5. Why is suicide being presented as a solution, rather than a problem, when the people involved have disabilities?
September is Suicide Awareness Month and September 10 is World Suicide Prevention Day. I’m writing this because media coverage over the past year alone seems to warrant an explicit reminder that:
- We don’t lack awareness of people with disabilities committing suicide; we do allow vulnerable people to feel shame over chronic pain and depression.
- Our suicides deserve prevention, not encouragement and cultural misrepresentation, as in films such as Me Before You.
What’s the context beyond the medical? What are the underlying attitudes guiding how the media’s coverage of people with disabilities who have committed suicide or who are planning to do so?
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BONUS UPDATE ACTION ALERT!
From the FuckAbility™ Research Council:
“In response to movie theaters handing out Kleenex to ‘Me Before You’ ticket buyers, FARC calls on our sacrificial viewers to proceed to theaters carrying rolls of toilet paper. When offered the Kleenex, counter-offer your TP, and explain, ‘You’re gonna need it – Me Before You is full of ableist shit.”
FuckAbility™ Research Council Celebrates May As Masturbation Month By Telling Palme d’Snuffilme Winner Me Before You To Go Fuck Itself
Matt Damon hails film’s commitment to diversity
(Cannes’t, OR) Did you know that [INSERT NUMBER] people don’t know that there are [INSERT NUMBER] people with disabilities fucking RIGHT NOW? And that it’s unlikely that even one of those fuckings is a prelude to an assisted suicide?
That’s fucking outrageous. But even more outrageous is the idea that a young man would rather commit suicide in Switzerland than get laid in England. Because WHEELCHAIR.
“He helped us realize that you can’t just pick and choose who you exclude – you have to exclude everyone. In that sense, we are incredibly proud of how inclusive we are of people with disabilities.”
Yet it seems that the clichéd meet-cute that signals death-defying romance for the apparently undisabled becomes something very different – a meet-crip – when one of the partners is apparently disabled.
When the characters meet-crip, the romance becomes life-defying.
We spoke to the film’s Medical Advisor, [INSERT NAME HERE], on the movie’s messages about spinal cord injury rehabilitation and quality of life. “’Diversity’ was a word the producers said a lot. I’m very proud of the message of diversity this movie sends about what it’s like to be white, wealthy, male, and doomed to a romantic future with an employee who doesn’t understand sexual harassment.”
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5. Because we need to support the decisions of overburdened parents/caregivers of severely disabled children right up until the time when their decisions require public funding for adequate and affordable in-home supports.
It’s feels like it’s 2007 all over again, what with “growth-attenuation therapy” for severely disabled children – many of whom are girls – being back in the news. And today, just like then, people with disabilities are trying to make this all about them. But there’s no unrecognized ableism framing this “ethical debate.” It’s not as though fearful parents who really do care about their children — who really are severely disabled — are being given an absurd and brutal choice:
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The only disability in life is a bad attitude…until you factor in #inspirationporn like, “Love is…walking,” that Leo Burnett and Shriners’ thought was a super-appropriate slogan for a kid in a wheelchair to say. For Shriners’ fundraising stragedy campaign. For $$.
Sure, I’ve been critical of the charity fundraising model. Sure, I’ve had some harsh things to say about inspiration porn. And, yes, I’ve argued that children with disabilities can be valuable comestibles. None of that precludes me from providing a valuable Professional Fundraiser’s Assessment of the Shriners’ commercial above:
The problem with this ad for Shriners’ Hospital is that it doesn’t go far enough. It goes right up to the edge and hesitates.
Bottom line: If you’re not inspiring AND terrifying your audience, they’re not hearing why they should give to you to make you stop talking.
My 3-Point Pointers for Insperrifying™ Medical-Model Messaging (3M™)
- Love = Cure. You’ve laid the groundwork, now close the deal. You’ve got the kids believing love is about walking. Now have them say what you really mean: “My parents will hate me if I can’t walk!”
- Kids ♥ Begging. Whether it’s for a puppy or surgery, kids are world-class chin-tremblers. Yet you haven’t even given them the tools they need. What, Shriners’ can’t afford a couple of tin cups?
- Follow Your Non-Bliss. On-camera talent should appear in naturalistic settings that echo your message of disability = despair. A seclusion room in a badly run public school. Waiting at a stop where the bus rolls by them. Watching fundraising commercials for people “like that.”
Remember: Real World Fundraising™ measures itself on the Jerry Scale. On the Jerry Scale you have to scare to score!
Wishing you all a very happy #GivingTuesday on December 1st!