He strides into the cafe we’ve agreed to meet at. Leggy, silver-tressed, with creamy skin lightly dusted with freckles, Harper’s president and publisher Rick MacArthur is a knock-out at 62 even in the rumpled khakis that glide over his still-boyish hips. When he collapses into a chair, he lays a Trapper Keeper on the table, murmuring that it’s ten times better than that [bleeped] phone nonsense.
Announcing that this is his cheat day — “I learned recently this referred to food!” — he peruses the menu — “This menu’s paper quality is fantastic, isn’t it?” — before ordering a green juice, bananas Foster, and a double Scotch. He asks me when the guy who’s doing the interview is going to show. He is adorable. He asks again, using the words, “Chop chop.” He’s everything this interview said he’d be.
I’m still mesmerized by how stunning Rick MacArthur is, in person. The Author’s Guild photos don’t do him justice. I ask who dressed him for our interview and he gazes at me with fathomless confusion before laying his fingertips lightly on his shirt-front and saying, “I should know this! He’s worked for our family since before I was born. He’s going to be so mad at me. Not that he’ll ever express it.”
As the long-awaited second installment of Tales From the Crip’s series, Imaginary Interviews With People Who We Wish Were Imaginary, our new FuckAbility™ Research Council‘s Crip Carpet Correspondent, Janky Wheelchair, follows up on TryHarder™ Magazine’s recent take-down of John Hockenberry’s
journaling essay, “Exile,” by devoting an entire episode of THE SIT-DOWN to publisher of the essay, Harper’s Rick MacArthur.
The vivacious magnate talks nonstop about why paraplegics can’t sexually harass anyone; why he, a Francophile, is launching a Moi Aussi men’s movement to counter Me Too’s “Soviet-style” excesses; why paper is the future of Harper’s; and how everyone forgets how great John Hockenberry was in the film Coming Home. Keep reading for the unedited transcript of Janky Wheelchair’s exclusive hard-hitting interview with lively minx Rick MacArthur.
Flambee your bananas and keep the Scotch flowing because Harper’s RICK MACARTHUR is gracing the cover of NotPeople magazine as the CLUELESSEST MAN ALIVE!
Issue No. 2: The Takeaway or Please, Take This Essay Away
In which The Crip shares 2¢ takeaways from John Hockenberry’s 7,000-word essay about the loss of a high-status career identity that was purchased and published by a pretty damn high-status periodical.
THE TAKEAWAY! Hockenberry says none of this is justification for offensive behavior toward women but it sure seems like he does:
“Being a misguided romantic, or being born at the wrong time, or taking the wrong cues from the sexual revolution of the Sixties, or having a disability that leaves one impotent at the age of nineteen—none of this is a justification for offensive behavior toward women. But is a life sentence of unemployment without possibility of furlough, the suffering of my children, and financial ruin an appropriate consequence? Does my being expunged from the profession in which I have worked for decades constitute a step on the road to true gender equality?”
THE TAKEAWAY! Hockenberry thinks “unemployment” is the same thing as “not getting the same high-status work I once had and still want.”
Did You Know?
You may be working three jobs but those aren’t real jobs if they’re not prestigious. Take note of this, low-wage workers. #CripTips
2018 UPDATE: STILL ALIVE
STILL OPPOSED TO EUPHEMIZING DISABLED PEOPLE BY NORMALIZING OUR SUICIDES THROUGH LANGUAGE
I’m still disabled, still degenerating, and still filled with joie de crip, but even if I weren’t, I still wouldn’t be buying the double-speak that calls my suicide “a rational choice,” “death with dignity,” and “ending my life on my own terms,” while a (seemingly) nondisabled person’s suicide is “a public health problem.”
The terms we use in talking about an issue set the terms of the debate. Suicide is a public health problem. Distorting that through
sophistry marketing language feeds suicide contagion.
September 10 is World Suicide Prevention Day. But for a disabled person like me, it’s just not my day. Literally.
What would be a “threat of self-harm” for you, is a “personal choice” for me.
What calls for an intervention for you, calls for a pre-suicide party for me.
Your movie is It’s a Wonderful Life. My movie is It’s a Wonderful Death.
When it comes to people like me, suicide is rapidly becoming normalized. Or more exactly, suicide is being erased through re-branding. “It’s not ‘suicide’! It’s ‘ending your life on your own terms’!”
Good Will Hunting Matt Damon Hails Diversity in Gus Van Sant’s Narrative, Says: Don’t Worry, Your Story of Charles Bukowski John Callahan, an Angry, Alcoholic, Tortured-Artist White Guy With an Adoring and Need-Free Girlfriend Who Supports His Artistry Is Totally a Fresh Take and the Janky Wheelchair Is a Genius Casting Choice, Lending Rare Authenticity to the Project, and Giving a Raw Performance of Startling Gravitas Seldom Seen From a Piece of Durable Medical Equipment (DME)
Also: Muffin Baskets of Condolence for the Death of Any Attempt to Cast Disabled Actors or, Like, Even One of the [NUMBER REDACTED] Wheelchair-Using Actors Currently in the Business of Show, May Be Sent to the “Association to Raise Awareness of Disability Awareness in the Entertainment Industry” at Their Offices, Which Are, No Doubt, Located on the Second Floor of a Building Without An Elevator
FOR YOUR CONDESCENSION, we present:
DISCLAIMER: All snark, snottiness, sarcasm, and snappy sardonicism contained therein is directed solely at Gus Van Sant’s directorial choices regarding He Won’t Get Far on Foot (originally titled, My Own Private Solipsism) and not toward John Callahan, who was, in FARC’s opinion, one funny fucker. Even when he was wrong, he was hilariously wrong:
FuckAbility™ Research Council (FARC) is a piece of letterhead housed on the Tales From the Crip website. FARC’s mission is to raise awareness of hollywood’s lack of awareness that many disabled adults fuck in groups of one or more. All views expressed are subject to change and denial.
Issue No. 1: Ableism Speaks
In which The Crip gives very special ableist remarks the 2¢ they deserve
“If you’ve got your health, you’ve got everything.”
Sure, health is important but if you’ve always lived with a chronic condition and/or a progressively degenerative one like I have, hearing this most common of platitudes leads to a waxy bummer build-up in the psyche. It is no pleasure to ponder the possibility that you regard me as having…nothing. Nor do I want to reprise my role on Emotional Labor: Special Cripple Unit where I tell myself you don’t actually mean that. I would prefer instead that people express gratitude for what health they have (I know health is a nice thing!) without making such a sweeping generalization about what a good quality of life requires.
Did You Know?
A disability does not necessarily mean “sick.” Unless you mean, “sick of discrimination.” Then — oh yeah. #CripTips
Matt Damon, MD (Master of Diversity) Hails Diversity in Film; Would Probably Remember to Include Disability Diversity if Prompted. Diversity.
Tonight, in beautiful downtown Switzerland — the Alps of the louge of suicide, home of the valley of the shadow of dignity, where the hills aren’t really all that alive — the FuckAbility™ Research Council is presenting its coveted Palme d’Visage award for the most condescending portrayal of disability in film.
This year’s nominees amazed us with their ability to FINALLY include disabled characters who fucked in groups of one or more. But, as can so often happen after such sexy-times, we were left in the dark saying to some character we barely knew, “That’s it? Seriously? OK, you know what? Please go.”
And here are our nominees:
The Shape of Water, originally titled Children of a Lesser Black Lagoon, is about a lowly, lovely woman with no voice who is drawn into an inexplicable relationship with a sea-goblin that everyone is fascinated yet repelled by…but we’re not seeing how this is anything but an embarrassing obvious Weinsteinian fantasy wank.
Breathe is nominated, a film that our UK correspondent, The DisHon. Hilaria Mirth-Sitwell, gave one middle-finger up out of a possible two, because of the “twist” in which our hero decides to kill himself. It reminded us that the only thing more durable than the medical equipment he helped pioneer is the stigma of being dependent on another person.
Now this one is a shame, because Please Stand By‘s director, Ben Lewin, made the very down-to-earth fucking-while-disabled movie The Sessions, and as an openly disabled man, is aware of both disability culture and politics. Would that his earlier directness about interior character shaping responses to living with a disability had dropped by the set of Please Stand By. Because all we got here was a collection of external behaviors in search of a character, all stuck in a script full of strange contradictions and cliches. And there’s a screenplay. So. Was this some hackish meta-comment on how quirky and awkward screenplay-writers are, in general? We may never know. It’s an ouro-bouros of tropes. We do know this movie prompted a great idea for somebody’s future disability studies thesis: “The Role of Random Television References in Portrayals of Characters With Unspecified Neuroatypical Conditions-Slash-Identities: Being There, Rain Man, Please Stand By.”
Christ, this is tiring.
Our final nominee has been roundly criticized for its casting of sighted actors in a movie about blind characters. Ordinarily, we would be outraged, too. But the entire concept for this film is such a piece of shit, it’s hard to care. It began as a flawed pitch complete with a meet-crip — When Mr. Magoo Met Sally — then appears to have struck a highly lucrative deal with The Sunglass Hut that opened the door to Named Unblind Talent, i.e., Alec Baldwin and Demi Moore, and the film’s death spiral began before crashing clumsily into theaters like someone’s stereotypical picture of someone who is Blind.
And the most condescending portrayal of disability in film and winner of this year’s Palme d’ Visage goes to…
Not only for the aforementioned casting half-assery but for outstanding condescension in its very bones.
We bestow the Palme d’Visage on the Blind producers who couldn’t see the giant, flashing problems with their movie about being blind.
This is baked-in, reduce to a glaze, from-scratch condescension, folks. From it’s one-word title — we fucking HATE the phoned-in pretentiousness of one-word titles — that all-too-accurately signals that the movie will be about Doing Stuff While Blind. And not really interesting or terribly real stuff. Walking while blind! Using a white cane while blind! Wearing a blazer while blind! Getting read to while blind! Talking huskily about loss while blind! Because that’s what being blind is. It’s being blind. Being blind all the time. So very, very, very blind. Blind.
And, no, we never actually saw Blind. We figured if the producers could make a movie about people they haven’t seen, why did we need to see a movie before judging it?