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You got served

Last fall, when word went around the disability studies circuit that Johnny Knoxville was going to star in a movie called The Ringer, the premise of which was that his character feigns a developmental disability in order to defraud the Special Olympics, people were—shall we say—skeptical.  I, however, was curious.  For the past few years, I’ve been telling people that the Farrelly Brothers (who produced, but did not write, The Ringer) have been trying, with mixed success, to do something smart and interesting with the dynamic of disability.  Sometimes their efforts have taken the fairly traditional form of deploying characters with disabilities as the moral barometers of their narratives, as in There’s Something About Mary, and Shallow Hal was, among other things, an attempt to redefine beauty in terms of an ethic of care (wherein the most beautiful people in the world are those who serve others selflessly).  But in Stuck on You, by contrast, they tried to pull off something like a disability comedy from an anti-normative perspective: when, at the outset of the film, an obstreperous patron at Greg Kinnear’s and Matt Damon’s burger shack (the two are conjoined twins and short-order cooks) demands that the “freak” be removed from the place, the regulars agree—so they get together and toss the insensitive jerk out of the restaurant.

I imagine, though, that the Farrellys were getting a little tired of exploring disability sympathetically and not having anyone notice.  So The Ringer takes the subject and puts it front and center.

I’ve been asked a couple of times about how I see the film, as a parent of a 14-year-old with Down syndrome.  “With popcorn,” I say, “and a large bottle of Dasani water.  Jamie gets himself a Coke.” Actually, Jamie’s seen it twice—once with Janet and Nick over the Christmas holiday winter solstice break, and once with me.

It’s not quite successful as a comedy, largely for the reasons Stephanie Zacharek explains in her Salon review: we really don’t have a lexicon for developmental-disability humor yet, and we don’t quite know when or how to laugh.  But on the most obvious (and accessible) level, the film is a biting and overdue sendup of the Daniel Day-Lewis/ Dustin Hoffman/ Tom Hanks/ Sean Penn/ Cuba Gooding tradition in which nondisabled actors win Oscars and/or the hearts of millions for portraying adults with developmental disabilities [edited in response to reader comments:  Daniel Day-Lewis’ Christy Brown had cerebral palsy.].  In The Ringer, Knoxville’s disability act is exposed quite quickly by the Special Olympians themselves, and they proceed to take over the rest of the film.  (The National Down Syndrome Society and the Special Olympics have enthusiastically endorsed the movie, and the Special Olympics were given control over the final script and the use of on-screen ad-libs as well.) As in There’s Something About Mary, one would be forgiven for coming away with the impression that angels walk this earth in the form of attractive female siblings of people with developmental disabilities.  But you know, perhaps it’s not the worst thing in the world for mainstream Hollywood films to glorify the siblings of people with developmental disabilities.  I mean, it’s not like everybody’s doing it.

In the end, then, we weren’t offended by the film; we were intrigued.  And Jamie liked it (and asked to see it again) in part because it reminded him of his own Special Olympics experience this past November, which I’ve been meaning to narrate on this humble blog for a full three months now.  So here goes.

While I was at the University of Michigan on November 10 and 11 of last year, Jamie went with his volleyball team to Villanova University for the Special Olympics Pennsylvania Fall Festival.  Those of you who are either family friends or very diligent readers of this blog will know that this constituted Jamie’s first-ever road trip and overnight hotel stay with people who are not members of his immediate family.  The deal was this: Jamie would travel with his YMCA team, the Red and Black Attack, on Friday afternoon; they would check in to the hotel that evening, and Jamie would room with two teammates and one of the coaches.  That night, I would fly home from Michigan, get up the next morning, and then drive to the outskirts of Philadelphia, three-and-some hours away.  The day’s volleyball games would be over by the time I arrived, but Jamie and I would catch up, maybe go swimming, get dinner, and (most important of all) go to the Special Olympics dance that night.

I arrived at Villanova around 4 in the afternoon.  One of Jamie’s roommates greeted me in the lobby of the Doubletree Suites, telling me that Jamie was a little wild; another roommate spotted me on the second floor, and said, “he’s bouncing on the bed and he wants to watch cartoons.” (Jamie is by far the youngest member of the team; the first person who spoke to me was in his thirties, and the second was in his early fifties.) “Has he behaved himself?” I asked.  “He’s a handful,” the roommate replied, in a singsong kind of voice.  When I was finally ushered into Jamie’s room by roommate number two, he was watching college football, and he was thrilled to see me.  Which is to say: he looked over at me, smiled, and said, “hi, Michael!  now can we go swimming?” before turning his attention back to the football game.

As I packed up Jamie’s suitcase and led him down the hall to our room, the coaches stopped us to say that Jamie had been simply wonderful the whole time, and that he’d done absolutely everything they asked (except maybe for eating too much ranch dressing at the previous night’s dinner), and that he was due for some “kid time.” They also told me that Jamie had had some fine kid time earlier in the day at the Olympic Village, where he danced with Darth Vader and some Star Wars storm troopers, introduced himself to dozens of people, and sat on a few of the motorcycles that were on display.  They gave me a Polaroid of a very cool-looking Jamie on a small Yamaha.  It sounded like he was managing to enjoy himself.

The dance, they said, would start at 8, and Jamie could come to dinner with the team or we could have some father-son time on our own.  We took option (b).  Jamie swam for a while, and then we went to the local mall (we were in one of those post-postmodern sprawl complexes that consist of generic motels and shopping centers) where we found that the casual-dining chain, Thank God It’s Ruby Tuesday Applebee’s, had a 45-minute wait.  So we got some slices of pizza at Sbarro and split a salad.

The dance turned out to be quite a scene.  Hundreds of adults and teenagers with developmental disabilities, just hopping and bopping and having a great old time.  Dozens of student volunteers and Villanova athletes, as well.  Jamie led me through the thick of the crowd and then out again, asking me, “where’s my group?” When he didn’t find them, he decided he would just dance by himself for a bit.  “Do you want me to dance with you?” I asked.  “No, you sit right there,” he replied, pointing to a nearby foldout chair.  Clearly, this was his party.  So I took my seat as he danced to two or three songs.  Then “his group” arrived, he spotted them in the crowd, and they all danced together for about fifteen or twenty minutes—until I learned that the van would leave at 6:15 am the next morning for Sunday’s first game.  “But the game is at 9,” I said.  “Yes, but we’re going over for breakfast and some practice first,” the coaches said.  “Yow,” I exclaimed.  “Oh, you don’t have to join us,” they assured me.  “You can just drop him off at the van and go back to sleep for a while.” Good, I thought, but I would still have to get up at 5:30—after traveling from Ann Arbor to State College the night before and then from State College to Philly.  So I got Jamie into bed by 10:30 that night, and crashed a half hour later.

The next morning, the phone rang promptly at 6:05.  “He’ll be down in five minutes,” I said groggily, as Jamie brushed his teeth.  After seeing him off, I did indeed go back to bed, knowing that when the morning’s game was over I still had another three-and-a-half hour drive in front of me.  I packed us up, and set the alarm for 8:30.

Now, a word about Jamie’s volleyball career to date.  Last year he was part of the “skills” class at the YMCA (a half-hour every Sunday in the fall of 2004), at which he learned how to serve and set.  He didn’t move to the ball during games, having no instinct for position play, but when it was hit directly to him (not too hard), he was capable of hitting it back, and occasionally he even hit it over the net.  But that was about it.  He was able to strike the ball sharply when it was his turn to serve, but he never cleared the net from that distance.  This year, he’d improved to the point at which the coaches invited him onto the YMCA team, but he was (as I’ve said) the youngest person on the squad, and though his position play was better and he was bigger and stronger than last year, he still hadn’t cleared the net on a serve.  At the one-day tournament at Juniata College this past October, he played four games; he wasn’t a starter, so he saw far more action in between-game practices than in games (and he sometimes asked to practice one-on-one with me), but he did manage to assist on two winning points, setting up much taller and older teammates capable of hitting it over the net with brio.  Though he’s now over five feet tall, he looked tiny out there; his jersey (he wore number 2) came down to his knees.  But he wasn’t completely out of sync with the general level of volleyball being played at the tournament; each team seemed to have three or four adults with disabilities who were serious athletes, a couple of capable players, and a couple of people who might or might not be able to hit the ball back.  Jamie was somewhere between group two and group three (closer to the latter), I thought, but I loved the fact that he was on the team, I liked the fact that the Red and Black won a gold that day, and I knew he’d improve with experience.  I did notice, however, that some teams allowed their weaker players to serve from a line that was about six or seven feet closer to the net than the back out-of-bounds line, and I wondered why the Red and Black Attack coaches didn’t offer this option to Jamie, who was now capable of reaching the net on a serve.  But I didn’t say anything.  I didn’t want to be one of those sports parents. Why isn’t my kid . . . ? You know what I mean.

So that Sunday morning at Villanova, I got some coffee at a Dunkin Donuts and drove to the campus at a leisurely pace, untroubled by the fact that I didn’t know exactly where I was going.  Games were being played at three different gyms, and even after I found the information desk it took me another ten minutes of wandering through Villanova’s sports facilities before I found the Red and Black Attack.  The game was well under way, and when the Y coaches saw me enter the gym, they promptly substituted Jamie for the player at the front right corner.  This meant, of course, that on the next point won by Red and Black, Jamie would be serving.

I was sitting behind the Red and Black end of the court, and when the team rotated and Jamie took the ball to serve, I sat at the edge of my chair and bit my fist.  If I’d had a towel I would have looked like Jerry Tarkanian.  Jamie tossed the ball lightly into the air with his left hand, swung his right arm through, and . . . delivered a perfect serve, clear over the net and between two opponents, neither of whom was able to return it.

Ace.

The YMCA crew clapped and cheered as Jamie took the ball for his second serve.  This one was a monster: soaring to the rafters, it looked for a moment like it would hit a light fixture and be declared out of bounds.  But it reached the crest of its arc just a few inches shy of the roof, and came plummeting down in the back left corner of the other team’s court.

Another ace.

In the lower-division Special Olympics volleyball games, no team is allowed more than three serves in a row.  (That’s one way in which they recognize the talent disparities among the players.) So Jamie’s next serve would be his last no matter what happened, and, no doubt a bit overeager by this point (for he was truly pumped), he shanked it.  But he had gotten his first two points in Special Olympics play, and when Red and Black won the game—which they did—he lined up with his teammates and shook hands with the other team before he was picked up and swung around in a circle by a very proud father. 

As Cubs fans say, wait til next year!

In the meantime, Special Olympics basketball begins soon.  I’ve been practicing with Jamie at the Y on the weekends, and yesterday, after five or six tries, he hit his first three-pointer.  Nothing but net.

Posted by on 02/13 at 06:12 AM
  1. I haven’t seen The Ringer.  But what, out of interest, do you think of Lars Von Trier’s The Idiots--another film about the performance of disability?

    Posted by Jon  on  02/13  at  07:55 AM
  2. Haven’t seen it, Jon.  Dang!  Another thing on the to-do list.

    Posted by  on  02/13  at  08:10 AM
  3. "I’ve been asked a couple of times about [how] I see the film, as a parent of a 14-year-old with Down syndrome.  ‘With popcorn,’ I say, ‘and a large bottle of Dasani water.  Jamie gets himself a Coke.’”

    I think you are missing a word in this paragraph.

    Also, Coke? Consider the boy’s teeth! And the grim multinational oligarchy for which the Coca-Cola corporation stands. To continue your reckless habit of purchasing industrial snack foods is to risk your D-Ho ranking, not to mention, Jamie’s future membership in Greenpeace.

    The Farrelly brothers’ “Something About Mary” featured two disabled characters, of which one was played for distinct humor by an able-bodied pizza boy stalking Mary. The depth of that film, such depth as it has, seems to be wrapped up in the audience reaction to those two. The Farrelly brothers’ œuvre introduced disabled characters with “Kingpin,” which really doesn’t play up the amputee’s disability enough to challenge the audience, which gets challenged not much in the film, period, in spite of one good scene in which the character’s artificial hand gets stuck to the bowling ball. How the Farrelly pair got to be responsible for the most important feature film depictions of the disabled since “What’s Eating Gilbert Grape?” (which marked DiCaprio’s only real acting job) is a mystery that only God could solve.

    Posted by  on  02/13  at  10:41 AM
  4. thanks for the great story!  I wish I could have had a ringside seat at my daughter’s first junior high dance this week.

    Posted by  on  02/13  at  10:50 AM
  5. When’s the movie of the Red and Black going to get their gold and laurels coming out?

    By chance---at 9am in the midst of the storm of ‘06--the three of us watched Something About Mary and Charlie became noticeably more interested than when I briefly turned on an autism documentary that the (parent) filmmaker asked me to view (Come Back Jack. (Why not---he’s had at least 40 20-something young woman showing up at our door to teach him or directing him off the school bus over the past 7 years.) The Farrelly brothers, as the NY Times told us in their article on The Ringer, have had a long-time interest in disability and the movies as a childhood friend is disabled. I confess I have yet to see the movie, because I can barely watch my Netflix let alone got to a theater.

    Gross-out humor, a dash or two of sentimentality, heart-wringing moments, general craziness--it says something about our life as parents of a “classically autistic” child. Still waiting for the autism comedy!

    Posted by Kristina Chew  on  02/13  at  11:00 AM
  6. An inspiring story, but I have volleyball issues dating back to a nasty gym teacher in high school. Still a little scarred…

    Technically, I don’t think My Left Foot involved a mental disability. Christy was not cognitively impaired by his cerebral palsy, was he? Bit of an arrogant ass, that’s all.

    Posted by Orange  on  02/13  at  11:50 AM
  7. Even if you had been chewing on a towel, you’d have to have suffered a follicular catastrophe to look even remotely like Tark.

    And Jamie’s got game!  How cool.

    Posted by corndog  on  02/13  at  12:01 PM
  8. Michael, thank you for another wonderful Jamie story.  BTW, my young nephew is mildly autistic but his older sister is a real knockout—just like in the movies!

    Posted by  on  02/13  at  12:37 PM
  9. You asked a teen-age offspring if he wanted to dance with you in public? My God, you were lucky enough he shared a table!

    Posted by  on  02/13  at  12:39 PM
  10. Have you seen the teevee show “Little Britain?” They have several recurring developmentally and/or mentally disabled characters, and their caretakers.  I was just saying to a friend that I bet that one or both of the show’s creators/performers has intimate familiarity with a disabled person and/or caretaking.  I don’t know that I could put across why I have that impression (at least not without more thought than I’m up for at the moment); it just rings that way, somehow.

    Posted by belledame222  on  02/13  at  12:41 PM
  11. I think you are missing a word in this paragraph.

    Thanks!  All fixed.

    And getting a Coke is in fact a counterhegemonic act on this all-Pepsi campus.

    Posted by  on  02/13  at  12:52 PM
  12. Ah youth! Traveling all day, competing, big nights with friends, dancing until dark, and then awakening early to serve two different styles of aces—Jamie should do some vitamin endorsements.

    Posted by  on  02/13  at  01:07 PM
  13. Just a quick aside (but in the spirit of gender disability) the play of the teenage girls in Olympic hockey is inspiring.  A sixteen years old Suise woman/girl is shutting down the #3 ranked Finnish team; a seventeen years old getting a hat trick, a US girl celebrating her 19th birthday gets another hat trick.  And if that doesn’t cut it, the Swiss captain just threw a very direct and well crafted right cross at the head of a Finnish defensewoman putting her down. 

    I had the opportunity to watch a “making of the film” documentary for the Ringer and it was really quite amazing.  The efforts made to find extras from the disabled community for the athletic scenes led to rewriting the script as new very talented actors emerged from the extras.  The producers and director(s) were thrilled with the capabilities of the cast, and Knoxville and Heigl found themselves in an ensemble of equals.

    Posted by  on  02/13  at  02:11 PM
  14. Just a small quibble—Most of the actors you named are guilty as accused, except for Daniel Day Lewis, who played the role of Christie Brown, based on a true story about a physically impaired man with not just average but way above average intelligence.  The irony portrayed in the movie was how many people assumed Christie was “mentally deficient” as a result of his gross physical impairment when, in fact, he was close to being brilliant, a fact that his family and caregivers figured out after taking the time to know him.

    Sorry if this seems trivial. I can’t help it.  Daniel Day Lewis is the cinema love of my life.

    Posted by  on  02/13  at  02:46 PM
  15. Hey, Barbara, no one’s guilty of anything.  I don’t consider it a crime that actors occasionally portray characters with intellectual disabilities.  And I should have made it clearer that Daniel Day-Lewis’s Christy Brown has a developmental rather than an intellectual disability.  Tell you what—I’ll go back and edit that passage for accuracy, and throw in an acknowledgement of your point and Orange’s.

    And I can’t believe I forgot Leonardo DiCaprio in What’s Eating Gilbert Grape?!  He was pretty impressive, imho.  Also not guilty. 

    Posted by  on  02/13  at  03:05 PM
  16. Michael, this was a great post to read first thing this morning. Thanks.

    Posted by Chris Clarke  on  02/13  at  04:33 PM
  17. Yes, I liked it tooo.

    Put me in the holiday spirit again.

    Ho ho ho!

    Posted by  on  02/13  at  06:23 PM
  18. I love the Jamie stories.  Thanks so much for sharing.

    Posted by  on  02/13  at  07:25 PM
  19. Farrelly-wise, I saw “Dumb and Dumber” more or less by accident. Parts were funny, but the overall feeling I got was terrible sadness. The two guys basically knew that their lives were hopeless, though they didn’t in the least understand why. They projected their doomed hopes on a beautiful girl, and convinced themselves for awhile that a few improbable plot twists had given them a real chance for happiness. But in the end, they find out that it really had been hopeless all along, and that they’d just been making fools of themselves. I the movie unbearable, but not because it was bad.

    Posted by John Emerson  on  02/13  at  07:50 PM
  20. You are avery, very cool dad.

    Posted by Ann Bartow  on  02/13  at  08:21 PM
  21. Michael, is Jamie serving overhand?

    Posted by  on  02/13  at  10:25 PM
  22. Interesting question, Stephen!  The last time I spoke of Jamie’s sports prowess on this blog (last April, in a post about Challenger League baseball), someone advised me to start pitching to him overhand because it would be better for his hand-eye coordination . . . and lo, it was better for his hand-eye coordination.  He began hitting balls clear out of the infield, which only one or two other kids in the league can do.

    But this fall, when he began to imitate the one teammate who does serve overhand, I suggested to him that he master the underhand serve first.  I don’t want to hold him back—I just wanted him to clear the net, which (until Villanova) he wasn’t doing.

    Posted by Michael  on  02/13  at  10:50 PM
  23. How Quickly we forget. I’m not saying you started the “ho” and “whore” discourse, MB, just that you put it on the radar. Your readers interpreted “D’Ho” as they saw fit.

    I have a friend who has hypomania, and she winces at the word “maniac.” Everyone has unique sensitivites and insensitivities, that’s why I try to focus on (and urge others to focus on) intent wherever possible.  I haven’t protested when Michael calls David Horowitz “D. Ho” even though whore and ho are words that bother me, because in context I know his intentions are okay. I definitely, like most people, think we all have great room for improvement of our
    clodlike tendencies, and it’s perfectly appropriate for people point to them out, as Michael has done so tactfully and nicely in this post.  But my own view of freedom of speech, both legal and normative, resists vesting individual words with power exclusive of context.
    Posted by Ann Bartow on 10/24 at 03:15 PM
    #

    Posted by  on  02/13  at  11:38 PM
  24. Isn’t it a joke about JLo? I’m confused now.

    Posted by Chris Clarke  on  02/13  at  11:42 PM
  25. I think that’s probably how MB intended it; but that’s not how a lot of people seem to have interpreted it. All I am saying is that these terms *are* offensive to people; take responsibility for that.

    Posted by  on  02/13  at  11:43 PM
  26. Dear Cool Dad,

    The term “D’ho” and its D-Ho, D. Ho variants has been around for a long time now.  It was not invented on this site, and it is hardly exclusive to this site.  As you’ll see if you read through all my (many) remarks on Horowitz, I usually call him “Horowitz,” “David Horowitz,” or “David.” Still, I have indeed used the term in the past, and I have never objected to its use by anyone else.

    But thanks for calling my attention to Ann Bartow’s comment from five months ago.  I had, indeed, forgotten it.  She is not my student, however, as some people seem to assume.  She is a law professor at the University of South Carolina.  For the record, I think she was mistaken about reading “D. Ho.” as a reference to “ho” and “whore,” just as I thought—and said at the time—that she was mistaken in thinking that I was trying to reproach anyone for using the term “idiot.” What I said, in response to her comment, was this:  “even though my wife and I are retiring ‘idiot’ for now (especially since those drivers were really maniacs!—thanks, jim), I don’t mean to put such terms utterly off limits.”

    Of course, the pressing question about that October 24 post—as any blogger would know—was how best to handle the many comments of the person calling himself “Mister Toad.” So I probably under-read Ann’s second comment at the time.  Mea culpa.

    Last but not least, Ann is also mistaken in calling me a cool dad.  I’m not even in the top 101 Coolest Dads in America, as either or both of my children will tell you.

    Posted by  on  02/14  at  12:13 AM
  27. Thanks for the clarification.

    I promise to leave your blog alone from now on. The intensity is too much, and you’re a good guy.

    Take care.

    Posted by  on  02/14  at  12:16 AM
  28. Wise advice Michael. My attempts to serve overhand always seem to wind up in the hedges or the neighbor’s yard.

    Posted by  on  02/14  at  12:31 AM
  29. Residing in Region 2 I have not seen Ringers but I am also intrigued by The Farrelly Bros. In the end, I think their characters are often complicated by sweetness and that’s what saves them from being straight up offensive , although the ‘schizophrenia’ in Me, Myself and Irene was just Jim Carrey gurning and doing his annoying over-performance thing.

    But isn’t it just simple set up comedy? We know that Warren is going to slap Ted around the head just as much as we know the policeman is going to drink beer bottles full of piss or the hitman is going to drink the hot sauce.

    I am interested in TV portrayals of disabled characters. For a start, there aren’t many. But what Gregory House, Carrie Weaver in ER and (in Britain) Brian Potter of Phoenix Nights have in common is that they are borderline unlikeable. I guess House is just an anti-hero, so that’s okay. But Weaver is annoyingly ambitious and not a little pompous and Potter is a conceited Monster in the David Brentian mould.

    There’s also South Park’s Timmy.

    And how many ‘Reality’ shows are set up to exclude people with disabilities? Simon Cowell makes jokes about people being fat and ugly on ‘Idol’ and The Apprentice, Survivor, that show where people race around the world etc are completely uninclusive. How many ramps are there in the Big Brother House? In the UK we have had several transexual and gay big brother people, all races and creeds, but never a disabled person.

    Over here in the UK (as Belledame mentions) there is a show called Little Britain, which is mainstream here but would probably cause riots in parts of the US. The central recurring sketch features Lou and Andy, who are, respectively, a fat wheelchair-bound guy and his ‘carer’. The joke is that Lou may not be disabled. Andy treats him with kid gloves and follows his every need. Lou exploits this with capricious requests and sulking. When Andy’s attention is distracted we see Lou jumping out of his wheelchair and pole-vaulting, high board diving, beating people up and running around. It’s funny, yes, but makes me uncomfortable. (by the way Belledame I am aware that Matt Lucas is gay and his ‘only gay in the village’ character is kind of self-satire of his ashamed younger self but I am not aware of any background of care experience)

    The show and characters are massively popular with kids. My concern is the same one i have with the Farrelly’s use of representation. The kids I deal with in a school environment don’t have any idea about disability issues and seem to readily accept the difficult issues in the comedy (that Lou is lazy and a fraud) as perfectly normal. I have noticed Lou and Andy references are part of the current lexicon of insults amongst 12 year olds.

    I wonder if in many of these cases, disabled-aware people are laughing with the characters, whilst some other people are laughing at them?

    Posted by saltydog  on  02/14  at  12:33 AM
  30. ”. . .getting a Coke is in fact a counterhegemonic act on this all-Pepsi campus.”

    I wish I had a buck for every time I’ve heard that excuse, Michael.

    Posted by  on  02/14  at  08:09 AM
  31. As far as I remember, James Branch Cabell’s only child had Down Syndrome (apparently; I don’t think the syndrome had been identified as such at the time).  In Cabell’s later, minor writings, he writes a kind of proud-father piece about how his son can pay for things despite not being able to read money (takes out one bill and lets the person make the change; relies on social cues to see whether he needs to take out another bill and so on).  His son also, apparently, helped to convince him to remarry after Cabell’s wife died late in Cabell’s life.

    Posted by  on  02/14  at  10:03 AM
  32. I saw The Ringer with a bit of hesitation, just not sure what I was getting myself into.I thought with Something about Mary that they werent’ quite successful at what they were trying to do but it didn’t offend me. When I went to see The Ringer,I laughed until I cried. Johnny Knoxville’s roommate, the computer wiz, reminded me of my wise-ass son and I glimpsed the future. Sure, it had flaws, and at the beginning people didn’t know quite when to laugh, but as soon as he was found out the movie took off and I thought it was a blast. I’m working with some young adults right now, training them to be ambassadors at the World Congress in Vancouver this year and they are so much fun, one young guy could easily have been in this movie.

    Posted by  on  02/14  at  10:16 AM
  33. I agree, Clare—the movie takes at least half an hour to find its feet, but after that, it’s OK by me.  And yeah, that wise-ass roommate was a glimpse of our future, wasn’t he?  Right down to the scratched CD, a phenomenon that irks Jamie no end these days.  I’ve been trying to talk him into getting (and learning how to use) an iPod.

    Back up to John Emerson in 19:  “Dumb and Dumber” is probably the least successful of the bunch.  But then, only recently have the Farrellys reached their mature period.

    There!  I am now the first person to refer to the Farrelly brothers’ “mature period.”

    Saltydog, Rich, Kristina, everyone—thanks for chipping in.

    Posted by Michael  on  02/14  at  12:35 PM
  34. ...the Daniel Day-Lewis/ Dustin Hoffman/ Tom Hanks/ Sean Penn/ Cuba Gooding tradition in which nondisabled actors win Oscars and/or the hearts of millions for portraying adults with developmental disabilities...

    Hey, you left out Leonardo DiCaprio in “What’s Eating Gilbert Grape?”

    Posted by Daryl McCullough  on  02/14  at  01:29 PM
  35. Yep, I did, but Brian C. B. got him in comment 3, and I said “D’oh” (not in reference to any right-wing activists) in comment 15.

    Posted by Michael  on  02/14  at  01:41 PM
  36. I agree that the first 30 minutes were the worst of the film, but I don’t think it’s because people didn’t know whether they should laugh. It’s because the first 30 minutes really stunk!!  Why, why did the script have to be so terrible? None of the jokes worked, and it wasn’t because they were tiptoeing around disability.  Not funny (although sometimes interesting):
    -steve asking for more responsibility and being told to fire Stavi.
    -the ENTIRE Stavi plotline (getting fired, getting rehired to mow outside while steve watched tv). not only not funny, but offensive (oh yes, stavi love clean toilets!)
    -the uncle plotline and the bookie who loved jimmy so much he was willing to bet no one could beat him.
    There were perhaps some points worth thinking about hidden amongst those scenes, but they were buried deep (along with the jokes) under the ridiculous plot setup. Too deep to be worth digging out.
    The rest of the movie, on the other hand, was very enjoyable (although the romance subplot was kinda painful, too). One of my favorite jokes (no intro so as not to spoil): Glenn to Jeffy/Steve: If I’d known that I wouldn’t have stayed behind you for so long!!

    Posted by  on  02/14  at  07:13 PM
  37. I haven’t seen “The Ringer” yet: I can’t (even) comment on it.

    I did see “Rain Man” which basically was also a comedy which uses mental disability as a plot device.  Even though it was marketed as a disease-of-the-week drama, it is a classic road comedy where a dumb smartass (i.e., the Tom Cruise character) is forced to rely on a wise fool (i.e., the Dustin Hoffman character.)

    I have also seen most of the Farelly Brothers’ other comedies, which almost always have one at least one Wise Fool as a central character.  Sometimes multiple ones, as in “Something About Mary” where all three of the major male characters in Mary’s life are incredibly naive yet also quite clever and resourceful.

    Posted by Tim Horrigan  on  02/15  at  01:42 AM
  38. What did you think about Napolean Dynomite?  Many of the characters in that movie seemed be on the autistic spectrum.  Funny or offensive?

    Posted by Laura  on  02/16  at  02:38 PM
  39. Hysterically funny, even the second time through.  But maybe that’s just me.

    Posted by  on  02/16  at  03:40 PM
  40. Good.  We liked it, too.  LaFawnduh rules!

    Posted by Laura  on  02/16  at  04:06 PM
  41. There’s a big fat graduated gray line between “autism spectrum” and “nerd.” It’s hard to tell sometimes just where on that line a fictional character resides.

    Posted by Chris "nerd" Clarke  on  02/16  at  04:10 PM
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  43. 38.What did you think about Napolean Dynomite?  Many of the characters how many weeks pregnant am i sw how much does it cost to have a baby
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    Posted by  on  02/07  at  02:16 AM
  44. 31.As far as I remember, James Branch Cabell’s only child had Down Syndrome (apparently; I don’t think the syndrome had been identified as such at the time).  In Cabell’s later, minor writings, he writes a kind of proud-father piece about how his son can pay for advicelog aw something ji likewen
    things despite not being able to read money (takes out one bill and lets the person make the change; relies on social cues to see whether he needs to take out another bill and so on).  His son also, apparently, helped to convince him to remarry after Cabell’s wife died late in Cabell’s life.

    Posted by  on  02/07  at  02:17 AM
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