And Now for Something Completely Different…

Just for a bit of a change of pace, let’s discuss one of my favourite movies: Return of the Jedi.

Yes, Return of the Jedi

I can just see my friends cringing at the fact that I’ve found a way to work Star Wars even into my disabilities blog, but I promise that I can do it legitimately. It’s not even that difficult.

Have you ever thought about the fact that the two people around whom Return of the Jedi basically revolves both have major disabilities? Other characters play significant roles, of course. But in the end, the fate of the galaxy comes down to a man breathing through a respirator and a man with a prosthetic arm duking it out Jedi-style in the Death Star’s throne room.

(For those who have forgotten, or never cared to know, Darth Vader chopped off Luke Skywalker’s forearm during a fight in The Empire Strikes Back. Luke wore a prosthetic arm from that point on; it never seems to affect how he functions or anyone else’s perception of him. In fact, he does some *awesome* lightsaber work in “Return of the Jedi”.)

I admit it. I’m a Star Wars nerd. You have no idea how excited I was when this idea that Vader and Skywalker had major disabilities in Return of the Jedi occurred to me.

Hollywood Stereotypes of People with Disabilities

It’s interesting in Vader especially. There’s a tendency in Hollywood to stereotype people with disabilities as good and noble, courageous, empathethic (and, especially for people with intellectual disabilities, childlike and innocent). Darth Vader is none of those things. Luke finds good in him him eventually…but one of our first exposures to Darth Vader in the original Star Wars movie involves him almost killing an employee who disagree with him. I wonder if we’re maybe also, at least in part, so fascinated by the Dr. Gregory House character on FOX’s “House” because he has physical disabilities and yet is such an obviously miserable person; he also goes against the stereotype.

Think about some of the portrayals of people with disabilities that you’ve seen in the movies and on television. Are they well-rounded characters? ¬†Or stereotypical?

I promise not to talk about Star Wars again for a while…