he is finding a reason to let him go. In the end, Andrew wins his case and he receives a total $4,240,000. This win makes a statement on sexual discrimination in Philadelphia in terms of preference.
Unfortunately, for Andrew, the news is bittersweet as he stays in a hospital with his family around him. He undergoes medication to lessen the seizures. There is a moment in the movie wherein Joe approaches Andrew and helps him with his oxygen mask. In that act, Joe’s fingers touch Andrew’s face. This is the complete opposite of how he reacted in the earlier part of the film – when he shook his hand and wiped it clean, after knowing he had AIDS. Released in the early 90s, “Philadelphia” signaled the move for Hollywood to depict homosexuals realistically.
Since then, movies and TV shows feature gays and lesbians, which is a breather to those who are open-minded. (Gary, 224) Schools require sex education in order for teenagers to be informed and knowledgeable on HIV and AIDS. (Green, 42) ”There’s Something About Mary” (1998) is a comedy directed by Bobby and Peter Farrelly, collectively known as the Farrelly brothers. Unlike “Rain Man” and “Philadelphia,” the psychosocial disability in “There’s Something About Mary” does not have an entire effect on the film.
As opposed to the fact that Charlie and Raymond’s relationship are affected by Raymond’s autism and it is Andrew’s HIV that begins the case in the first place, the psychosocial disability in “There’s Something About Mary” is Warren’s mental retardation. Warren, played by W. Earl Brown, is the older brother of Mary (Cameron Diaz). He has stunted language and motor skills and has an intellectual capacity as that of a child. In the movie, he gets mad whenever strangers touch his ears. Thus he always has to have these covered. People who are mentally retarded have slow developmental abilities.
They have a delay in their learning and development. In the movie, Ted Stroehmann (Ben Stiller) tries so hard to take care of Warren in order to show Mary how much he cares for her, that he is willing look after her brother. Warren in the movie has a hard time speaking. He also finds it hard to remember things and cannot understand the social rules. Whenever Warren does not get his way, he threatens people with his baseball bat. He also has a trouble thinking logically and throws tantrums. The common bond among autism, AIDS and mental retardation is that these are disabilities and are not diseases.
Unfortunately, there is no cure to any of these. The only way the family of the patient can help is to support and be physically present as the individual goes through this hard phase. In the United States, there are agencies which assist people with psychosocial disabilities. It is operated by the state and is non-profit. There are departments that provide housing to the staff of the nurses and doctors who care for the patients. An example is the institution Raymond is staying in. Apparently, in real life, there are also institutions such as these. Another social issue that was previously taboo is homosexuality.
Thanks to the participation of media, gays and lesbians are given a voice through the characters in movies and TV shows. A stereotype on homosexuals is that they are the ones who have AIDS/HIV. Apparently, straight men like Magic Johnson can also get the disability. Through information technology, people are informed on the 411 of HIV. People with psychosocial disabilities may take several medications but it will not lessen the complications. Therefore, society must participate in special programs that will enlighten them on how to care for those who have these disabilities.
It may take some time to accomplish this but the finish line is for “normal” people and those who have psychosocial disabilities live together, without annoyance and prejudice. (Farber, 124) The prejudice and the exclusion by society of people with these disabilities result to the factors of recognizing those who are intellectual, physical and psychologically smarter, despite their illness. This is what films featuring these disabilities have brought forth into the real world. It may be entertainment, but it is interesting to note that both “Rain Man” and “Philadelphia” were somehow inspired by real life stories.
Raymond was inspired by Kin Peek while Andrew Beckett’s inspiration was the real-life attorney Geoffrey Bowers who also sued his law firm. One of the current concerns of society is equality. There will always be the struggle for equality, especially in marginalized parties. The equal rights give individuals the ability and the power to make their own decisions. Unfortunately, autistic and those who have mental retardation cannot do as such. Therefore, the social model of disability has been created. This requires a change in society. This motivates people to be more positive toward those with the disabilities.
The former must not underestimate the latter’s behavior and traits for the very reason that these may be potential qualities of a contributing citizen. There are social support organizations that deal with the resources, barriers and discrimination of people who have disabilities. (Patricia, 243) Lastly and most importantly, just as like that of HIV/AIDS, these organizations inform the general society what they must know about autism and mental retardation. Just because a loved one is not suffering from the psychosocial disease, it does not mean that one family will stop caring. Films encourage us to care.
By letting us into the world of which we are not familiar with, we take in the knowledge that we can, be it the side comedy provided by the supporting character Warren in “There’s Something About Mary”, or the side story of the courtroom drama in “Philadelphia” or the best example out of all three, the very reason for two brothers to re-discover one another. Works Cited De Leon, George, Community As Method: Therapeutic Communities for Special Populations and Special Settings, Praeger Publishers, 1997 Farrington, David P. , Early Prevention of Adult Antisocial Behavior, Cambridge University Press, 2003
Stowe, Matthew J, “Tools for Analyzing Policy “On the Books” and Policy “On The Streets”, Journal of Disability Policy Studies, Vol 12, 2001 Turnbull, Rutherford III, “I Have Six Kids Who Are Autistic”, The Mirror, March 12, 2005 Green, Philip, Cracks in the Pedestal: Ideology and Gender in Hollywood, University of Massachusetts Press, 1998 Arnold, Gary, “’In’ Fails To Keep Out Incoherent Plot Twists”, The Washington Times, September 19, 1997 Farber, Bernard, Mental Retardation: Its Social Contexts and Social Consequences, Houghton Mifflin, 1968 Ainsworth, Patricia, Understanding Mental Retardation, University Press of Mississippi, 2004
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