Thursday, August 21, 2008

A Discouraging Word

The official song of the state where I was born has a refrain that goes like this:

Home, home on the range
Where the deer and the antelope play
Where seldom is heard a discouraging word
And the skies are not cloudy all day!

A cowboy's earthly paradise! It'd be enough to make ya want to move back, if it weren't for the fact that really Kansas has about as many discouraging words as anywhere else. And, alas, the movie Tropic Thunder is playing in Kansas as well.

There's been a lot of editorial page ink and blogospheric bytes spilled over the protests from the special-needs community about the movie's use of the "R-word": retard. As I understand it, the context is an actor (played by Ben Stiller) playing a character with cognitive disabilities, and overplaying the "simple" factor of his "Simple Jack" for Oscar-pursuit purposes. The word "retard" is bandied about indiscriminately, leading to real-world concerns -- shared by me -- that one of the movie's ugly taglines may be heard on a lot of playgrounds this fall. I won't repeat it, but you can read about it if you care to.

I won't be seeing this movie, and wouldn't anyway because a) I see something like one theatre-movie per year if I'm lucky, and b) I don't "do" trash-mouth movies that pull their big laugh-lines out of the gutter, and I'm not just talking about the "R"-word anymore.

Instead, over the past several months I've been reading my way through a clever and highly entertaining science fiction series by Lois McMaster Bujold, featuring lead character Miles Vorkosigan. Miles is a nobleman on his home planet, in the line of succession to the emperorship. He is blindingly intelligent, a man of conscience, full of manic energy, apparently arrogant but battling inner bogeymen. He commands a fleet of space mercenaries, and has adventures, romantic and otherwise, all around the galaxy.

He's also just over four feet tall, with startlingly brittle bones and other physical frailties, the in-utero victim of a chemical attack on his mother before he was born. His home planet has a low tolerance for physical difference, to put it mildly. The "R-word" that gets used against Miles is "mutie," short for mutant.

Joy and I have not yet heard our own planet's discouraging epithets used against her. With any luck, we'll avoid it for some years longer. I'm not so naive, though, as to think that it isn't going to happen at some point.

Meanwhile, I shield myself against the day, rejoicing in Joy's accomplishments and entertaining myself with the successes of Miles Vorkosigan. Who needs the movies, anyway?

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Well said, Friend.

I have an our-world diagnosis for Miles.

I gave brief mention to the movie dialogue controversy just now - mostly a what-I-did-today post, but inserting bits I intend to repeat later.

I'll be thinking of you and Joy tomorrow. Barbara