Wednesday, May 15, 2013

That's Entertainment

My post on arts and entertainment with a disability focus includes a dance film, naughty comics, art exhibits and the alleged "happiest place on earth."

Musical Chairs
Ballroom dancing, injury and trans fabulousness fill the new movie Musical Chairs with heart, spirit and a sense of love. Susan Siedelman (director of Desperately Seeking Susan, Madonna's breakout film) brings together a diverse cast for an upbeat, sweet-natured story of a dancer whose post-injury recovery includes being coaxed into wheelchair ballroom dancing by a social dancing instructor. A group of other paraplegics join in, building up to some nice dancing and light comedy.

There are moments where the melodrama and pacing slow things down in Marty Madden's screenplay. And even the variation of disabled characters takes on archetypal depictions ("lovable misfits" as described in the synopsis), fortunately, without falling into stereotype. 

We have The Tough Girl (Angelic Zambrana), the Womanizing Hunk (the gorgeous Morgan Spector), and the World-wise Transwoman (Laverne Cox).

Musical Chairs
Our female lead, the Broken Heroine (Leah Pipes) needs love from an Able-bodied Hero (E.J. Bonilla) to fulfill her goals. There's also some predictable ethnic characterizations that are a bit dated (the Interfering Mother, played by Priscilla Lopez).

If all that sounds harsh and reductive, it's not meant to be. It's just that I've scoured a lot of disability-themed  films and books, so I'm a bit more aware of the various depictions and overused plot devices.

Musical Chairs is a sweet, likeable film, plus, it was entirely shot in New York City, which, for a low-budget feature, is an amazing accomplishment. It's wonderful that an intimate narrative movie can be so inclusive. The casting includes a few disabled actors and performers. (Bodybuilder and ballroom dancer Nick Scott is under-used and has no lines, but he's hard to miss in the dance finale.) Filmed in 2011, it's been making some festival rounds, and will hopefully be available on DVD soon.

Naughtily Nice
Nightlife #4
For more full-on gay wheelchair material, of the one-handed type, check out Dale Lazarov, Bastian Jonsson and Yann Duminil's Nightlife #4.

The PDF comic book features a sexy –and very sexual– bathhouse experience with a paraplegic hunk. While it's questionable that the quicky-splash nature of the sex scene depicted in this Greek-themed erotic no-caption tale could easily happen (how many European gay bath houses are fully accessible? Last I recall, none of them, and I did some research!), it is a fantasy, and an affirming nicely illustrated and entertaining one.  Buy it HERE.

Naughty, Not Nice
And speaking of entertainment; are you tired of waiting on lines at amusement parks? Well, if you're a rich privileged one-percenter, you can fake a disability, or hire a shill disabled person, and cut those long lines!

Raw Story exposes the insidious wealthy cheaters at Disneyland (from the excrebale NY Post's article on a book about rich people, which I won't link). Gawker has a snarky variation, with even snarkier comments, natch. The lazy media is running with this (probably exaggerated) story. Hey, once CNN's caught on, you know it's ...probably crap.

non-cheating wheelchair-using Disneyland patrons?
“My daughter waited one minute to get on ‘It’s a Small World’ — the other kids had to wait 2 1/2 hours,” one mother bragged of her scam to hire disabled people to be part of their entourage, thus ensuring a line cut. “You can’t go to Disney without a tour concierge… This is how the 1 percent does Disney.”

“It’s insider knowledge that very few have and share carefully,” social anthropologist Dr. Wednesday Martin told the Post. “Who wants a speed pass when you can use your black-market handicapped guide to circumvent the lines all together?”

Disney provides an extensive guide to their parks for people with disabilities. But is it just the smug upper crust and their hired shills who abuse it and ruin it for others? No, allegedly, other "classes" choose to be class-less and use scooters to tour the park without really needing it.

For those with class, in the Bay Area (which is really the happiest place on earth), you can get an interesting historical perspective at beautiful art exhibits at the De Young Museum, and a related lecture.
Rembrandt's "Beggar with Wooden Leg"
Rembrant's Beggars and Representation of Disability and Poverty will be presented at the de Young Museum by Susan Schweik, who teaches disability studies at UC Berkeley. She's also the author of The Ugly Laws: Disability in Public. Presented in conjunction with the exhibition Rembrandt's Century, this talk discusses Rembrandt van Rijn's depiction of beggars, placing it in the context of visual representations of poverty and disability both historical and contemporary.

Gee, I wonder if they'd be worthy of the one-percent moms' hiring practices?

For more subjective artistic representation by disabled artists, if you're in Chicago, you're in luck. Bodies of Work Festival takes place from May 15-25. Here is their Facebook page.  Here's a short TV spot about the festival.


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