Thursday, March 12, 2015

Why, Birdman? Why?

The movie Birdman made me long for NYC in the way that so many movies set there, do.  I was warmed by the sticky, Spring air and I smelled it's gritty fragrance in my olfactory memory and felt like I had gone home, though I never did actually live there.  I wanted to, but that's a long story.

There was so much to like about this movie:  Edward Norton and Michael Keaton were impeccable.  The music was fun and silly and loud and perfect.  The story was funny and real and brilliant.


You could feel that But coming, couldn't you?

There was that word:  Mongoloid.  

It was there and gone so quickly that maybe if you were not me you might have missed it; but it was there, I assure you.  

And I thought "why?".  There were so many other ways to convey the image.  So many other words to choose, but that was the one the writers went with.  I kind of crumbled inside.  It gets really tiring getting punched in the gut again and again.  Here I was, going over the old arguments in my head.  Hearing the voices of those that don't "get it".

"It's just a word"
"We didn't mean it that way"
"They aren't talking about your son"
"It's our right to say this stuff"

That last one gets me.  Effing OF COURSE it's your right to say whatever hurtful, crappy thing that comes out of your mouth.  You have every right to be a jerk.

Of course, I have the right to be hurt.  I have the right to write about it and you have the right to agree with me or dismiss me or ignore me or mock me.

I have thought about whether it might not be a language thing.  The writers are Mexican and English is not their first language.  Maybe the word they were searching for was "retard".  This does not make me feel any better.

Why does anyone need to use a person with Down syndrome as the butt of a joke?  Or even worse, as a throwaway observation in an otherwise really great movie?

There are bigger fish to fry.  I understand this.  I CARE about those bigger fish.  This is just something that gets thrown in my face again and again and as hard as I try to move past it and move on to those bigger issues, I keep getting hurled right back into this ridiculous r-word debate because it refuses to die.

Part of me wants to just give up.   Maybe it is a lost cause.  If "mongoloid", as hideous an outdated a term as could be is the new "retard", then I don't know how to fight it.  Just like "thug" is the new N-word.  There are always going to be people that want to keep those that are different over that "other" place.  I cannot reach those people.  

I can appeal to the people that think kids like mine deserve dignity and respect to speak up, though.  I can remind them that words matter.  


  1. Amy--thank you for letting those of us know who haven't seen Birdman and intend to what to be prepared for. I remember taking my kids to their first movie ever in an actual movie theater. It was Toy Story 3. And, in the clip at the link, at the 0:24 second mark, I thought, did Mr. Potato Head (aka Don Rickles) just say "Mongo", "Drooling Doofus," and "Moron"? And, indeed he had.

    1. Oy. I missed that, though I did see that movie. I just don't get it.

  2. My reaction was so similar to yours, it literally hurt when it was said, ironically it came right after my favorite lines in the movie... "You just label everything," he exclaims, glancing them over. It's lazy writing, he says, and it cost you nothing, whereas putting on this play cost me everything.

    1. Yes! I liked that too. It was just so disappointing after all the good stuff.

  3. I'll never know why people think it is fine to use those words, or to refer to any sort of disability as a way of mocking someone. But maybe this newest generation will be the ones who are more enlightened than that, as they grow up!

    1. I think the kids get it way, way better than the adults. There is hope, for sure!