11 October 2009

UP with Hammie and Boo

Or Racism et al. (part 1)

I was very honoured this week to be asked to join Hammie and her son Boo to go and see the film UP with them yesterday. I love animation movies, I am quite a fan in fact, and have been for a long time. Truth be told, I probably not only never “grew” out of them, but enjoy them more as time goes by: the level of sophistication, on the technical side of course, but also in the way most of these films are so cleverly designed as to appeal to the whole population, irrespective of age, simply gets me.

Up is no different. No, actually, it is different. The 3D effects are simply brilliant, the graphics are superb, and the adult-viewer-destined nods and winks along the way are very subtly but very surely sprinkled throughout.

It was a very pleasurable afternoon, made all the more pleasurable by the hug I received from and gave back to Boo when we parted ways – Ok, hugs exchanged with Hammie as well, of course! I had started the day by shopping in Dundrum for a pair of blue shoes, to go with one of my “work” suits, had ended up finding them,… plus a pair of mauve shoes,… plus a mauve bag – mauve sounds so much posher than purple, doesn’t it? And I ended the day going back into the shops and buying a cream jacket… Oh my poor credit card was overactive on Saturday!

What has this got to do with Racism et al. as per the (sub) title above, I hear you ask. Well now, let me explain.

On Friday, I was having one of those coffee-break chitchats one has with colleagues on a regular basis. You know the type:
- So, anything planed for the weekend?
- Couple of things. But what I am really looking forward to is seeing UP.
- UP?
- Yeah, you know the film coming out this weekend.
- ????
- Look here (pointing to a newspaper on the table, open on the very page showing an ad for the film), it’s a new animation film, just out, and it’s supposed to be brilliant.
- …But, it’s a kids movie…?
- If you want to call it that. But I’m really looking forward to it!
- And you’re bringing a kid to it?
- Actually, I am accompanying a friend and her son.
- And you don’t mind going to a kids’ movie?
- Mind? What do you mean mind? I love them…
The look on my colleague’s face had gone from surprise, to scepticism, to pure and simple incomprehension. So I ploughed in:
- Animation films can truly be Art. Some of what comes out sometimes borders on pure genius. Take Wall-E…
- Wall-what?
- Wall-E. Surely you have heard of Wall-E!
- ???
- Well, I did not see Wall-E in the cinema, unfortunately. But I was given the DVD by my son…
- He is an adult, right?
- Right! And when he gave it to me, he said it contained the best non-dialogue 20 minutes to be shown on film in years… and he was right, it’s simply, simply, brilliant!

Look of total blankness on my colleague’s face. He just simply did not know what I was talking about. And I thought “Pity the kids he might have one day!”

So, to drive the final stake into the heart of the matter, I simply said before taking up my mug and going back into the office:
- UP is made by the same people who made Monster Inc. If it’s half as good, I will enjoy it. Because you don’t need to be a kid to enjoy animation films. They are just simply for everyone.

This conversation got me thinking, as it echoed several conversations I had in the last few months. And all have a common theme: Attitudes to labels.

In this first part of my reflection, three of these labels just up at me, Ageism, Racism, and Abilitism – I made up that last one, and quite like! ;-)

As I see it, putting forward the idea that, just because we are adults, we are not supposed to enjoy so called “kiddies” movies, is in my opinion a clear example of Ageism.

Here is another one: Only a few days before, I found myself drawn into a discussion where one person was arguing that some women should watch what they wear, because, let’s face it, they are ridiculous, like sheep trying to pass off as lamb. I listened patiently while (younger) women around me argued that age has nothing to do with what we wear, that the important thing is that the cloths we wear suit us and we feel comfortable in them. Notably, the only man at the table kept very, oh so very quite! I eventually had to butt in and asked exactly what she was referring to. She hesitated and eventually she said could not understand how someone who is a mother with teenage daughters could go in those “trendy” shops for cloths for herself, and dare to wear them! I answered that I am not sure what “trendy” shops she was referring to, but I am in my early 50’s, a mother AND grandmother, and I shop in River Island, Next, Sasha, etc… and somehow I don’t think I look like a sheep in lamb’s clothing. At least I would hope to be told if that was the case. As all eyes fixed on the poor woman (I felt for her then), she just shrugged her shoulders and kept chewing on her lunch. I wonder what she will make of my new mauve shoes?

Or the blue ones?

(Could not resist it, had to show them!)

Ageism, or the perception that age means dressing a particular way.

In the same vein, I have been at the receiving end of Racism during my time on Ireland. In fairness, the incidents in question were not numerous. But they each left a deep mark, mainly because they came in series, and from people I became close to, or had to work closely with. In the first one, I eventually had to threaten to involve the Managing Director and put through a formal complaint, as the remarks had gone too far. This was a long time ago, at a time when “immigration” was a fairly new concept in Ireland. But being called “froggy” and told on a daily basis to go back “home” was not pleasant. Arguments that over the years my taxes had paid for this young arrogant pup’s education and enabled him to become an engineer did not have any weight. The threat did, fortunately.

Another incident came from someone I had come to call a friend. I held this person’s opinion quite high, and as a result had increasingly started doubting my judgment on some things as, over time, she seemed to colour my views and how they were perceived by others in an increasingly negative light. My eyes opened, painfully, when one day she eventually said: “you know, people like X and Y say that they appreciate your view points and tell you that you have good ideas, but at the end of the day, what they really mean is that they are quite taken by the way you can express yourself so clearly in English. After all, it’s not your mother tongue!”… Needless to say, that was that of this “friendship”. Strangely, to this day, I am still on excellent terms with X and Y, and do consider them amongst my closest friends!...

What about Abilitism?

Let me give you two examples: during a conversation sometime ago, where someone was describing some new skill her baby had just discovered, and I was exchanging similar prowess about Cathal (as I do, so proudly, worst than any new parent with his or her new child! Grandparents can be fierce in this way), saying he does this but not that yet. The third person present piped in: “Ah but sure, that is to be expected, he is delayed!”

I felt myself getting very angry: what right has anyone, who has not met Cathal, who knows of him only what I tell them, to pass such judgment on his abilities, or lack of, just because of his diagnosis of DS?

But this person surprised me even more since: during a discussion centering on the lack of facilities for Speech and Language Therapy, the question was asked by the same person:
- Why does Cathal need Speech and Language Therapy? He is deaf?
- No, he is not.

Ok, to be honest, when I first heard of signing and Lámh, I did ask Cathal’s Mammy why it was necessary since we knew that he could hear – in my defence, it was only a few months after his birth and I was still catching up on basic information. So one could understand the reaction? Please read on. Because what came next is priceless:

- So, if he is not deaf, why does he need S&L therapy? Has he a cleft palate?

… And this from a trained nurse… who worked for years in Ireland’s leading paediatric hospital (in Crumlin)… in the Cardiac wards where half the patients have DS … in the cardiac ICU where a lot of the patients have DS!

Abilitism in full swing!

This is for part 1 of this post. Centering on what I have witnessed in others.

But what about what I witnessed in myself? See you in Part 2!


Mel said...

Love the shoes Nan P. I think "mutton dressed as lamb" will not apply to you!

Someone in my family thinks that it is better to have a child with DS (ie Luke) than what a member of their close family has (a metabolism disorder) as Luke's future is mapped out and he will have "a lovely life" while this other child will have to watch its diet and may become obese!!!!!!! Oh to have such worries. However this person has just taken my eldest to watch Up in 3D and loves animated kids movies too and is definitely grown up so not a totally lost cause!...Some people just don't get it.

Lisamaree said...

It can be really hard when you are so far into the culture of special needs to come across someone like that Nurse who just doesn't "Get it"

Next time I suggest you ask her how she would prompt speech in order to reward it and encourgage. How she would facilitate anyone's communication of their needs while they develop the ability to speak clearly and then get up and make a cup of whatever the opposite of what they normally drink.
If they drink tea, make them an expresso, if they like Lattes, a strong hippie herbal tea - with a slice of lemon.
When they complain or question you say "well how do you expect Cathal or Grace or Jacob to tell you what they prefer?

Too often the idea of choice and free will gets lost in institutionalised thinking. Keep kicking out at it Nan.

And it was such a pleasure to meet you in person. Boo was delighted with your company and we will look forward to seeing the next kids blockbuster with his new Nan! xx

jazzygal said...

Oh, Nan ..... how close we came to meeting you on Saturday! I was there too with Wiiboy and his pal, we went to see "Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs". We actually bumped into Hammie and Boo (it wsa very brief)! We probably missed meeting you by seconds:((

I LOVE "kids" movies. I guffaw my way through 'em with gusto!! And popcorn....lotsa popcorn! Meatballs wasn't great though. "Up" is next for us.

Love the Mauve shoes.... did I see them in Next?? I got purple....sorry I mean Mauve!...ones last week. They were a bargain too!
I'm shocked at your Nurse story... no-one better than you to sort 'em out though! xx Jazzy

Lisamaree said...

mauve is old - purple is the color of the suffragettes! Purple is in!!

Nan P. said...

Jazzy, I got the mauve (sorry, purple!) shoes in Faith, the blue ankle boots in Aldo.

And while you were bumping in Hammie, I was inside enjoying my B&J Baked Alaska ice-cream ;-)

BY THE WAY, the nurse in question is no longer practising... thank G.

Nick McGivney said...

If I say I think the shoes are great does that mean you'll bring them back to the shop? Happens round these parts with a certain woman I live with whenever I say 'Yeah, looks great on you!' Beginning to realise she trusts my judgement implicitly, only not in the way that it's meant. :(
That aside, well done on this post. Lot of important stuff here, and a lot from the heart clearly. We shall have the idiots with us always, yea even until the end of time (Jesus said that in Idioticus 10:17) so we just have to get on with being the best we can be. Nobody's perfect, but it would be great if you could hit the ones who should be better with a big foam hammer in public every time they show their idiocy. Good post Nan P, and I look forward to Part Deux.

Anonymous said...

Love the shoes and bag Pascal. Now I know where Slyvaine got her good taste :-) And by the way I loved that movie too.

Maggie in Germany

Jeffrey Goble said...

What a differences between 'childlike' and 'childish'. To dismiss a medium, concept, or person based upon incomplete information and unwillingness to learn is the worst sort of ignorance - there is no hope for the future. Comfort and drudgery replace adventure and expectation. Alice and Wonderland - heck, even How the Grinch Stole Christmas provide humanity and insight at every level of human existence.
Pixar's success has been their stated commitment to tell a good story, first and foremost - all else follows.
Just as Dorothy's magic shoes carried her through her own prejudices and those of others to the realization that "home" could be where her heart was, your journey continues, albeit with much cooler shoes.
Can't wait for part two.

Angela said...

love the blue boots! nad also the movie - it's a long time since I sat in a children's movie with tears trickling down my cheeks, but the way it portrayed love betwwen the two old people was wonderful.