Friday, October 03, 2008

NFB Protesting the Movie Blindness

I've opened up some discussion on StrangeCulture the past couple months about whether or not it is appropriate, effective, or rational to vocally protest film messages. Recent protest have occurred over the use of the word "retard" in the R-rated comedy Tropic Thunder, or the decision to use the title Towelhead for Alan Ball's dark comedy instead of a previous title, Nothing is Private.

Well I don't know why it surprised me, but tonight I heard about the National Federation for the Blind protesting the film Blindness. The Denver NFB protesters above think people should boycott Miramax's film because of the messages about Blindness in the film.

Respond to this from the story on KUSA (NBC Denver):

Opponents of the movie say this just reinforces inaccurate stereotypes and misconceptions about blindness. They say the movie sends a message that blindness is a tragedy and that blind people need others to take care of them.

Scott LaBarre, president for the NFB, said, “We’re here to tell the public that this is not the proper message about blindness. There’s a much more positive message. The message of the NFB in that, once you have an opportunity, once you have good training, skills and a positive attitude, you can do whatever you want to do.”


Heather said...

This may be un-PC to ask, but do blind people normally go to movies? Is the audio track generally sufficient to follow the story line? If not, then this boycott really has no teeth. It would be like me boycotting travel to the Carribean. It's just not going to matter to their bottom line.

cathy b. said...

It's funny to see what Google ads pop up above your post.
As for blind customers ... the protests are for 'people'. not just blind people, to be aware. And they are probably using this as an opportunity to dispel common stereotypes, not destroy a market.

Amy said...

while I haven't read the book yet or seen the film, it seems to me they're missing the point.

Anonymous said...

The message of the NFB in that, once you have an opportunity, once you have good training, skills and a positive attitude, you can do whatever you want to do.

This is absurd. People who lose their legs in war may eventually be able to live independently and think positively about their missing body parts, but I'll be darned if there's anything but pain and negativity (and cries of "HELP!") overwhelming their bodies and minds in the days following such an event---an event which any sane person would call a tragedy.

James (SeattleDad) said...

The blind protesting the blind...seems odd.

b13 said...

Who made their signs?

I know... I know... there is a seat in hell waiting for me.

People have nothing better to do...

Glenn said...

Their general idea is that the movie shows blind people as being filthy, lawless pigs when it's far from the case in real life, yet they don't seem to understand that a) if the entire population suddenly went blind order would cease to exist and b) it's not like people are going to see Blindness and go "wow, being blind turns you into a lawless filthy pig. I'm never going to go blind."

ugh. Just 'cause they're blind doesn't mean I can't call them idiots.

Lodro Rigdzin said...

I am blind and I find both the novel and the film highly offensive. Which does not mean that the film shouldn't have been made and shown or the novel shouldn't have been written. What Saramago does, as a literary device, is contrast human sightedness with inhuman blindness. Saramago forgets that "blindness" can't ever be a "neutral" signifier exactly because of society's attitude towards blind people. If this had been a movie that used the experience of being black in the same way, it would have been banned because of racism.

PIPER said...

People are too angry. I'm an Evil Clown and I'm not as angry as these people.

They should go out and plant a tree or something.


I've been sent by the big evil guy to take you down to Hell. Right this way, sir.

Anonymous said...

I'm blind, I go to movies a lot, I've seen four in the last two weeks with my boyfriend whom is sighted and other friends. Blind people see movies. The problem the NFB and myself have is that people already treat us different without knowing about our capabilities. Like the person that said, "do blind people even go to movies." Why wouldn't we? If you were deaf would you go to a movie? Yeah. Some theaters have descriptive headsets, some go with sighted friends, and others that have some sight don't need any descriptions. I can see fine in a movie theater, except for subtitles. However, if I'm outside then I can't see anything at all because I am light sensitive. I never before used a cane and would sometimes bump into things or miss communicate body language, now I use a cane or my dog and I'm proud to be blind. People see things like movies or tv shows, and other blind people; and think to themselves, "how would I do anything. How can I get across the street?" Blind people can, I've been to small towns and big cities as large as NYC and seen sighted people cross street without looking or following the traffic flows. You follow your closest parallel traffic. It's not that hard. If People see things like this movie then they'll agree with the stereotypes that it presents. Just like they did for Daredevil and At First Sight. People STILL say, wow you must be able to hear what's going on three blocks away, or your family/service dog must take really good care of you. I take care of myself and my guide dog, I tell him where to go and give him directions. It's already happened in this comment area. I've been grabbed in the middle of a street because someone thought I couldn't get across. I've been told to walk left, keep going left... and refused to listen because I knew that the street was to my left and the person yelling was tell me to go to their left. Sighted people live in a sighted world, and they depend heavily on it. However, what do they miss out on? Do they miss out on someone that could be a great friend or husband/wife because they go on looks? Do they lack a sense of giving directions because they have to visually get you there (instead of go two blocks take a right on Apple st. then follow that 9 blocks to Washington Ave.). THE OVERALL POINT is that you can make a movie about being blind and have it be scary like The Eye, as it positively portrayed blindness. Or could you have a movie that makes it look like we're helpless. I'm not trying to be offensive but if the movie's point is to represent the decay of society with the lack of communication, then shouldn't they be deaf? No offensive to my deaf friends out there but isn't that a better way of lack of communication. Don't associate it with being blind. I communicate just fine and the fact that there are organizations made up of blind people I would think that it makes it clear that there isn't a breakdown in society just because your blind. Why not make everyone blonde, a redhead, black, white, christian, or have cancer? Wouldn't those groups be offended too? Maybe if they were treated everyday like they couldn't go to the bathroom, attend school, be a parent, or be a employed productive citizen. People always complaining that the disabled are using up their tax money, the blind isn't, they're getting jobs and enrolled in school. I know blind teachers, doctors, lawyers, computer programmers, therapists, carpenters, and even a few veterinarians. The only thing keeping us back is sighted individuals that can't think outside their sighted world and realize that the same thing can get accomplished in different ways, and you don't have to be sighted.

Out Of Jersey said...

I am wondering how many of these guys have actually read the story or know what it's about. How would we handle things if the world suddenly went blind?

Anonymous said...

Some of you are prime examples of why the NFB is protesting this movie: you're clueless about blind people and easily susceptible to the influence of movies and novels such as this one.

I was raised by a totally blind single mother. She lost her sight at the age of 30 and had me when she was 35. We watched plenty of tv together and went to quite a few movies. She has never used an audio track to tell her what is going on during the movie, but rather, she does the next logical thing: she listens to the movie and imagines what the visuals are like.

My entire life, I have had to deal with the ignorance of the general public in regard to my mother. She has never seen me, but she learned how to cook, clean, sew, and do everything that any mother should do for her child...and quite a lot more considering that I'm in graduate school at the moment thanks to her support.

Oh yeah, and she can navigate any city because of the mobility training she received after losing her sight.

People don't give up on life just because of a disability. You pick yourself up and move on. You do the best that you can and guess humans, we have that neat ability to ADAPT.

As for reading books, my mother has a bachelor of arts degree in english. She taught from the time that she graduate from college in her early 20's until she had to go in for surgery on her 30th birthday. Have you ever heard of braille or audio books? They are great and she uses them to read as many books as possible. While I was growing up, she would find out my list of reading for each class and she would get the audio books or braille books so that she could read them and then help me work on my homework.

Also, my mom taught me how to read.

She lives a happy life due to her ability to adapt to being totally blind and by having a loving family. She raised not only me, but also my 2 brother who were 7 and 8 years old when she lost her sight. Now she lives by herself, continues to cook, clean, and even color coordinate her clothes so that she always look great!

Many blind people are much cleaner than some sighted people. I have noticed that my mom will over clean just because she can't see if something is still clean or not. She just makes sure by regularly cleaning everything in the home.

So anyway...I am sighted and I'm protesting this film.

Blind people don't want your sympathy, but you all should learn to have a little empathy.

You should also educate yourselves because many of you are coming off as being quite ignorant in these comments.

You are the ones missing the point.

Will said...

Umm, I think this is called the law of unintended consequences.

1. AFB finds out that there's a film called Blindness.

2. No one sees it or reads the phenomenal novel it's based on, written by Nobel Prize-winner José Saramago.

3. They stick their foot in their mouth (collectively, of course!) by completely missing the point and acting like the work of art is hate propaganda or just maybe insensitive.

Umm, really can do better than this.

Will said...

By the way, just to clarify:

• I love everyone, blind people included.

• I HAVE read the book, which I would compare to Camus's LA PESTE. Blindness is not the problem — it's just a motif within this book. I wouldn't even call it a symbol. If anything, the book makes you far MORE sensitive to blind people, if it changes your perceptions at all.

• In the plot, EVERYONE is blind together. There's no discrimination going on. It would just be like any other major, sudden change that affected humanity and all the repercussions that resulted. The point of the book has nothing negative to say about blindness. It has everything to say about the human heart. THAT's where people should be squirming. Don't miss the forest for the trees, that's all I'm saying.

jasdye said...

thanks, lodro, sarah b and jb for reminding me to listen.

would i be incorrect in suggesting that a main problem with the film's depiction of the blind is not so much the film itself, but society's overall ignorance of the blind and how the blind function.

Anonymous said...

jasdye - thanks for listening...
Your right the public view. It was said right here in all these comments. How some of them feel. Daredevil was horrible enough, I loved people excepting me to have special powers. The EYE was a good view point of being blind. She had a job, was educated, lived on her own, and traveled by herself. It was still a horror film.

Zulu said...

I find it very hard to believe what is happening with this movie...Does anyone even understand what this movie is about? Or do You just read the title? Probably you all protested when José Saramago won the Nobel Prize, for being such a bad person and writing things like this...It's sad to see things like this...

Anonymous said...

I totally agree with the fact that most people can adapt fairly quickly (and completely) if they have help. Many people could probably completely adapt on their own with some more time. However, if you have no time and no assistance, how many would not fare well? Most to all of the incompetence (which lessens as the film continues past a few days and more characters adapt to varying degrees) is caused by lack of help. Furthermore, most to all of the immorality displayed in the film is related to being unseen by others, not by being blind one's self.

The NFB would have a point if the film depicted the following:
1) nobody adapted, ever
2) persons lost their morality BECAUSE they were blind instead of vice versa (or instead of being in an unfamiliar place unsupervised in a mob of angry people)

But the movie depicted neither of those things; the NFB is completely overreacting. If the NFB wanted to cooperate with the release of this film to offer their positive messages about the blind, that would have been a much more successful (and constructive) method. Trying to protest a film's release when the plot points are poorly understood or wildly misconstrued is a way to be laughed at, not listened to.

Anonymous said...

For example, a "Did you know? Most blind persons can navigate confidently within x days/hours/minutes" would be much more informative than "This movie has it WRONG and is a TRAVESTY"

I mean, if the true goal of the NFB is to educate here, then I would think they would offer the information on the protest pickets. However, the action they -did- take looks more like they just wanted attention.