Film Review-Psycho-Social Aspects of Disability
Bob Thornton stars in Sling Blade’s lead role as Karl childers-a mentally handicapped man who has led much of his life in a psychiatric hospital since he was twelve. Childers lands into a state mental institution after killing his mother and her lover. Childers spent 25 years under institutionalization before release. The movie portrays how difficult life can be for people that are mentally retarded, because society finds it hard to accept them in their midst.
It also shows the threat and challenges that such people pose to society, because at times they may engage in criminal and unlawful activities. Childers spent much of his life in a state psychiatric institution, however; this does not change his state any much because society is not ready for him just as it was before being institutionalized. The movie is a clear portrayal of the challenges that mentally retarded people have in common. Childers found nobody that would willingly accept him as family or friend, however; he finds young Frank, a fatherless boy with whom they form a strong bond and friendship.
The film also shows that mental conditions may at times lead retarded people into committing crimes without understanding the repercussions of their actions. This is exemplified in the film by Childers’ action of murdering his mother’s lover. Childers told Frank that he did it because he had thought that the man was raping his mother. However, on discovering that his mother was willingly participating in the relation, he decided to also murder her. The commitment of crime by retarded people such as Childers may be cited as the main reason why most mentally retarded people are institutionalized (APA, 1984).
The ability of Childers to get back to society, and at least acquire a job at an engine repair shop shows that mentally impaired people can still live “normally” in society like many other people. Childers had developed interest in engine repair since his early childhood and during his time in institutionalization. The film also depicts that proper institutionalization and training is able to help mentally impaired people get back to society and become constructive.
Frank finally introduced Childers to his mother (Linda) and her friend Vaughan, who also happens to be a manager at the store that Linda works as an employee. The two receive him with little passion, and after hearing about Childers’ past Vaughan gets concerned about Childers history in the mental institution. However, Linda decides to let Childers move into her garage and this action angers Doyle-Linda’s boyfriend. This part of the film depicts how people are always wary about accepting mentally impaired people into their homes or lives. As time went by Vaughan also came to fully accept and bond with Childers.
Probably because he also knew the ridicules and intolerances of society on people that were thought to be different like him and Childers. Vaughan was gay, and his state of being different somehow made Vaughan identify himself with Childers position in society. The film shows how prejudiced society can be in handling mentally impaired people or at least people perceived to be different. Doyle ridicules and talks badly about Childers because he knows that he is retarded, and his action greatly angers Frank who comes to the defense of Childers as his best friend.
Later in the movie Childers becomes Frank’s father figure as their relation grows closer, and in turn; Frank’s hatred for Doyle grows because he is abusive and arrogant. Childers’ shows more humane feelings that greatly contradict what people may think about his past actions. Childers’ regards Frank as his younger brother. He goes to extent of revealing to Frank about his past ordeal of disposing his unwanted, prematurely born brother. Childers states that the event greatly haunts him most of the times, and as a result visits his further in a subsequent scene to reiterate that killing of his brother was wrong.
Childers revealed to his father (Duvall) that he had contemplated murdering him because of the action, but later was convinced that it was not worthwhile. The movie seemingly tries to show that mentally impaired people are reasonable, sensitive and that they too have feelings just like any other normal individual within society. As such it tries to show that if well handled they can live and act just all other normal humans. However, the temperamental events engaging Childers indicate that mentally impaired people may have abnormal anger and ways of thinking that may make them make rush actions that could harm other people perceived to be a threat to them.
As a result, they ought to be treated carefully. This can be exemplified by Childers action of murdering Doyle. Doyle’s increasingly abusive and insensitive nature greatly angers Linda who kicks him out of her house. However, later Doyle returns after reconciliation with Linda. Doyle later threatens to bring about changes including kicking out Childers, and this greatly angers Childers. Childers realizes that he can take action against Doyle and plans to murder him so as to lessen the pain and problems that he is causing to Linda and Frank. Childers’ plans to have Linda and Frank spend a night at Vaughan so that he can carryout his plan.
On the night of the crime Childers seems to have doubts about the plan. He walks away, but later hesitantly returns into the house. He inquires from Doyle on how to reach and direct the police, then goes ahead to murder him with a lawn mower that he had sharpened during the day. As the film ends Childers turns himself in and calls for a hearse to pick Doyle’s body.
Childers is then taken back to the mental hospital that he was in before, and while there he rebuffs a sexual predator who had been using him earlier in his horrible acts. The fact that Childers had earlier been molested used in the film to indicate how some people may take advantage of mentally handicapped people by using them in acts that are demeaning and at times harmful. The film is a clear picture of the ongoing problems that people that have mental illnesses may be facing.
Their state of mind may not be totally impaired and they can reason, think and perform various tasks. Similarly, as social beings they can relate well with any other people in their environment. However, the poor reception, mistreatment, ridicule and mistrust that people accord them at times could drive their mental state into a more serious state (Eisenberg & Glueckauf, 1991). As a result, they may become deranged and end up doing serious offensive acts. Institutionalization may not be the only solution, though it may be used to hold mentally disabled people as they go through processes of training and behavior shaping. Additionally, society should be more appreciative and accommodating to people with mental disabilities so as to make them feel accepted.
Passion fish was directed and written by John Sayles. The 1992 release stars Mary McDonnell-May-Alice Culhane-a very successful soap opera star that goes into paralysis after being hit by a taxi cab. Living a successful independent and happy life was all Culhane knew about before the accident, but after the accident and subsequent paralysis she goes into a state of dependency. She has to rely on a series of nurses in all his activities. As a result of the accident she has to move back to her family and rely on their help.
She gets almost deranged and mad at every one trying to help her in life. She loses her acting career and that makes her really angry because she learns that she can never get back to her normal life. She has to go through a series of new training to help build her upper body strength that will be her only source of support. The film shows how a person’s life can change after encountering accidents that may cause partial paralysis. It portrays how people can get bitter as a result of getting paralyzed. These emotions of anger, self pity and helplessness create bitterness in an individual as portrayed by Culhane’s case.
In turn, a person goes into a state of loneliness and withdrawal, to the extent that they fail to understand or accept the fact that there still may be people that care about them anymore. As a result, a person develops a state of solitude and desires to always be left alone (APA, 1984). Culhane shows this by getting into a habit of getting intoxicated, abusive and stubborn to her nurses. Consequently, most of the nurses leave her after a short period of service. Culhane finally had to go back to her empty family house in Louisiana- a place she had desired to leave in her earlier days before taking up her acting career in New York.
The stress and trauma she had undergone made Culhane drink heavily. She vented her bitterness and anger on various nurses that come to take care of her because of the influence of alcohol and bitterness in her. She further refused to even listen to psychologists that visit to counsel her. Her state of mind got worse each day as realized that she may never go back to her normal life.
Finally, Culhane met Chantelle. Culhane was warned that she would be the last nurse that she was going to get due to the fact that she could not keep any of the nurses that she received for her home care. Luckily, Chantelle was in a position that made her wish and desire that the job should work out for her. Chantelle’s stubbornness matched Culhane's and as a result Culhane could not easily repulse Chantelle. On the other hand, Chantelle was also a recovering drug addict, and as a result she could not afford to lose the offered job opportunity.
She too had her own problems, and thus; she would not wish to have Culhane make her let go. The mutual dislike between the two women finally becomes an armed truce. The two women finally, deal with deal with their own problems as well as help each other in recovering from their emotional problems. Their successful emotional healing indicates that no matter the lose or stress and trauma that accompanies, with the right mindset it is possible for victims to attain a full emotional healing if they can only open up for help.
Despite the numerous praises accorded to the film people and society at large still fail to understand the plight of disabled people. Especially, those that fall out of active life into disability due to accidents and diseases that causes problems such as paralysis. In Passion Fish Culhane offers a good example of not only how a person’s life can transform both in terms of his/her physical life and mental state. People need to learn that disabled people are not so much bitter at any person in particular, but rather their state of being (Eisenberg & Glueckauf, 1991).
Therefore, living them in this state because they do not seem friendly or accommodative may not serve in helping them recover at least emotionally. These people need to be shaken out of their miserable self pity so that they can realize that there is still a life to live. In some instances some of these disabled people have even gone to the extent of committing suicide, just because there was no one to attend to them. Take Culhane’s instance for example; had Chantelle not badly needed the job to work out for her, she would probably have left too. Finally, Culhane would have been left on her own getting more miserable than ever. While in the real sense, only a dedicated person was lacking-one that would be determined to make it work.
Like so many disabled people Culhane failed to accept the state that she had landed into, and thereafter try to adapt to it. This is depicted by her refusal to train so as to develop upper body strength that would enable her survives in her current state. She lives in denial, not accepting that indeed there was nothing that could be done and that she was now just like any other disabled individual. Living in denial is portrayed throughout the movie as Culhane refuses to accept or cooperate towards any activity meant to help her recover and move on with life.
Any practitioner dealing with such difficult people may find it so hard to assist them in their recovery process due to their disturbed mental states. However, it takes dedication and perseverance to see them through, and thus; any person wishing to help or work with such people should have these qualities. These may not be easy to acquire naturally, but these practitioners could be trained on how to handle such people (APA, 1984).
Children of a lesser god
Children of a lesser god, is a 1986 production of a romantic film featuring a speech teacher working in a school of deaf students. The teacher falls in love with a deaf woman that works in the same institution. Sarah, the young woman is a troubled deaf woman that performs cleaning duties at the institution. James, the new teacher at the school encourages the lady to break her solitude and try to associate and learn how to talk.
Sarah is adamant because she already knows how to use sign language and deems it unnecessary to learn how to talk. In the process of encouraging her to talk the two develop romantic interest, and later they move in and start living together. Their relationship gets strained as James tries to get her to talk without giving up. Finally, the relation breaks and Sarah moves into her estranged mother’s home in a neighboring city. Later in the movie the two lovers find an amicable way to solve their problems.
The films main aim is to get the viewers to understand the combination of factors that have made Sarah’s life as it is. In a certain scene within the movie James and Sarah attend a party full of deaf people, and this makes him feel out of place. This served to show why Sarah was always withdrawn-because of feeling out of place in a world where everyone could talk and hear whereas she could not. Through the film we also learn that Sarah was molested as a child, and this coupled with her inability to talk makes her withdrawn and unwilling to readily accept James’ advances.
Sarah a graduate of the same school that she works for decided to remain within the confines of her school because she did not want to go out the world. This is because this was the only place that she understood better and in turn could be understood and get accepted. The film tries to give a message about effective teaching as well as about people that have to cope with handicaps in life. A mature audience should be able to get to understand problems faced by deaf people through watching this film. The film also depicts the challenges that deaf people have to face in community as they try to relate, communicate and associate wit people.
All the three reviewed films present the same theme though in a different manner. The theme of disabled people and the kind of challenges that they face in a society that is so prejudicial, judgmental and discriminative. Society seemingly offers very little attention and help to people with disabilities. The worst thing is that most people go ahead to ridicule and discriminate against people with disabilities instead of helping them cope with life. On the other hand, these films also show the problems that some disabled people have in recovering of states of disability acquired at an older age.
All the highlighted form of disabilities makes the disabled people helpless and meaningless in society. This is worsened by the fact that some people worsen the situation by ridiculing these disabled people instead of helping them in coping with day-to-day life. The disabled people facing such kind of treatment tend to get bitter and angry at actions that make them feel helpless. Disabled people may in turn respond in violent manner to vent out their anger and bitterness either physically or by getting abusive.
This is shown by Childers who murders Doyle, and was intending to murder his father because both of them had done actions that made him angry. Some of the disabled people may become withdrawn because of this reason, as a result; avoid associating with people. This is exemplified by Sarah’s case-she would not feel comfortable in the world outside her former school because she felt isolated and alone in a world whereby she could not communicate freely with anyone.
APA, (1984). Rehabilitation psychology, Volumes 29-30.Springer Publishers Company.
Eisenberg, G.M and Glueckauf. L.R. (1991). Empirical approaches to the psychosocial aspects of disability. Springer Publishers Company.