A couple of the readings that really stood out to me for this Tuesday were Michael Davidson’s Universal Design: The Work of Disability in an Age of Globalization, and Laura Hershey’s Working Together. However, where I found myself wanting to share my thoughts on Hershey’s poem, I found that Davidson’s piece actually got me thinking about something that isn’t necessarily in the. text, but still relates to it. That being said, I would still like to share my thoughts that relate to Davidson’s piece, as they relate to our course as well.
In her poem Working Together, one thing I found myself not expecting was just how open and embracing author Laura Hershey was of her disability. I say this not because I think one’s disability is something to hide, but because many of the poems written by individuals that society would label as disabled tend to hide the disability of the author, presenting it in a negative light, or even leaving the disability out of the piece entirely. However, I feel that with this poem, Hershey is not only reinforcing. the idea that the ordinary parts of her life should be read about, but they are in fact the complete opposite of ordinary. In this poem specifically, Hershey tells readers what it is like for her to get ready in the morning. However, as opposed to the “ordinary” individual, Hershey presents readers with the understanding that she must have a caretaker help her with all of the things that abled individuals most likely take for granted. For example, Hershey mentions brushing her teeth, but then explains that her caretaker is the one who must “brisk bristle circle on teeth” while her job is to “sneer” and “open wide.” We see this idea of a dependent relationship between Hershey and her caretaker explored even more when Hershey talks about getting a bath in the mornings, as she states that her caretaker’s responsibility is to “apply soap,” “loofa,” and “hot spray,” while her job is to say “how hot” and when to “stop.” By presenting this relationship as one in which two people are working together, Hershey places emphasis on her disability and completely brings it to life without necessarily viewing it in a completely negative light. A fresh and brighter perspective for sure.
The next reading that really stuck out to me was Michael Davidson’s Universal Design: The Work of Disability in an Age of Globalization. The pice discusses films that include characters that are considered disabled such as La Petite Vendeuse De Soilel, and Dirty Pretty Things. However, reading these portions of the text got me thinking about other ways in which disabilities are represented in film. Specifically, it got me thinking about the the false messages associated with disabilities and how that correlates to film. One specific example that I could think of was the 2017 American film Wonder. The film focuses on the 10 year old boy August “Auggie” Pullman, who is born with mandibulofacial dysostkosis as he not only journeys through his first years in school, but also comes to terms with who he is. *Spoiler warning* As the film goes on, Auggie eventually comes to accept and embrace who he is, which of course is a huge step for him and a very important thing, but, at the end, he is awarded for this with the Henry Ward Beecher medal. While being an emotional and inspirational film for sure, Wonder arguably makes a mistake in its final act by having Auggie win the award, as it almost paints the picture that disabled individual who comes to accept themselves (if they are having trouble doing so) is to be celebrated and awarded for such an act. I would argue that it would have been better for Auggie to have lost the award to someone else, as it would have portrayed an even stronger message that it’s not the prize that makes him great, he was great from the very beginning.