This week, I choose to watch one of the movies that Professor Peace suggested: So Much So Fast. For everyone who hasn’t seen the movie, this movie is a documentary following the 5 years after a 29-year-old man (Stephen Heywood) was diagnosed with ALS, or Lou Gehrig’s Disease. The film demonstrates many of the issues that can arise relating to disability, particularly for a person who develops a disability later in life (as opposed to those born with a disability). I have to start by saying that I really enjoyed this film; however, there are some things the film did great and other things that I believe it could have improved upon.
I like the way the filmmakers attempted to focus on what Stephen could do rather than what he cannot do once symptoms of the disease came about. While there were some moments when they discussed his “limitations” or what he has “lost” as a result of having ALS, the film highlighted how a person with a disability, such as Stephen, could do many things that people without disabilities do, or in Stephen’s case, many things that he has done before he developed his disability. While the way in which people with various kinds of disabilities complete various tasks may be different than the way a “normal” person would complete the task, that does not mean that the person with a disability is any less capable of completing the task or has any less skill. For example, the film discussed how Stephen was an avid videogame player with his brothers prior to developing symptoms of ALS. As Stephen’s lost muscle mass, he also lost strength making it difficult for him to move a computer mouse. However, with some assistance from his brother in creating a device that makes it easier to move the mouse, Stephen was able to not only play videogames, but also beat his brothers (who play videogames all the time) in the game. The movie also talked to Stephen about how he still continues to have a vibrant sex life with his wife. In fact, the movie highlights how Stephen had one child with his wife and wishes to have another. In the film, Stephen is a fantastic father to his child, still being able to hold the child on his lap, to talk to the child, and to play with the child.
By demonstrating these aspects of Stephen’s life, this movie breaks free from many of the stereotypes about people with disabilities. For example, some people within society assume that people with disabilities aren’t sexual beings with active sex lives. Some people assume that people with disabilities cannot be good parents. As the movie points out, some people in our society might ask if it is fair for Stephen who is sick to marry his wife. Some people might ask if it is fair for Stephen to have a child knowing that he cannot raise the child in the “traditional” way. However, Stephen defied the stereotypes in the movie and ignored the assumptions that other people may create solely based on Stephen’s disability.
One critique of the film is that it focuses heavily on finding a “cure.” While this may not seem like an issue at first, there are some problems with such a heavy focus on a cure. I would imagine that having ALS could be very painful and difficult to handle for some people, other people might accept ALS as a part of who they are. As a result some people would want to be cured, while others may not. Focusing only on finding a cure, stigmatizes people with this disease by allowing society to view them as having something “wrong” with them.
Overall, the movie was a strong representation of some of the challenges that a person who develops a disability can face; however, the movie also demonstrates the daily activities that would not change for a person with a disability. The film highlights how a person who develops a disability is still a person with the same interests, personality traits, and feelings as before the person developed his disability.