Tweet of the Day

[Content Note: Othering; disablism; fat bias.]

So, this tweet is going around the internets today...

Jordan Catalano Jared Leto probably thinks he's being super edgy by wanting to put people with albinism in his video, but using people with visibly different bodies as substitution for any authentic artistic instinct is so fucking tired and tedious, I can't even think of a metaphor tired and tedious enough to sufficiently explicate it.

The totes edgy auteurs of this garbage typically defend their carnival art with some sanctimonious lipservice to inclusion or the beauty of human diversity or some colossally insufferable routine about how we're all freaks in our own way, but the appropriation of visibly different bodies is the opposite of inclusion: It's Othering.

And many of the people whose bodies are most desirable for this specific sort of Othering—the bodies of people with albinism, the bodies of people with dwarfism, people with fewer (or more) than four complete limbs, people with superfat bodies—are people whose physical differences are also disabilities. To fetishize albinism for its aesthetic, for example, casually elides the medical issues that most people with albinism face.

Defenders of this farcical bid at "inclusion" love to toss out that fetid rhetorical about why people with visibly different bodies agree to appear in such projects if it's so offensive, which is the reddest of all the herrings. When the only opportunities for visibility are Othering, the people who take those opportunities can't be blamed: They're not choosing between "token albino in Jared Leto video" and "lead in a serious motion picture whose casting director is open to casting someone who happens to have albinism, though it's irrelevant to the plot."

That's yet another instance of tasking individuals with finding solutions to systemic problems. It's neither just nor reasonable to expect one person to bootstrap one's way to a complete cultural overhaul in how we regard bodies like theirs. Even the most effective teaspoon is still only one teaspoon.

Further, I know that there are, for example, superfat ladies—always a favorite staple of super edgy artists who are gleefully horrified by the exposure of fat flesh—who happily and proudly participate in carnival art, who may even find it personally empowering. And it can simultaneously be personally empowering for them and profoundly disempowering for me, as I watch a superfat body, visibly different in the same way mine is, exploited and Othered.

To be the one who volunteers to play freak is a very different place than to be the one who watches, powerlessly, hir body implied to be freakish.

If Leto and his cohorts aren't interested in perpetuating the gross Othering of people with visibly different bodies, then they should try creating projects where being a person with albinism (or whatever) isn't the cost of admission, but is instead not a barrier to participation.

Of course, Leto's most recent movie role is as a trans woman, so I doubt he's going to lead the charge on non-appropriative and non-exploitative art.

Anyway. This reminds me of one of my favorite movie scenes of all time, from Living in Oblivion, in which Peter Dinklage's character takes the film-within-the-film's director to task for using a person with dwarfism in a dream sequence:

Nick [Steve Buscemi]: Look, Tito, it's not that big of a deal. It's a dream. Strange things happen in a dream. All I want you to do is laugh. Why is that such a problem for you?

Tito [Peter Dinklage]: Why does it have to be a dwarf?

Nick: What?!

Tito: Why does my character have to be a dwarf?

Nick: It doesn't have to be a dwarf.

Tito: [laughs contemptuously] Then why is he? Is that the only way you can make this a dream—put a dwarf in it?!

Nick: No, Tito, I—

Tito: Have you ever had a dream with a dwarf in it? Do you know anyone who's had a dream with a dwarf in it? NOOOOOO! I don't even have dreams with dwarves in them. The only place I've seen dwarves in dreams is in stupid movies like this! "Oh, make it weird; put a dwarf in it!" Everyone will go: "Whoa whoa whoa, this must be a fuckin' dream; there's a fuckin' dwarf in it!" Well, I'm sick of it! You can take this dream sequence and shove it up your ass!

[Tito storms out; the crew shifts uncomfortably; Nick looks stricken and perplexed and collapses into his director's chair.]

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