Tag Archives: body

Will Banning Scars on Bad Guys Bring Out the Scars on Princesses?

11 Aug

 

Of all the recent reviews of The Lion King, old and new, film critic Doug Walker’s sums it up best: “I blame bad parenting for [Scar killing his brother the king]. Because when you name one kid ‘Mufasa’meaning ‘king’and you name the other kid ‘Scar’meaning ‘scar’aren’t you just begging for something like this to happen?”

It’s been nine months since the British Film Institute made a pledge regarding films like The Lion King: No more funding for films featuring villains with facial deformities. Ben Roberts, the BFI’s deputy CEO, told The Telegraph, “Film is a catalyst for change and that is why we are committing to not having negative representations depicted through scars or facial difference in the films we fund.” The decision was in support of the #IAmNotYourVillain campaign by the British advocacy group Changing Faces, which is “for everyone with a scar, mark or condition on their face or body that makes them look different.”

Filmmakers and artists could argue that banning any portrayal (no matter how stereotypical) constitutes censorship. Which is why a more productiveand, arguably, radicalmove was the BFI’s simultaneous pledge to promote stories that portray disfigured heroes and heroines. This included funding for this summer’s critically acclaimed Dirty God (see above), about a woman facing prejudice both public and private after an acid attack. Perhaps the most groundbreaking aspect of the film is the main character’s portrayal by newcomer Vicky Knight, who has had burn marks on a third of her body since she was 8-years-old. This is an utterly extraordinary break in the long, long history of conventionally attractive, non-disabled actors slapping on makeup and prosthesis to portray deformed and disabled characters. And win awards for it.

And can I just SQUEE! for a moment over the fact that the Dirty God is also brave enough to make viewers watch and learn to empathize with a disfigured woman? Stories about learning to find true beauty within have existed before. But rarely has this been applied to a non-disfigured man meeting a disfigured woman. To quote a spot-on meme of Beauty and the Beast: “Appearances don’t matter. What counts is what’s in your heart. Unless you’re the girl.” As I’ve written before, tremendous progress will have been made when we as filmgoers can name numerous scenes wherein a heroine unveils a severe facial deformity and her strapping lover says, “I think it’s intriguing. And I wanna knock boots with you. So. Bad.” 

Is that too much to ask of the industry? The public? To quote Wonder, the best American film about a facial deformity of the past several years: “He can’t change how he looks, so we have to change how we see.”

 

 

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Summer Body Challenge

4 Aug

embedded  bodies(Image by Camil Tulcan used under CC 2.0 via)

 

Yes, I know summer is halfway over. No need to tell me.

And it’s been seven years since I hailed eating-disorder survivor Chloe Angyal’s truism that there is no right way to hate your body. And in those seven years, I have come to see more and more what a pillar of everyday conversation body-bashing is, particularly in social circles dominated by women. Someone complains about their weight-gain since pregnancy. Another bemoans the physical signs of aging. Another comments on how fattening someone’s lunchtime meal is, which is why they opted against it. Another talks about some new product they love intended to combat certain bodily features. Another knocks a body part on someone they dated/are dating/want to date. Like insecurity, it’s everywhere.

I’m not going to pretend that kicking this habit is a quick fix. It’s far from easy to accept your every single physical feature despite how unfashionable the society you live in currently considers it. But if many of us enjoy challenging ourselves with strict diets and exercise regimens, why not challenge ourselves to stay off the body-bashing? At least until September 21st?  Until then, only positive or matter-of-fact observances about your physical features. And those that don’t belong to you. Discussing pain, illness, or disability is fine, but that should never link to comments on physical appearance. Discussing fashion preferences is fine, as long as they never link to comments about whose body can “pull it off”. Do you think you can join me in this? If not, why not?

Additional Rules for the Super-Disciplined Who Want to Push Themselves Even Further:

  • Food is to be enjoyed, not criticized. Don’t voice why you don’t like something or how it doesn’t fit into your diet, unless you have a dangerous allergy and traces of a given food could send you to the emergency room. If you don’t like something, quietly leave it to the side or request it be left off your plate. In turn, when you’re the cook, never comment on how much or little a guest ate.
  • Exercise, on the contrary, is to be complained about. Why do so many of us rave about how good we feel after an exercise session, but not, say, a hot bath? Is it possibly to garner attention and praise for having spent time on something so boring and uncomfortable? When I exercise, I groan and swear a good deal of the way through and I glare at any instructor who’s too perky. I’ve found that reiterating this afterwards it makes people laugh – as opposed to bragging about my achievement, which might inspire one or two people to follow my routine, but will certainly make some of my listeners feel worse and/or resent me. Some form of exercise is generally good for most of us on earth. But, like doing the laundry or taxes, we don’t have to pretend to like it. Those who sincerely do like exercising are blessed and therefore have all the more reason to be happy without needing external validation. They can curl up with their self-satisfaction and write about in their journals. The ones not posted online.
  • Do you have any suggestions to up the challenge? Tell me in the comments.

What’s the reward for those who meet this challenge? That’s for the winners to find out.

 

 

No One’s Magical Object: Albinos, Dwarfs and Any Body You Can Think Of

6 Dec

Turning Green on Anatomy(Image by Wolfram Burner used under CC 2.0 via)

 

In his otherwise spectacular book, Far From the Tree, Andrew Solomon issues a false point I myself have issued in the past: that we dwarfs are the only minority on earth to be associated with magic and mythology. Perhaps it is easy to forget that blind people have been associated in the past with “seeing” into the future and disabled children of all sorts were believed to be cursed by if not the very spawn of the devil in the Medieval and Early Modern cultures of Europe. But we should not forget any of this when considering the current scandal surrounding the abuse of albino people in Tanzania.

A BBC investigation in 2008 revealed that some adherents of supernatural belief systems in East Africa today advocate severing and stealing the limbs of albino people to keep as good luck charms. A harrowing documentary, The Boy from Geita, airing this week profiles the victims of such a crime.

Tuvalo Manongi, the U.N. ambassador to Tanzania is fighting back, arguing that the film’s trailer unfairly portrays his country as a land of bloodthirsty heathens in need of Great White Western enlightenment. The documentary does accuse members of Tanzania’s legislature of secretly condoning the practice, implicating some of its members in the sales of the body parts. The Canadian director, Peter Ash, stands by his story and says Manongi isn’t one to talk: “[Manongi] probably doesn’t hang around people with albinism for 12 hours a day and weeks on end in [Tanzania] like I do.”  Ash himself has albinism.

Post-colonial social justice activists generally agree that the best way to expand human rights in other countries is to support the activists in said country, no matter how few their numbers. Ultimately such locals should lead the charge lest foreign aid organizations indeed act out of ignorance of the local history and culture. Tanzania Albino Centre and the Tanzania Albinism Society are two organizations dedicated to combating the problem.

As an outsider, I have little else to offer other than the demand that we as humans let go of any beliefs—supernatural or otherwise—that fetishize extraordinary bodies. I’ve been asked by Western Wiccans and Lord of the Rings fanatics if I as a dwarf feel a connection to my “magical” history. People with dwarfism, intersexing conditions, and many, many other rare diagnoses regularly have to endure and/or stave off fetishists when dating (as in “I’ve always wanted to f*** a little person!”) or simply going about their everyday lives.

The ability to see beauty and interpret art in the rainbow of human bodily diversity is one of the greatest feats of the human imagination. But objectification is never okay without consent. And openly voicing our fetishes regarding certain bodies drowns out the voices of those who have no choice about owning those bodies. We’ve got a lot of work to do before this becomes universally understood.