So, meet Ian Buckwalter of The Atlantic. Ian has a bone to pick with the slew of feel-good films about disability that have come out this year in a naked grab for Oscars, and so do I, but the bones we’re picking are, uh, radically different. I’m concerned about the trope of the feel-good disability movie, in which disability-as-tragedy is used as a humbling object lesson for the viewer, all presented through the nondisabled lens and with the assumption that of course nondisabled people are the only ones doing the viewing. And I’m perennially angered by the use of cripface in Hollywood, where playing disabled gets you a fast track to an Oscar nomination while talented disabled actors go unemployed because, you know, what would they have to bring to roles as disabled characters.
Buckwalter, though, is mad because these movies don’t make him feel sad enough in the heartspace. You see, movies about disability intended to make nondisabled viewers feel great about how nondisabled they are, how lucky they are that they don’t experience disability, how great it is, really, to not be a cripple, ‘need to also make you feel bad.’ Because how can you really understand the tragedy, the misery, the pathos of disability unless you feel brought down low by the narrative?