Movie poster for The Hill

Overcoming is possible…with FULL. BODY. ROTATION!!!!

Sometimes it is hard watching bad movies over and over again so, this month, we’ve decided to get a little inspiration from the always exciting sport of baseball! Joined by special guest Derek Silva, co-host of the End of Sport podcast, we dig into the religious bio-pic of disabled baseballer Rickey Hill as he struggles to make the major leagues. While there was very little actual baseball in the movie there was a lot to discuss!

Listen at…

Grading the Film

As always, this film is reviewed with scores recorded in four main categories, with 1 being the best and 5 being the worst. Like the game of golf, the lower the score the better.

How accurate is the representation?

Jeff – 4 / 5

sarah – 5/ 5

Derek – 4.5 / 5

Total – 13.5 / 15

How difficult was it to watch the movie?

sarah – 5 / 5

Jeff – 5 / 5

Derek – 5 / 5

Total – 15 / 15

How often were things unintentionally funny?

sarah – 2 / 5

Jeff – 2 / 5

Derek – 4 / 5

Total – 8 / 15

How far back has it put disabled people?

Jeff – 3 / 5

sarah – 3 / 5

Derek – 4 / 5

Total – 10 / 15

The Verdict

The Jerry Lewis Seal of Approval

Part 1 transcript

[episode begins with the trailer for The Hill]

Jeff:

You are listening to invalid Culture, a podcast dedicated to excavating the strangest and most baffling media representations of disability. This podcast is all about staring into the abyss of pop culture adjacent films that never quite broke through because well, they’re just awful. So buckle up folks. The following content is rated I for invalid.

Episode theme song, “Arguing with Strangers on the Internet” by Mvll Crimes:

I’m arguing with strangers on the internet not going out today because I’m feeling too upset arguing with strangers on the internet and I’m winning.

Jeff:

Welcome back to another thrilling edition of Invalid Culture. As always, I am your host, Jeff, and we are joined once again by our co-host. Sarah, how are you doing, Sarah?

sarah:

Really happy outside of academia. How are you?

Jeff:

Yeah, doing great. Inside academia, I’m still on sabbatical, which is why I’m doing really great. Oh,

sarah:

Outside

Jeff:

Still inside academia. Yeah. Yeah, the academia that is my closet and my brain. Now, we also have a very special guest joining us today because as listeners will know, it is May, which means that baseball season is in full swing, and I realized that we have never been inspired by a disabled athlete yet on invalid culture, and I thought it’s about time we got to do a sports movie, but I am not really, I mean, I like sports, but I’m not a sports scholar. Sarah, it turns out, is actually an expert in baseball. So that was good, but I thought we should get another expert, and so I thought we should bring in the star. I would argue of the end of sports podcast friend Derek Silva. How you doing, Derek?

Derek:

Oh, wonderful. Thank you for that. I’m also on sabbatical too, so I’m sharing your insider outsider kind of place in academia right now, but I’m happy to be here.

Jeff:

Yeah, it feels good, doesn’t it?

Derek:

It does. It’s refreshing. Just get out of academia if we can. Let’s just all do it.

Jeff:

Right? And then in our own academia, outside of academia,

sarah:

It’s a test run. This is before you do it for real.

Jeff:

Yeah, absolutely. Yeah. So Derek, for our listeners who aren’t deep into your cv, can you tell us a little bit about the work that you do?

Derek:

Yeah, yeah. So I’m a sociologist of sport. I guess what kind of brings me to this episode would be I’m also a critical media scholar as well. I’m not a scholar of disability, so you both will school me when it comes to that, but I do take a critical lens when it comes to the sports world, and I co-host the end of sport podcasts, which looks at sport from a critical perspective in terms of labor issues, issues of harm and violence in sport. And I also do that in my academic work as well. I guess I’ll give a brief shout out to my forthcoming book called The End of College Football on Harm in US College Football with UNC press, and that will come out in the fall.

Jeff:

Yeah, so, okay, dear listeners, we have a real treat for you here, not just our guests, although they’re lovely, but we have found ourselves a real beauty of a film. We are of course this month talking about The Hill. The hill, which is on Netflix..you can reach it on Netflix here in Canada. For those of you who have not watched the Hill, the Hill is described as thusly: Growing up in an impoverished small town, Texas young Rickey Hill shows an extraordinary ability for hit a baseball, despite being burdened by leg braces from a degenerative spinal disease. His stern pastoral father discourages Rickey from playing baseball to protect him from injury and to have him follow in his footsteps and become a preacher. As a young man, Rickey becomes a baseball phenol. His desire to participate in a tryout for a legendary major league scout divides the family and threatens Rickey’s dream of playing professional baseball. It’s very long description on the back of the box, but how would you say they did here on capturing the tone of the film?

sarah:

Poor given this is a two hour film and it features about 30 to 35 minutes of total baseball or baseball related scripting. So it seems the background makes it revolve around the trope of being a baseball prodigy, but he is really kind of a prodigy at wandering around hitting rocks and complaining about his family. And then there’s some baseball kind of peripheral to that

Jeff:

On the side and a space launch. There’s also a space launch shoehorned in for some reason.

sarah:

That’s true. I forgot about that

Derek:

There were quite a few kind of odd curve ball, pun intended, curve ball moments in this phone.

sarah:

Oh great pun.

Jeff:

It was good. Which of course we all know the faster it’s thrown, the faster it goes out. So curve balls are not good for hitting numbers,

sarah:

But he didn’t really seem to be terribly proficient at hitting fast balls. A point to which they break up repeatedly several times during the 35 minutes of actual baseball footage.

Jeff:

Now, the timeline for this film, I also wanted to bring up, because I think it’s phenomenal, we don’t have to unpack this now. I think we’ll unpack it for the next 18 years of our life. The timeline of the film is never give up hope of our film.

Yeah. Now let’s talk a little bit about who actually made this film, because what you might be thinking is that this film was made by Rickey Hill and that is possibly true. That’s one potential answer, but there are some other names that are attached to this, some names that are a little bit surprising. One of the first names I want to draw our attention to is Angelo Pizo. Angelo Pizo is a fairly big name in religious adjacent sports, bio pit inspiration films. You may have heard of some of these films such as Hoosiers, Rudy, Courage. These films are basically, they birthed an entire catalog of films that still continue today, and arguably, we would not have the hill if it wasn’t for these other films. I think it’s also important that we consider The Hill in the context of these other films because they follow a very typical formula that may or may not have anything to do with disability per se. They’re very focused on this sort of idea of the unexpected guy who overcomes the odds based on hard work and a firm love of Jesus. So I’m wondering, Derek, what do you know about these films? What are your thoughts on Hoosiers Rudy Courage?

Derek:

I mean, they’re that trope of inspirational sports film that’s intended to be the thing you put on at Family Movie Night, and I think that’s where a lot of the viewers come from, and that’s why this film, I think, is done particularly well on Netflix and not in the Box Office because I think it fits that genre very well. And it follows the kind of exact same trope as you’ve kind of laid out in terms of, oh, there’s something that’s made an issue. There’s the nexus of a kind of tension-filled relationships surrounding sport with the main protagonist and someone around them, whether that be their father in this case, or a spouse or the family in general or someone else, and all these roadblocks along the way, and every time something happens so that person gets over that roadblock to kind of reach their dreams.

And I don’t want to put the cart before the horse in terms of talking about the end, but I think the, the final sequence of the film really highlights for me many of the issues with this genre of film. It highlights the fact that the real problematic endpoint or the dreams that have been arrived at aren’t actually beneficial or should be viewed as dreams. In this case, the protagonist went on to play four years in minor league baseball, and we know Minor League baseball has some of the worst working conditions in all of sport before having to give up the game four years later because their spine finally fully succumbed to the issue. So I really think this film masked all of that and really played into the inspiration, and that’s why it fits well for Family Movie Night. I think.

sarah:

Derek, have you ever profiled a Demotivational sports film?

Derek:

I don’t think it’s out there, to be honest.

sarah:

Is the first Rocky properly demotivational?

Jeff:

Right?

Derek:

It could be. I mean, some films, if you take the real view, the end, I think Friday Night Lights as both a film and a TV series did well to highlight the reoccurring cycle of intergenerational socioeconomic issues, trauma, alcoholism, mental health issues that if you move past the stepping stones of like, oh, we’ve made it to the championship game or the state or whatever, we won a ring or whatever it is. If you get beyond that, you realize, okay, society is reinforcing all of these harmful things, and I think it did a decent job. I still think those, the film and the TV series were pretty inspirational in the end anyways, right?

sarah:

So maybe The Hill was an incredibly unsuccessful inspirational film, but if its rubric was how close it came to Million Dollar Baby or Friday Night Lights, it’s actually extremely successful,

Jeff:

Right?

Derek:

Absolutely. And there’s an entire genre. It’s now very much a formula, and I think highlighting Angelo Pizo footprint or hand prints is important here because it falls the same vein as Rudy and all of those other films that were mentioned, like just believe and everything. It’s the American dream, and that’s what this at the end is always about. It’s that if you try hard, you work hard enough, you and you are righteous and believe in God and you’re God-fearing you, fear your dreams will be reached. And in this case, that nexus between sport and religion was completely kind of played open for us to see. It was a movie about that

sarah:

God found Rickey Hill fit for minor league baseball. For the Montreal team,

Jeff:

Yes, for the expos, yes. Yeah, I mean, it’s interesting. I mean, the hail I think is very overt. It literally references multiple times David versus Goliath, but that seems to be also at the root of a lot of Angela Peso’s work. Rudy is literally a tiny man, tiny little boy going up against Notre Dame, and this is a big thing. But Angela Pizo, I did not know. This is not the first time that disability has played a role in his work. He also did a movie called Bleed for This, which was about a boxer, a boxer named Vinny. Vinny Pza. I’m terrible with names. Apologies to Boxer. Please don’t come and kill me. This is about a boxer who ends up a car accident, has a disability, overcomes the disability, goes back to boxing, basically. Yeah, we might be doing bleed for this in a future season. Derek, we might need to have you back.

Derek:

Oh yeah, invite me back.

Jeff:

Angela Pizo also wrote one episode of the TV show, knots Landings. He broke this episode two years before writing Hoosiers, which seems really off brand to me, and so I had to break it up. This film has two other full writers though and possibly many more that were not credited. We also have Scott Marshall Smith, who’s also a bit of a name. He has written things like Men of Honor starring Cuba “Somebody sucked that Baby’s Dick” Good Jr. If you don’t know that, look it up. Also, Robert Downey Jr. Is in that one. Scott Marshall Smith also wrote the score, which stars Edward Norton, Robert De Niro, Marlon Brando. So there’s a bit of star power here, and the last listed writer is a guy named Bill Shain who hasn’t really done a lot. He’s written one of the short, also wrote a documentary about a street racer slash Vietnam War vet who partners up with an LA deputy slash pro racer and they end the fe between the Crip and the blood.

I guess they were successful. I don’t think that’s happening anymore. So it was good. So that’s sort of the writing team as we understand it. In terms of the director, the director is a little not really known. I did not know this director previously. His name is Jeff, not me, different Jeff. Jeff Celentano. He’s worked in pretty much every facet of film has been involved in a ton of spinoff movies in the nineties. So he directed American Ninja two, the Confrontation and Puppet Master two, but did that under a different name under the name Jeff Weston. He is now a screenplay writer, director, and active teacher at the Performing Academy in Life Forest, California. A lot of his films are sort of a mix of action comedy. They tend to be pretty B-list kind of made for tv. He has a recent focus, however, in biopic redemption stories, and so I think that might be why he was tapped for this film. Also, a lot of his films are about stark cross lovers with gang or mob affiliation that unfortunately not a factor in this film. I wish. He also has a real interest for psychotic killers in several of his movies included Bosco Heat and Under the Hula Moon, both of these feature characters dubbed as psychotic killers or murderous psychopaths that need to be overcome within the text. But we can finally talk about the thing that we all want to talk about, which is Dennis Quaid.

sarah:

Absolutely.

Jeff:

This film stars Dennis Quaid. Do I need to introduce Dennis Quaid? Do people know who Dennis Quaid is?

sarah:

I think you do, because in your notes you introduced him as the Star of Soul Surfer, and that’s actually Anna Sophia Rob.

Jeff:

Well, it depends on how you watch it.

sarah:

So I often confuse those two individuals. They’re both impossibly hot and completely charismatically controlling on screen.

Jeff:

See, some people watch Soul Surfer for the surfer. I watch Soul Surfer for the father.

sarah:

It wasn’t Soul Surfer’s Family, it was Soul Surfer.

Jeff:

Yeah, it was Soul Surfer’s Dad, the real hero. Dennis Quaid obviously has been in a million, literally maybe a million things any given Sunday stands out. Another sports film also, I always forget this, he was in W Herb, he played Doc Holiday in Wyatt Earp, which I don’t know how I would forget something like that. But more importantly for this podcast, he was also in a film that haunts my pop culture and disability class at King’s, Johnny Belinda, which is an old film of phase that comes up a lot for whatever reason. So what are our thoughts on Dennis Quaid folks? Where are we on the qua verse?

Derek:

So I think I shared this story with Jeff offline, and when he asked me to watch this and comment and come on the podcast, he told me The Hill. So I read just very briefly about what it was before saying yes, and I thought to myself, I was like, I wouldn’t be surprised if Dennis Qua is in this film. It just kind of seemed like age appropriate for him in that character’s role in the role of the father as well. It just seemed maybe this is just like the rookie, the film, the rookie kind of, and I just see it. I am not surprised. I also said an or a kind of related film draft day, which isn’t about disability at all, but I wouldn’t be surprised if Dennis Quaid was considered for the role in Draft Day as well, and it ultimately went to Kevin Costner. Those two seem interchangeable when it comes to these types of roles. So I was super unsurprised that he was in it, but it’s also kind of jarring because very, very big name for a seemingly not big kind of, this doesn’t seem like a big budget film or anything like that, and kind of quickly taken out of Box Office and put on Netflix. I don’t know if that’s an indication of Dennis CO’s career. I don’t know. I have no idea, but I was kind of surprised.

sarah:

I think he might’ve just liked the script, which my head Canon was actually written by Rickey Hill and then was just edited and substantiated by actual screenplay writers. But if you get the guy who’s a semi-successful gospel singer to play your Come to Jesus, I’m rejecting the church in favor of the Church of Baseball narrative. It’s not just a fan cast. He probably read that and was like, I would love to be this guy. I want my name on that. And then it became the Hill,

Jeff:

Right? Right. He was like, I didn’t get the Oscar for Soul Surfer. Maybe I can get the Oscar for the Hill.

sarah:

Follow it up with my Church of Baseball Prodigy Epic. Yeah,

Jeff:

Yeah, that was the issue, very likely. So Dennis Quaid, of course, plays the Hard thumping Bible daddy, which I was going to say is a fairly one note character. I think there’s two notes to this character. He’s a bit of a loving father. He also is an abusive father, so 1960s.

sarah:

Yeah, I think there were some pretty heavy editorial decisions there around the historical profile of Dennis Quaid’s character.

Jeff:

Yeah, yeah, we will definitely have to talk about that. Yeah,

Derek:

I hope I have some thoughts on that as

Jeff:

Well. Yep. Okay, so we also have Colin Ford. Colin Ford would be the other sort of star arguably of this film. Colin Ford will play, I was going to say an older, older Rickey Hill, a teenaged, Rickey Hill High School senior Rickey Hill, Colin Ford. I found this fact interesting. Entered the entertainment industry as a 4-year-old model in Atlanta, which I find, I have no idea what that means, baby models, man, they’re everywhere. He’s also been in a ton of TV shows. You probably, however, recognized him as Dylan me in the film, we bought a zoo. If you are the type of person to watch that film or possibly as Steve Danvers and Captain Marvel, which he may have watched, he also did two very early two thousands Mormon films. There were historical films about the Mormons called The Work and The Glory, and anytime I see a Mormon, I want to talk about it. So there it’s calling forward. For our listeners who were in the disability verse will maybe recognize him from Dumb and Dumber. When Harry met Lloyd, he was Lloyd Christmas in the sequel to Dumb and Dumber. He also has done voice work in Family Guy, and he was in one episode of the Netflix hit series, Dahmer Monster, the Jeffrey Dahmer story.

sarah:

Oh, is that the daher that most people shortened to just Dahmer? Correct. Because of common sense conventions? Yeah.

Jeff:

It is officially Dahmer hyphen Monster, colon, the Jeffrey Dahmer story

sarah:

Silliness, the one that didn’t get permission from the witnesses to make most of the screenplay about the witnesses, that Dahmer slash Monster slash Jeffrey Dahmer story,

Jeff:

Which was made by the guy who did Glee, an American Horror Story, which also has some really fun disability politics. So yeah, it’s all interconnected. All interconnected. Last but not least, I have to bring this up because it’s going to play a role later. Joelle Carter is also in this. She plays Brie’s mom. She’s had a fairly impressive acting career, most notably appearing as Ava Crowder in the TV show. Justified. There’s another kind of coser in just right. Am I making that up? I think so. Is that Kevin Costner? Is it just

Derek:

Honestly mostly with Dennis? It could be. It could be either. It could be both at the same time,

Jeff:

Both just interchange. Yep. Also it within films like High Fidelity and American Pie too. So that’s sort of our cast of characters. There are a series of other characters that are unimportant. Okay, so some production notes about this film. This movie, it should be noted, was in production hell for years, largely it would appear held up by Rickey Hill himself, not settling on the right director for the project. According to history versus hollywood.com, over 40 directors were considered for this film over the span of 17 years. Ano was eventually selected at the recommendation of his brother. So the story goes that his brother was in a hotel lobby and he overheard Rickey Hill talking loudly publicly about not having a director for this film, and Jeff Tino’s brother leaned over and said, I got the director for you, my brother. I have no idea if this is true, but I find this hilarious.

Rickey has publicly stated that his intention for this project was to inspire. He says on his own website, I hope audiences find inspiration in their depiction of my life and that it offers encouragement to anyone with a physical disability because loving what you do is the key to a wonderful life. We can confirm Rickey’s family was quite poor while growing up. In some interviews I’ve heard it stated that they ate cat food. In other interviews, I’ve heard it say that they eat dog food to survive. Per the end of the movie, Rickey Hill does eventually sign a pro contract with the Montreal Expos, RIP, but he never played in the majors. He quit several years later due to injury. A local newspaper article written by Sally Kroger does say that Rickey has been through 49 surgeries in his lifetime, living most of his days of chronic pain, but never let it stop him from his dreams. He’s broken nearly every bone and has been in three near death car accidents where ribs and his fever have been smashed. His skull was cracked, and one wreck resulted in a year long concussion. In the last accident, troopers were surprised to find he was still alive. Why is the hill not about the car accident?

sarah:

That’s true. My other question, if you’ll indulge me for a second, was I do like that they admit he lived most of his days in chronic pain. He is got chronic illness, he’s got permanent disability, but I’m literally struggling to recall more than two or three scenes that even referenced the chronic illness. So if that’s your movie’s premise, wouldn’t that have taken up more of the screenplay?

Derek:

Absolutely. Not only did I notice that as well, but I think it was particularly interesting how the only time the disability crept in was when it was an obvious manifestation of getting in the way of something that he was supposedly dreaming of. That’s the only time or wanted even when he went to kiss his partner, the reunited with the long girlfriend from when he was four years old, which is also a little bit creepy, but also that’s a side story they’re going to kiss for the first time, and that’s when you see the back pain. That’s supposedly been always happening, and then you don’t see it again for the entire film, not

sarah:

When he is doing the big wraparound swings,

Jeff:

Full body rotation, Sarah, full body rotation.

Derek:

Okay. I don’t think, I am shocked that the actual script writing had full body rotation in the 10 times that it did

sarah:

Full body rotation.

Derek:

It just seems like there was probably a better way to write that dialogue than full body rotation every time.

sarah:

I felt that same thing about just about every single line of dialogue. I think whenever someone spoke, I was like, there had to been a better way.

Jeff:

You would think,

sarah:

But there wasn’t,

Jeff:

But no, but no, the last production note, I will say, so this movie was set in the sixties slash seventies, mostly as I like to do, I counted. We got four cripples in this text. The word cripple was used four times. Was that more or less cripples than you expected when you first started this film?

Derek:

Far fewer for me, to be honest, considering the time I expected

sarah:

I

Derek:

Texas. Yeah, yeah, yeah. Just the whole scene seen, but yeah, yeah. Far fewer than I.

Jeff:

Far fewer. Okay. So we’ll give it a passive grade maybe on that one. Okay, good. Good.

Okay. Now, we of course have our own opinions about this film strong and maybe not so strong and definitely silly, but we are not the only ones. There are legitimate people in this world who write critique. Then there are more important people in this world that write critique. So how has the Hill fared critically? Well, as you can probably imagine, critics have not been enamored with this film. It currently sits with a 44% on Rotten Tomatoes from critics, how it holds a dazzling 97% fresh from over 500 verified audience members, meaning that it is a better movie than Alien, only 94%, and Lawrence of Arabia only 39%. It similarly has a ton of perfect scores on IMDB and Amazon. Most of these positive reviews talk exclusively about how great it is that this movie has no sex or swearing. So take that for what you will.

sarah:

It was God’s perfect film.

Jeff:

Yep. That’s what made it great. Five stars, no sex. I don’t fully know what you thought this movie was going to be if you went into it beginning line. I hope there’s not a lot of sex in this film.

sarah:

You know what? I’m going to stand up for the viewer on this one. I was just speaking to my friend the other day. I was watching, I don’t even remember what anymore. I think it was Immaculate, the New Sydney Sweeney movie, and I said, I think we’ve taken the turn away from Cinema Bashfulness way too far. I think we need to bring back some of the bashfulness that was originally in cinema because as not a sex haver, as an asexual, I don’t like any of it, but I find myself regularly having to sit through 10 uninterrupted minutes of either foreplay or full on sexual action, and I keep having to ask myself, even if I was a sex Haber, what is the purpose of this scene being longer than about 30 seconds? And it’s endemic at this point. It used to be a flag for HBO, and now it’s a flag for modern cinema and television.

Derek:

Yeah. I mean, I can always get, I’m with you. I don’t understand the sort of fetishization of sex across cinema and in, I think in this case, it tells the interesting story of who’s actually watching this film a little bit more. A hundred percent. The people who are watching this film are Go Hard Christians. I don’t know. That’s speculation, I should say.

Jeff:

I think it’s pretty fair speculation. Explain to you why that is in a moment. Okay, so let’s hear some critique here. So Raven Brenner running for the Decider. This is what they had to say about the film. The movie story is cliche and rather preachy, but it isn’t bad. Rickey’s story isn’t important and engaging. Whenever viewers aren’t being weighed down by the pastor’s repetitive prejudice against his family and community,

sarah:

I’m often weighed down by a pastor’s repetitive pettiness toward community.

Jeff:

Yeah. I was wanting to hate this review until the ellipses Raven really wanted me over with the dot, dot dot. I was like, is this important? Is it engaging

sarah:

The depths of his hatred while proclaiming God’s love?

Derek:

Yeah.

Jeff:

Yeah, yeah. That was pretty, yeah. Carla Hayes similarly was not super impressed writing for culture mix. Carla says, the Hill is a poorly constructed faith-based biopic about disabled baseball player. Rickey Hill, this long-winded and preachy drama leaves big questions unanswered about his life,

sarah:

Such as when he was disabled, which was apparently not all of the time,

Jeff:

Or also his 18 million near death car accidents.

Derek:

The runtime on this was close to two hours or maybe even more than two hours.

Jeff:

It was over two hours.

Derek:

This was over two hours. Yeah. It did not need to be that long. And the fact that we know very little about Rickey’s life outside of baseball and his father, it’s shocking for a film of that length.

Jeff:

Now, rotten Tomatoes user, Kathleen agrees, and I’ve got to read you this. This is what Rotten Tomatoes user wrote. The character portrayal of Mother seems inaccurate. I believe her roots were Jamaican, so mother did not look Jamaican. Also maybe by choice. The life after baseball did not say Rick had continued in his father’s footsteps and nowhere, even in Wikipedia, doesn’t say anything about marriage. Children, a lot of unanswered info. Now, I read this and was very confused because I think we could all agree Rickey Hill’s mother in no way seems Jamaican in this film. No. Now I looked it up and there is a Ricky Hill with no E, R-I-C-K-Y, Ricky Hill from Britain, who is I believe, a soccer player. His mother is Jamaican and his father is Indian. But otherwise, I have found no evidence anywhere that Rickey Hill’s mother is Jamaican. So with

sarah:

Kathleen not confused that Rickey was also playing the wrong sport for the entire

Jeff:

In a different country.

Derek:

Not a sports fan. Not a sports fan.

Jeff:

Kathleen did answer with a lot of unanswered info. One of them being, when did he switch to soccer?

sarah:

Also moved to the uk.

Jeff:

Yes. And his father was also Indian,

Derek:

And nothing about accents then. It’s a little bit shocking.

Jeff:

Now, of course, these are professional criticisms and professionals. I mean, east Coast elites, they don’t really know what’s going on in films. The real reviews we can find in the comment sections of Amazon and IMDB. So let’s hear what real Americans, real people, they’re probably American, but who knows? Real people have to say about the Hill. First off, we’ve got Rotten Tomatoes user, Lori, I love that. It’s all first names on Rotten Tomato. It’s very personal. Rotten Tomatoes user. Lori gave this movie a five out of five and said, quote, wonderful, clean God-honoring movie. It was also a movie that was true to life and one that my friend and I enjoyed, but also we’re able to discuss and apply to our everyday lives. So the question I have for you is, have you discussed this with your friends and what are you applying from the hill to your everyday life?

sarah:

The Hill taught me that if I want to succeed as per dreams that seem on their face unachievable, I just need to possess the power to pause or entirely interrupt my disability at the kind of pivotal moment when he is banging out Homer after Homer after Homer and his back’s not hurting. So during my dissertation defense, I just had to have the innate ability to dial off my schizophrenia for three to three and a half hours, and with that, my dreams were achieved.

Jeff:

Yeah, overcomeable purely over accountable.

Derek:

I mean, I haven’t spoken about this to a soul other than you two. So in terms of that, but I guess you’re my friends, so yeah, so you’re my friends. So I guess that is one thing, and in terms of yes, what I’m taking out of it, it’s that for some religion truly is the opiate of the masses, and it can overcome everything and it can make life just fine and dandy. Also to echo what is with power of God, yes, with the power of God and with hard work, you can just overcome everything, including a supposedly debilitating thing that is every day affecting you, but we don’t really see it at all, and all of the kind of consequences and day-to-day issues are not really represented. But you’ll get the girl, you’ll get the job, you’ll get everything you want.

Jeff:

You’ll get Montreal,

Derek:

You’ll get the Montreal Expos

sarah:

…get the Montreal Expos. This was kind of a bitter crip community take from me, but I couldn’t help but notice that in that pivotal scene where he is begging the agents to give him another shot, even though there was a rule stipulated five minutes prior that said, please do not beg the agents to give you another shot, A, they made an exception for him because he is special and his disability is probably special, and B, he still whiffed that opportunity. But even excluding all that, all of it only transpired because I guess God loves him, and he could just miraculously turn off all of these odds that made the movie so inspiring, and I sat there with my arms crossed. Wouldn’t that be nice way to go, Rickey Hill?

Jeff:

So you never gave up hope, as the tagline says, right.

sarah:

I just got to hope harder.

Derek:

Yeah, just got to hope harder. Yeah. That’s the answer. Hope

sarah:

That’ll get me tenure, right? If I just write to everybody and I say, I just have a lot of hope and God on my side.

Derek:

I didn’t meet any production for the last 10 years, but I hoped I did, so I think I deserve.

Jeff:

Yeah, I would say, I think one of the things that I definitely took away from the movie is the importance of a hat. Wear an investor. If you have a man with money who’s circulating in the background, anything that’s possible, surgeries, training, get it onto teams. You got to get a money guy standing up

sarah:

To your abusive larger than life father.

Jeff:

Yeah, you need a money guy. You definitely need a money guy that runs throughout. For

sarah:

Sure. This movie actually might’ve been more interesting, had it centered on his angel investor slash coach. I would watch a two hour movie about how this guy finagled Rickey Hill into the position he got him in.

Jeff:

Yeah. Who is essentially running an auto shop slash wrecking yard, I believe. Yeah.

sarah:

He was a part-time professional baseball coach.

Jeff:

Yeah, absolutely. Okay. So Amazon, Amazon user Shield court gave this a three out of five title with great movie proofing. All things are possible. Good movie for families to show children. You can do anything in life. If you want it bad enough, you can succeed. Did Rickey Hill succeed?

sarah:

No, he didn’t. That’s kind of the central irony

Jeff:

Of the movie. Harsh, but fair.

Derek:

Yeah. So many, or a couple years ago, June Lee from ES PN broke a news story basically highlighting all of the horrendous working conditions that existed in minor league baseball, horrendous. That caused extreme deprivation in terms of socioeconomic status, home insecurity caused some mental health issues, physical health issues amongst players, and that just in 2022, finally, finally stimulated the minor league baseball, minor league baseball as a whole to start providing housing just simply somewhere to live for Minor league. So by having that end scene, oh, he spent four years in minor league baseball. It seems like dreams were made, but no. Okay. So Rickey went and worked for four years in one of the most brutal working condition areas of sport that we know borderline. That’s not professional. You can say they’re paid. So that’s simply not professional baseball, and it certainly isn’t the major leagues. And then it ended with an injury that ultimately rendered impossible to play. So did Rickey succeed? Certainly, certainly not objectively not, but this movie hides that fact completely.

sarah:

On a scale of Amazon warehouse to iPhone factory, where would Minor league baseball sit?

Derek:

Ooh. I would say it’s probably closer to the Amazon factory where they probably bean count literally everything. And if they’re not there for practice, if they have to go to the washroom too many times they get fired, that type of thing. Wow.

sarah:

That’s really fascinating context to add to is hope will achieve exactly what you’re looking for. Stories. Yes.

Jeff:

Right. So you’ve heard of Angels in the Outfield now, while peeing myself in the outfield,

sarah:

Turns out he took a really arduous route of applying for grad school

Jeff:

Right

Now. Okay. Our final review, this one’s a long one, you’ve got to indulge me, but it’s a ride and I could not, so this is an IMDB review, which is a great place for reviews. This is from EMDM md, I believe. This is just like that person smashed their head on the keyboard md. They gave it a 10 out of 10. I love this movie is the title. Okay. I thought I would like it since it has Dennis Qua, I actually loved the movie. It’s so refreshing to see a realistic movie with good actors and no cg. I thought the storyline was interesting, and I didn’t even realize the movie was over two hours. I’m not usually in for a long movie, but this one kept my interest. I just really liked Dennis Qua in this type of role. See, it was excellent, and all the actors were great in their roles. If a movie is going to have a sport in the background, I prefer it to be baseball because that’s the only sport that I like at all. I just love the character Red and whoever played them was so entertaining. I’m 55, and that’s how I remember old men acting and comported themselves when I was a child in the seventies. I enjoyed the historical setting, was quite accurate. I saw some things that were a little off, but overall it was excellent.

sarah:

I love this review because it admitted straight up that this movie was not even tangentially about baseball.

Jeff:

They got it. I love that. They’re like, if there’s a sport in the background, I’d prefer it to be baseball. The

sarah:

American sport. Yeah.

Jeff:

Yeah. The only one that they like at all

Derek:

At all. Emphasis.

sarah:

I also really liked that he pointed out that there were some historical inaccuracies, probably the most glaring one being that the fundamentalist mid Texas sixties preacher was not beating the shit out of his wife. I couldn’t stop bringing that up.

Jeff:

That is the thing that Sarah could not stop bringing it up. The thing that the people on the internet cannot stop bringing up is the fact that the car that he drives was released right around the time of when he was driving it, and yet the car he’s driving is like a 50-year-old beater, a beat up car, and that really upset people on the internet.

sarah:

Interesting. People love pointing out

Jeff:

They couldn’t handle it. That broke the realism for some people. Yeah.

sarah:

Yeah. Avatar was basically real life, but the shade of Blue James Cameron used actually was not released until post 2012. So we know that at least that part of Avatar was inaccurate.

Jeff:

Not accurate. No. I think we all know that the Navi hadn’t become water tribes until well after the 15th century split.

sarah:

Yeah. Thank God. Someone pointed that out.

Jeff:

Multiple people talked about the car, which, cool. The other thing I wanted to talk about, okay, there’s two things I wanted to talk about. Thing number one, this mention about no cg. I just want to do a real quick start temperature check. How were we feeling after he broke his ankle on a sprinkler and then they showed it? That was pretty wild that they showed it.

sarah:

Maybe a 70. No, he said he was 50 something, but grew up in the seventies maybe he thought that we do actually break actors’ legs for the bit.

Jeff:

Yeah. Well, better back then, back when you actually killed the actor and they died on set, it was better. Yeah.

sarah:

Yeah. War movies were just massive casualty fests.

Jeff:

Yeah. I don’t know if you know this, but Tom Hanks did not die at Saving Private Ryan. Yeah. It breaks everything with the movie.

sarah:

I’ve been memorializing him for years.

Jeff:

Well, and then the other thing was this question, this thing about how old men acting and comported themselves when they were a child in the seventies. Okay. I want to know what you think this person was referring to.

sarah:

I already told you. I think he’s referring to corporal punishment

Jeff:

That you believe that’s the lament

sarah:

Sixties Texas? Yes.

Jeff:

Yeah. Okay. But they loved that. They loved that part.

Derek:

So this review loved the fact that there was corporal real punishment?

Jeff:

That’s what I’m wondering. He says, I’m 55, and that’s how I remember old men acted like comported themselves.

sarah:

I’m hearing him say he really liked the dispositions of people like Red who played the baseball recruiting Phantom and Dennis Quaid, who plays the preacher father because they’re both extreme fundamentalists. Nothing that isn’t excellent is good enough, and all of those traits, the one that you’re missing there is what happens when something is less than good enough.

Jeff:

Right? Yeah. Yeah. That stood out. It’s funny, I think particularly as Sarah and I were watching it, we were talking a lot about they just outright abuse. The movie doesn’t hide by any means, but I mean doesn’t exactly hide.

sarah:

They dance around it

Jeff:

Quite a little bit. A little bit, yeah. Okay, so that’s what people on the internet say. Apparently, if you are an official critic, you did not like the movie. If you were into movies that did not have swearing or sex, you love the movie. That’s sort of the line. So let’s do sort a little round table here or sort of general impressions of the Hill.

Derek:

Yeah, I’ll start. Yeah, happy to start. In general, I think it was just that stereotypical cookie cutter inspirational film that is really about the American dream that chooses to do so through sport, through a tangentially related depiction of sport. It was boring, straight up, just boring all the way through two hours. I couldn’t believe that I was still watching this, to be honest. And I think it’s because of the, there’s no nuance to that story about the American dream. There’s nothing there. It’s a story that we’ve been told over and over again. So we think something is there, and that’s, I think partially why people, a particular niche of movie lover loves this film because they love seeing kind of that American dream over and over and over. Take it from sport, put it on film, put it on banking, put it on whatever story, whatever David versus Goliath story that you can get.

In this case, I think in the first 30 minutes, I actually, I had some hope for the story because it seemed that this was going to be more of a story about how the influence of religion is kind of dying and the influence of sport is growing. That dropped off completely, completely after the first 35 minutes. So I’m actually interested in the first 35 minutes. The movie was boring. It had a lot of weird things that happened, and I think the big takeaways, it was a failed opportunity to actually discuss the kind of true intersection between sport and religion as offering what Karl Marx would say, opiate of the masses, ways to deal with the shit that is capitalism, which was put right in front of us in this film. But it ultimately falls short in exploring that intersection in depth, and it could have done so through a true representation of disability. It could have done that. It was right up there. It was like the perfect down the middle strike that anyone could hit a home run and they just failed to even pick that up. And I think that’s the ultimate failing of this film and why it led to two hours of like, okay, is this film done yet? I’ve seen this film 30 times.

Jeff:

Yeah, yeah.

sarah:

Derek, this is why you’re God’s favorite sports theorist because it is wild how parallel I am to your review. But if you take out religion and you put in disability, that’s how I felt about the film. So I was just looking at it with my lens and you were looking at it with your lens, and I was just continuously frustrated by the mistakes they were making, even to the point of pettiness, if he gets up to the plate and I’m noticing that he’s not struggling at all, because this would not be an opportune moment for him to be struggling, which I bitch about constantly with goodwill hunting, but that’s a mental disability when it counts. There is no disability whatsoever in this film, and the central premise of this film is your ability to pass is absolutely central to whether or not you’ll make it in life, and I think there’s a really interesting relationship between the age cohort that likes this film and that premise. Those things go together. So anybody who was brought up for 60 years to believe, yes, your ability to pass absolutely decides whether or not you get to succeed in society. They fucking love this film because it proves that premise.

Jeff:

Yeah. I got to say, I mean, we’ve watched a lot of bad movies on this pod. This one for a religious film just felt far more soulless than much of what we’ve watched. This thing was so empty from start to finish. There were so many scenes where I think that the rocket launch scene is such a prime example because it’s like they had seen October Sky, that Jake John Hall film, and they were like, we got to recapture the magic of the hill folk going outside and trying to see the shuttle when it goes overhead. So okay, we’ll have them watch the liftoff, and it’s like, oh, get it. It’s the sixties. There’s just so much of that where they’re referring to all of these other cultural tropes, these existing scenes for movies that they’ve smashed together into a pastiche to try to show something that’s familiar and understandable, I think, to the audience as opposed to doing what people actually want from biopic, which is give us the nitty gritty of someone’s life. Give us the dirt, so to speak. There was some dirt here, but a lot of it was made up, which we could get into a little bit later. But unfortunately, we are all out of time for this episode. Oh, no. So if you want to know what actually happens in this film, you just got to come back next week, brothers and sisters to get the true story, or at least the story as told by Rickey Hill about The Hill, the story about Rickey Hill. See you next week,

And thus concludes another episode of Invalid Culture. Thank you for listening. I hope you enjoyed it or not. Either way, please take a second. If you haven’t to subscribe to our podcast on whatever platform you’re using, tell a friend, and better yet, do you want to be a victim on the podcast? Go on to our website, invalid culture.com, submit your name. We would love to terrorize you with a bad movie, have a bad movie of your own that you think that we should watch. Again, jump on our website, invalidculture.com, submit it, and we would love to watch the trash. Be sure to tune in again next week for part two where we will start to dig into the movie and find out whether or not it wins the coveted Jerry Lewis seal of approval!

Episode theme song, Mvll Crimes:

With strangers on the internet. Everyone is wrong. I just haven’t told them yet.

Part 2 transcript

<episode begins with a mash-up of young Rickey Hill saying “Full Body Rotation” and screaming>
Jeff:

You are listening to Invalid Culture, a podcast dedicated to excavating the strangest and most baffling media representations of disability. This podcast is all about staring into the abyss of pop culture adjacent films that never quite broke through because well, they’re just awful. So buckle up folks. The following content is rated I for invalid.

Theme song, “Arguing With Strangers on the Internet” by Mvll Crimes:

I’m arguing with strangers on the internet not going out today because I’m feeling too upset wing with strangers on the internet and I’m winning.

Jeff:

Welcome back to another thrilling edition of Invalid Culture, part two of The Hill, the baseball movie that you’ve all been waiting for. As always, I am your host, Jeff Preston. I am joined co-host. Sarah, how are you doing?

sar:

Always amazing. How are you, Jeff?

Jeff:

Pretty good. How many dingers have you hit so far today?

sar:

400 today. How about you, Jeff?

Jeff:

  1. I haven’t actually strapped on my legs yet. I’m hoping to get some full body rotation after this pod.

sar:

Full body rotation. What about you, Derek?

Jeff:

Yes, ma’am.

Derek:

I think I lost count after 16.

Jeff:

Okay. That that’s pretty common. I mean, 16, 200. It’s all the same in the bigs, my friend. Absolutely. Yeah. Derek Silva, thanks you for coming back. I’m glad you accepted a return to this challenge.

Derek:

Oh, happy to be here. I’m excited for part two of this conversation.

Jeff:

Okay, my friends, I think it’s time we got to talk about what happens in this film. The Hill as told by Jeff Preston, our story begins in 1960 something rural Texas where a young Forrest Gump, sorry, Rickey Cricket, no wait. Rickey Hill is blasting some rocks at gravestones with his perfected major league swing, sassy Child Bride and MLB Doping Investigator Gracie Shan confronts Rickey claiming that a cripple will never make the majors and suspects that the only way he can hit so well is because he’s Chean Rickey, son of a poor Baptist preacher just loves hitting dingers everywhere he goes, including blasting two through the front windshield of cowboy hat enthusiasts and local angel investor Ray Clements. Unfortunately, the Hills are almost immediately uprooted from their home when their pastor father is run out of town by a rabble of drunk angry hicks who wish only to consume tobacco while hearing the good word.

Approximately 30 movies, sorry, approximately 30 minutes of poverty and preaching. Later we finally get our first glimpse of actual baseball. Rickey and disciplines now settled in a different rural Texas town, stumbled upon a group of local boys playing some backyard ball and Rickey wants to join, but oh no, there is no place for robot boys in baseball says local full-time pitcher, part-time hooligan dubbed the flamethrower. A proposition is made if FU can hit a pitch thrown by this young phenom. The Hill brothers will be allowed to play in dramatic fashion after whiffing on two pitches. Rickey overcomes his feeble legs by destroying his leg braces, screams full body rotation, and blasts one into the outfield. The crowd goes mild.

sar:

I just noticed when you were summarizing it, the kind of simplistic parallelism the film itself makes between if you can hit against this really hard pitcher at 10 and then again at 16 we’ll allow you to play. And then the end of the film, spoiler alert, he’s trying out for Muff Red and he has to hit against their most competitive pitcher that’s being recruited. And I didn’t realize that until you were just summarizing now, and I was like, huh. Well, that was obviously entirely intentional and it brings up some interesting film theory things you could say about the point of parallelism or whether there’s any kind of bian relationship between where he starts and where he finishes. But I think all of those conversations are giving the film more credit than the probably simple premise of look how many times he’s being asked to hit a ball to fuel his future.

Derek:

Yeah, I mean, I think the first act of the movie set up what was the problematic premise of the movie, which we talked about in the last episode with this sort of, if you just work hard and you have this sort of Protestant ethic as a sociologist Max Weber, or sorry a male Durkheim would call it, as long as you have this kind of Protestant ethic, you will be able to succeed in life and succeed in a life that is a capitalist life, succeed in a life that they’re also depicting and they’re showing the viewer the really poor conditions of capitalist life, of precarity, of socioeconomic deprivation, of alcoholism, of tobacco and other forms of addiction and really highlighting those things. And then that’s setting it up as that can be overcome as long as you just turn to God. And in this case, the father being the pastor, it all kind of played into that religion trope or the religious movie trope that as long as you live a righteous life, everything your dreams, your hopes will be made possible.

And what I noticed in the first half is it really set up this moral or a series of moral quandaries, if you’ll put it on the part of, not Rickey, but his father James, which I found interesting in the first bit. I was actually intrigued. So the fact that when he was giving his sermon and he’s looking at people who are smoking and people chewing tobacco and then he makes the decision that that’s something wrong, that’s something that you should not do, and he calls it out. Okay, so it seems like cigarettes, like tobacco is being used as this sort of moral, I dunno, moral compass issue. I was intrigued at least to see where that went. And not to put the cart before the horse, but I think in later acts we see that falls flat and I can talk about that in the future, but I think the first act, I’d sum it up with their opportunity, there was opportunity for this film there presented and whether or not the rest of the film actually is just a repetition of that first act or if it actually builds on that. I think we can get in this conversation.

sar:

I think you’re right that Durkheim would’ve loved this movie, especially the kind of continuous unrelenting precarity narrative and how starkly it was contrasted against this kind of chosen one epic of Rickey Hill, which time would’ve been all about that.

Derek:

Yeah, well, any functionalist, and let’s be real, even in contemporary sociologists function, they seem to be like the same people who are writing reviews for this film.

Jeff:

That’s true.

sar:

He’s the core audience.

Jeff:

Well, I mean the father literally is a Protestant preacher. He’s a Baptist preacher, right? Yeah. Okay. I got to be real. When I started watching this, I thought what was being set up here in the first half or the first third, I thought they were trying to set up this notion of there is a corruption in the outside world, whether it’s the corruption of tobacco, the corruption of white sport idolatry, the corruption of, dare I say ableism. I thought that there was this notion of their family is this pristine unit that is struggling to live right in a world that is otherwise corrupted. So they live in poverty because the capitalist world doesn’t acknowledge the value of good preaching and good family, for instance. It felt like that’s where this thing was going, and spoiler alert, it does not, dear listener, that is not where this goes. I think you’re right

sar:

Though that it does intentionally set up the idolatry arc because of that scene with the baseball cards,

Jeff:

Right? Literally. Yeah, right. It’s like you’re like, who’s your God? Mickey Mantle. Yeah.

sar:

They went as far as exclusively drawing that example, and then I was like, oh, that was actually really good. And then they never brought it up ever again.

Jeff:

Right. And so I don’t know if this is a matter if this is perhaps, maybe this is where a talented writer, if we can go so far as to say Angelo Pizo is a talented writer. A talented writer has come in and said, let’s lay some foundation here, and then it just didn’t get picked up on or it got cut out in edits. I mean, this movie is super long already or is this a matter of, these are just things that Rickey remember happening. He’s like, oh, I remember when my dad got kicked out of that church because he harshed on people smoking and I remember getting yelled at because we had baseball cards. What’s really unclear? It’s like were they trying to build some thematic element here or is this literally just moments that he remembered?

sar:

Yeah, you could give it the bildungsroman angle, but I think especially if you have a talented screenplay writer doing the baseball card scene, which was fairly well thought out, and for people who don’t want to watch this, it’s that he and the Rickey Hill and his brother are trading very, very old baseball cards. This is the sixties of very famous players that they idolize and when the preacher father comes in, they try to hide the cards in their Bible. So then the father knowing that something’s up, opens the Bibles, finds the baseball cards and gives them this whole rant about false idolatry and how horrible it is to hold these people on a pedestal. The kind of central irony of that is that it’s a preacher telling them to do so. And if you’re not fundamentalist, you can fairly easily kind of start asking questions about, well, what’s the difference between listening to my dad, the preacher who’s been kicked out of multiple churches and listening to these baseball phenoms who are not trying to tell me how to live my life? And I feel like you can’t set up that rant being delivered by a preacher without the second half later where Rickey has the realization, oh, maybe my dad is also a false prophet, but he never does. So it could be that Rickey himself has never had that realization and he asked that bit to be taken out because it’s disrespectful to his father.

Jeff:

I mean also the fact that at the beginning of the film, it’s like don’t idolize baseball players in a film that’s about trying to idolize a specific baseball player. Yeah,

Derek:

Yeah. I mean also just I’ll pick up on two points then. I thought that the character Rickey Hill was actually not that narcissistic to use. I think we can get into what that term means, but his father actually was, his father was the center and always put his emotions, I’ll never forget the scene. Well, this is the one scene that really struck out to me, struck me, and it’s when he’s about to beat his eldest son for forging the signature, and I think we can get into that as well, but he’s about to, and what holds him back is his own realization and his own emotion, and then he put the emotional labor on his Sunday, get away from him to give him a moment as if he’s the one there that needs the moment. And he did this in several ways. So I think that picking up on that false idea, that would’ve been amazing. I agree completely. That would’ve been a way in which this story could have been redeemed later on, and that just wasn’t picked up on at all.

Jeff:

And I think that what the movie’s trying to do really badly is it’s trying to show the father, I hate that I’m going to use this phrase liberalizing, that the dad is becoming more liberal generous as he goes. And so he’s like, okay, right. If I tell people to stop smoking in church, I’m going to lose my job again. So maybe I can let that slide and then it’s, I’m not going to let my son play baseball. Okay, I’ll let that slide. I’m not going to watch him play baseball though. Oh, well, okay. I’ll let that slide. And so the whole movie is this downward trajectory in some ways of a preacher giving up on his morals and giving up on his view of the world, which in some ways is a tragedy, but it is pitched in this film I think is being proposed as a good thing that the father is becoming more open-minded and is becoming a better father and a better preacher.

Derek:

But it seems to me they kind of fail in that though, because one of the penultimate scenes, one of the penultimate scenes that Dennis Qua is in, his wife, his assuming wife who works at home brings him his food and he instructs her to put his plate down as if he controls what’s going on. So if it makes me question if that’s the arc, because if that was, he wouldn’t do that. He’d be like,

sar:

I think it’s much more likely that they were setting him up to be just as much a false idol as all of the baseball players. He grew up falsely idolizing, and the only reason I can think of for why they would take out the other half of that parallel because 50% of a half is a fairly significant part of the hole is because Rickey didn’t like it

Derek:

And it can’t be a success story at the end. It can’t be, oh, he made it to the minor leagues. He’s a success. It simply can’t. If that’s the case, if the story is about false idols and it is about change and reflexive thought on the part of both Rickey and his father, it can’t be like a overcomes everything story. You’ve got to be like, oh, well there’s still deeply problematic issues here and I didn’t win and I have this debilitating pain and all of these things that we’re just kind of side skirted.

Jeff:

Yeah, pushed off to the end credits, but we’re getting ahead of ourselves. Let’s take a step back. So on the heels of Rickey’s Sandlot moment pressure is now mounted for him to try out for the local youth baseball league. Unfortunately, as you can probably imagine, Rickey’s father believes that baseball is the opiate of the masses and would prefer his son focused on a legitimate career becoming a poverty stricken pastor like his old man. This will then set up a clear tension in the film, Richy believing that God put him on earth to hit homers and his dad’s belief that baseball is too dangerous for his un people son and distracts from the worshiping of JC after a near full-blown belt beaten of his brother for forging a parental permission slip, Rickey eventually convinces his father to let him play and he is well on his way to the majors.

The film now jumps forward to Rickey’s senior year where he is officially a baseball superstar on the high school circuit. His child, Brian Gracie, has stumbled back into his life ready to immediately restart their childhood romance and the scouts are lining up to see him play. That is until tragedy strikes after one again, face it off against the flamethrower and coming out once again, notorious Rickey will have a tragic incident, slippery and falling on the nemesis of all out fielders an in-ground sprinkler system breaking his ankle when evaluated by a local doctor, it’s discovered that not only is Rickey’s leg essentially ruined, he also has the spine of a 60-year-old man caused by a rare degenerative spinal cord disease. Rickey may never play baseball again and worse still, he might not recover in time to play in an open MLB tryout coming to his town in two months time. But friends, it gets worse. God does not have an HMO and so Rickey cannot afford his life saving surgery.

sar:

Alright, don’t tell me to back up and then present an hour and 50 minutes of the film. I want to go back way back in that to when he is still in high school because I think there’s a really interesting moment here that is wasted and I like how you phrased it as baseball is the opiate of the press and I know that Derek was talking a little bit about that in regard to religion in the last episode, but if you use baseball as the opiate of the masses, A, you’ve got the cool religion angle because of his problematic father and his problematic family and they’re problematic Winnebago Baptist Church, but also when he gets to high school, you introduce all of these figures besides the angel investor, Ray, whatever his name was that come in to the Baptist setting and start kind of vehemently trying to stand up for Rickey and offering accommodations and all of these things that we associate with good allies than disability theory.

And I was like, okay, that’s actually really getting interesting because they’re introducing all of these ways to try to intervene on the central tension because a lot of people not degrade, but maybe dislike films like Goodwill Hunting and Precious, where the central kind of conflict between ex teenager or young adult and ex adult that’s extremely abusive and oppressive is just not realistically overcomeable and that seems to be one of the driving forces of this movie. This kid and his brother and his mother and whoever the fuck else just do not hold the power to overcome this larger than life preacher. And the film comes ready with answers to that and these guys are so quickly forgotten in favor of this prodigal narrative of his ability to hit Homer’s alone by itself will cause him to absorb himself of all previous circumstances and kind of in turn trivializes the narrative of allies helping out when you need accommodations, legibly or not for disability. So they kind of built it up and then smashed it all in the same 20, 25 minutes.

Jeff:

Yeah, that was one thing that actually that I will am going to give full props to this movie. I like that. Although there are moments and where it’s like the Rigley Hills show of lot of this movie is about how it takes a nation or a village to raise Rickey Hill and Rickey Hill couldn’t…

sar:

There was a lot of advocacy here

Jeff:

Without a lot of support from all intergenerational support and internal and external family system support. And I’m like, that to me is the small town experience that I had growing up with a disability in a small town. That’s what I remember is it’s about the community wrapped around and coming to support. So I’m like, okay, thumbs up to that and maybe a tiny thumbs up. I mean, the movie starts out very heavy with Gracie’s father is an abusive drunk dick. He beats the wife and he beats the kid and he’s terrible, but that’s not Rickey’s dad. Rickey’s dad is a good preacher man, and then by the second act, we actually do get this a version where it’s like, no, he was full on going to whoop that brother in front of everybody. And so I was like, you know what? I’m going to give the tiniest of credit, I think to this film actually engaging with masculinity, fatherhood and abuse at this moment in America. It sort of did try to talk about it even if it didn’t talk about it. Well, and even if it backs away a little bit and it’s like, okay, no, no, don’t worry. He didn’t actually beat him with the belt though, which it’s like, well, what about when the cameras weren’t rolling?

sar:

He totally did. Yeah.

Derek:

Yeah. And I mean I think the end thesis of the movie being that as long as you work hard and you are God-fearing that things will overcome, it was always going to hide all of the things that allies have to do or that people have to rely on in order to deal with the alienation of advanced late stage capitalism. And it was again, the missed opportunity for that to be discussed. It told the story of, okay, mark said religion is the opiate of the masses. I would argue religion simply is not any longer, at least in many advanced capitalist societies, that actually things like sport are the opiate of the masses and you can watch it. You can sit on a Tuesday when you’re come back from your shift work and deal with your shitty job and shitty boss and shitty colleagues and the fact that you own nothing that you produce and you can just crack open a Bud Light and watch the blue Jays face the lose. Yeah, lose against the nationals or something. Not only are we dealing with that, but I think that understanding of society relies on this genre of film,

sar:

And I’m saying this mostly to rile up Derek, but going to your point, and I do mean this if we’re going to say that something like professional sports is an opiate of the masses, I wonder what you’d then think of people treating X sociological phenomenon as sport. So politics being treated like your favorite sports team, watching your current favorite genocide unfolding and treating that yet another sports team. Do you think this film is getting in the way of that at all, or is it substantiating just sports?

Derek:

It doesn’t problematize that at all. It doesn’t problematize the fact that we in a society are massively polemical and polarized and every way and that we treat everything. There’s been a sport ization of everything that if you’re a liberal, that’s your team, that you’re going hard for that team as if they’re not talking about genocide as if they’re not actually engaging in colonial, settler, settler colonialism, ongoing genocides that are ongoing right now, that there’s way more at stake. And I think part of the argument, the theoretical argument that I would make in my work is that yeah, sport is replacing things like religion in terms of being the way in which we deal with the alienation of shitty advanced capitalism. But I don’t mean to trivialize that. I am not trying to make it seem like sport is just another one of those things. No, I’m trying to actually make the claim that there are a bunch of different things that are making us truly despise one another through and do what capitalism does, which is pit everyone against everyone.

Sport is one of the ways in which we do that, but also we’re seeing politics does that. I live in rural Ontario and I see fuck Trudeau things happen and I see more Trudeau bumper stickers than Toronto maple leaf or Buffalo bills or anything like that, and I think you’re spot on to make the connection and again, an opportunity for this film delve into that a little bit and just nothing, not even, and I mean sport historically and still contemporarily has that is only positive. People approach sport as if it’s only this positive thing. It doesn’t have these kind of negative consequences. They don’t see

sar:

The jingoistic layers that kind of support how it works.

Derek:

Exactly. They uncritically explore, look at sport. It’s just like, oh, it teaches teamwork, it teaches leadership skills, it keeps you healthy. It’s all good for society, but it doesn’t look at all the ways in which it reify social inequality, exclusion, and is an imperial project for instance. Right.

Jeff:

And destroys bodies literally destroys bodies in this film back to disability

Derek:

Absolutely destroyed and there’s literally one of the most popular sports in the world is absolutely intended to ruin your brain, period. Is that football? Yeah. No, the end goal of that game is head trauma and once you look at it like that, you can’t unsee that it’s about staying injury free, which means not getting concussed because that’s what the entire sport is premised on other sports are,

sar:

But yeah, the premise of the sport is running into each other as fast as you possibly can. How do you only sustain three concussions per career? Maybe three concussions per game.

Derek:

Yes.

Jeff:

It’s important to note that there was also a question there though. It’s like, wait, is it football or is he talking about hockey or is he talking about boxing or MMA or Oh shoot. There’s a whole lot of others that also have those same kind of conditions. That’s true.

Derek:

Elite professional sport. I tell people, and I learned this from my colleague and co-host of them, the sport, Nathan Coleman Lamb who said this to me, and I can never pay him enough to because he’s kind of changed my view. The entire project of professional sport is injury prevention.

sar:

May God bless you, Nathan.

Derek:

That’s it. It has nothing to do with skill it nothing. Because if you can’t play, you will never be in the professional. You will never, which is Rickey. Yes, yes. It’s Rickey and thousands, thousands of others. Yes, but you’re right. Yeah.

sar:

Okay. Wait, do I have the quote right? The entire premise of professional sport is prevention of injury.

Derek:

Yes.

sar:

And if we’re translating injury only…Jeff knows where I’m going with this. If we translate injury nly, it is completely antithetical to disabled people playing anything at all.

Derek:

Exactly.

Jeff:

Yeah. Well, this is where I think if you want to get real funky with sports, it’s like, so what does it mean? What do the Paralympics mean? And a lot of people are like, okay, that’s a circle life in square. Okay, but what does Special Olympics mean? Then? What does it mean to build a game or to build a competitive sport where competitiveness is a part of it, but winning isn’t necessarily the top five objective of this type of design of sport and how does sport change when the fundamental roots of it are shifted or if it’s built on different foundation? But that is a whole other podcast.

sar:

You don’t want to talk about the epistemology of sport today?

Jeff:

Well, I think we’re going to continue to, in fact, because our listeners probably want to know what happened to Rickey. We left him on a bit of a cliffhanger. Whether or not Rickey’s legs were about to fall off is where we left off. Okay, so let’s forge ahead. Now, as you could probably imagine based on this podcast, the local community rallies around Rickey launching Operation Rickey Hill, kind of lazy. Brandon donation bins start to pop up everywhere. The local community raises $2,000 in nine weeks, which, okay, I don’t want to throw any shade on a rural community. I’m sure $2,000 that that’s a lot of money back in the seventies. Okay, but come on, do you really love this man? Rural Texas? Of course. Professional

sar:

Fundraiser, Jeff Preston here to hit and dingers about their fundraising ability.

Jeff:

Those are rookie numbers because they raised $2,000, but they are $4,000 short of what they need for the surgery with hope, almost completely lost cowboy hat wearing Angel emerges. Ray Clemens is back and ready to finance the surgery. Rickey goes under the knife after some debate with his father, and we are treated to a lovely recovery montage as Rickey goes from the hospital bed to the baseball diamond. But will he recover in time for the tryouts? Yes. After a miraculous recovery, Rickey is ready for tryouts and fully intends to show that he is the best homer hitter in the world. At the same time, he absolutely still has the spine of a 60-year-old and is cut immediately because he is not able to run, which is apparently a central still in the sport of baseball, you kind of have to run dejected. Rickey storms off, throws his bat and glove away and drives off in his beat up incorrectly aged vehicle.

But Rickey, he ain’t known quitter. This is the hill he wants to die on storming back, get that in there. I’m sorry. Storming back into the tryout and completely against the rules that were just laid out. Rickey demands that the scouts allow him to hit home runs as many homers in a row as you can, and if he is successful, that he be allowed to play in the big final tryout game later that night. For reasons that I don’t understand, they agree to this condition and Rickey begins to blasted Homers out of the stadium and not just out of his stadium, but into the stadium next door, nearly assassinated pro scout, Red Murph. Impressed Red Murph now lays out a challenge. Rickey will prove himself by playing DH for both teams in the big game, and if you can hit off of every pitcher, red will recommend him to the majors. Amazingly or not, Rickey does just that. He goes into the final game, plays for both teams and hits off of every single mustache, handlebar, mustache, hooker in the game. He gets hit, he gets back up. Rickey has overcome and is certified as the greatest baseball player of all time, or at least good enough to be signed by the eighties Montreal Expos and never play in the Natures Good, blessed, good Night. The movie is mercifully over about time,

sar:

Right? Yeah. I felt every minute of those two and a half hours.

Jeff:

Yes. I’ve never been so thrilled for the concluding song to start playing, which encourages you in a very folksy turn to just rub a little dirt on it. Rub a little dirt on it, brother. Well, I’ve scot you down. Rub a little dirt on it.

sar:

Yeah, that’s advice that upper middle class people give to people in permanently precarious positions because that’s generally worked for them, given that all of their problems were really easily surmountable,

Jeff:

Rub a little dirt on it or have $8,000 surgery. Those are your two options.

sar:

Angel funded of course, and that Jeff and I watched these films together because nobody makes us laugh more than ourselves and each other. So when we were watching this, I called it about the halfway point. I was like, if they’ve made this film about how the DH designated hitter position was made, this is actually an awesome premise because if it’s because of a disabled person, I actually love this. I want to know if that was why DH was made. It was not. They dismissed this at the beginning of the third act, and DH is already a well-respected position, albeit only for a few years. That year before this was…

Jeff:

That year! The year that this is set in is the first year that Major League Baseball has a dh.

sar:

It wasn’t because of Rickey Hill.

Jeff:

It wasn’t Rickey Hill

sar:

Would’ve made this one point better for me if this was the story of how we invented DH

Jeff:

Man. Okay, so what you’re talking about right now is an incredible third act in which Rickey Hill goes to war with the powers that be at MLB and says there is an opportunity for players to play. Players who are not able to run or because of the debilitating high school injuries they’ve sustained can no longer play the field, but can still blast the ball as good as Babe Ruth, who if you remember, wasn’t quite a runner himself. I mean probably from all the cigars he was smoking while playing. That could have been an amazing movie, but that is unfortunately not reality. So it is not what we can,

Derek:

I have to say in some of the last scenes, why the hell was Red Murph standing next to the picture?

Jeff:

It never,

sar:

Ever,

Derek:

Ever happened.

Jeff:

Okay. Sarah and I actually also brought this up while watching because I’m like, he’s going to die a line drive get taken out by those. Asked me

sar:

How safe it was that Red was standing there and I was like, oh, he’ll go to the hospital.

Jeff:

He hit at that he will probably die. And also he is like 80 years old. His bones are probably hollow at this point, that wild through

Derek:

His head. Another thing, dead giveaway that folks who were writing the script didn’t actually, I don’t think they know sports or I don’t really think they fully understand, is the scene where red turns to the all-star professional reliever and says, if you hit him again with the ball, you’re done, never

Jeff:

Done. Done from what?

Derek:

Red you are a high school, maybe college age level coach or a scouts. You are not instrumental in changing an Allstar. I can understand if it’s a minor league player. This was a major league Allstar coming for a rehab assignment. He was

Jeff:

On a rehab stint. Yes. Also who does a rehab stint at a tryout game.

Derek:

An exhibition game in southern Texas with old alumni.

Jeff:

With no real teams.

Derek:

Yes. Yes. Made up teams with one DH that’s on both sides. Yeah,

Jeff:

But you needed a hard thrower.

sar:

They proved how brave he was by having that 80-year-old man stand beside the fastest fastball pitcher they had and just stood there against a guy who they already proved could hit it 400 something large.

Derek:

The animosity itself makes no sense. If you want to understand sport or just understand labor issues, if you look at the scout, the scout is hired to do a particular job. The scout doesn’t want animosity towards people that they are scouting. They want to find people in order to do their job, ostensibly do their job. And I think that uncritical take on authority is riddled through this film. It’s just like the authority of red is just assumed. The authority of James is just assumed. And anytime that’s that authority is kind of questioned, it gets just swept under the rug. When the mother-in-law is on the cusp of passing away and says, let Rickey try, it’s like that could have been a moment to confront that hegemonic masculinity, that patriarchal head of family household or something, or later on when he is speaking to his wife about Rickey and there was a moment of conflict. These were all opportunities in which they could have actually tackled hegemonic masculinity. That kind of, it is intertwined in ableism as well and hegemonic ableism as well. All these

sar:

Things. But we also know that that’s never going to happen when your setting is fundamentalist sixties Texas.

Jeff:

That’s right.

sar:

No one in this film is going to argue against an older adult.

Derek:

Yeah. That’s why anytime I see a movie that’s unapologetically the actual plot is just the American dream in any setting, all of these are impossibilities because the American dream is driven on compulsory able bodiedness, on compulsory, compulsory heterosexuality, on hegemonic masculinity, patriarchy, settler colonialism, imperialism, all of these things that just can never be tackled Well, because

sar:

What we’ve epitomized by the original American dream was the straight successful white male. How do you generate that through all these circumstances that only only benefit the straights CI White male. Exactly. And we expanded that imaginary to, oh, now Taylor Swift is the American dream. Now you’ve done all of these kind of subtle corrections to the narrative, but in making those connections, you’re getting at what Derek’s getting at with questioning power structure relationships, or questioning whether or not someone is Jing Egoistically correct. About face or just because they said so. And as soon as you start doing that, you can’t even really say Taylor Swift is the American dream because she still benefits from parts of that narrative.

Derek:

Absolutely. You can’t have a happy ending. There’s not a happy ending in society. There’s simply not the way we’ve built society. It will not be happy. It will not end well for you. Won’t

sar:

Someone think of Galen Weston?

Jeff:

Right. Finally, please

sar:

Someone create alogia for the billionaires.

Derek:

Let’s just talk about one of the people I despise most on this point.

Jeff:

Oh man.

Okay, so that’s our movie. Long and short, very long. There was nothing short about this that long. It was extremely long. It was long. So, okay, I think we probably should just address before we get into our closing thoughts. So quite obviously, this movie has lots of overcoming narratives, the idea that one special ability will help someone to overcome their disability. So Rickey’s inherent wealth is tied to his ability to hit dinners and dinners he will hit. But the thing that I really wanted to talk a little bit about, because we haven’t talked about it yet on the pod, is this notion of disability presented as a test from God. That it is a challenge that is to be met and then forth opportunity. So Sarah, I’m going to turn to you first, then we’ll go to Darren. What do you think about how this movie sort of positions disability in its relation to religious intervention?

sar:

Yeah. I’m not going to beat you at a religious argument because you grew up Baptist and I grew up Buddhist,

Jeff:

Catholic, Catholic. Whoa. The Pope is the head of church here. Come on.

sar:

I didn’t know Jesus was Jewish till university. I made it to 19 years old without ever having learned that fact. But I can approach the disability angle. I think this movie does a really good job with some of the most fundamentalist heritage disability. And if you really strongly want to believe in them, this movie is just your wildest dreams come true. It’s like angels in the outfield meets goodwill hunting meets a beautiful mind, meets insert your favorite overcoming narrative that was modestly, religiously based. And I think a lot of people would actually relate to some kind of form of God’s will or nobody can give you things that you can’t overcome or those narratives because I am surrounded by people who are very quasi-religious at best. And I’ve heard that plenty of times in relation to my own schizophrenia. There’s nothing you can’t overcome if that’s what was meant to be.

You can take God right out of it and make the kind of secular argument toward that. And I think that will resonate with people that it worked for. So it kind of self worth in so far as if you were able to overcome it, you can look back with this nostalgic lens of, ah, it was because I was always meant to overcome it. But when you create that narrative, you also create the inverse even if you didn’t want to. So all of the mentally ill people who end up hospitalized, who end up the infamous cases like Rosemary Kennedy who spend their entire life institutionalized for similar illnesses, are we then saying that God did not want them to overcome. We had Destiny written in the stars and Rosemary’s Destiny was a depressing institution. Ward. Those are the kinds of things that you’re saying without saying when you agree with the premise that for you God’s child or Destiny’s child or W’s child or academia’s child getting spicy now it’ll work out for you from the realm of what’s already happened. And if it doesn’t, fuck you deserved it. So it’s just the deservingness narrative done over and over and over again. And if you want to do it with sports, you can do it with sports. That’s what this movie did. Yeah.

Jeff:

But the inspiration of this film is that he achieves his dreams, he makes the majors he, he doesn’t achieve, but that is the end of the film. The end of the film is he married his sweetheart at home plate of the expos field, and then he played four years in the minors and then it’s cut to credits and that’s the end of the story. And so I think it’s fascinating that from Rickey’s own words, the intention of this film is to inspire physically disabled people that he hopes that physically disabled people are inspired by it, which to me, I would say means that he hopes that you would watch the film and say, if Rickie Hale can do it, I can do it too. I just have to put the time in, got to put the work in. I got to hit a lot of rocks with sticks and I can do it even if people say that I can’t. And it’s like, okay, so that is on its face, not necessarily a bad message on its face.

sar:

I’ll disagree. Continue.

Jeff:

You should not necessarily listen to stereotypes that people try to place on you. I don’t disagree with that. But if you actually look at the actual narrative and the actual set of the story, it really is saying having unique ability and then relentlessly to the detriment of your body, pursue that one ability and drive yourself into the ground doing it. And that’s the path to success. And that’s how you too will earn to be commemorated in film. Right. I think the whole, to bring us back to that disability as a test from God, it’s all about trying to make disability meaningful. Something that is seen as sort of senseless or empty or meaningless that we can’t wrap our heads around. We give it meaning as well. It’s just a test from God or you two shall overcome or it’s a party. It’s an interesting part of your story that you’ll then tell in your film once you’ve overcome it,

sar:

If you deserve it, if it was meant for you, it will happen. It’ll happen. The non secular version of that myth.

Jeff:

Yeah, a hundred percent. And so I think that’s one thing that I found really fascinating about this film is how there is the public narrative of what this film is supposed to be as he sees it, as Rickey sees it. And I think probably as the people that wrote it see it versus what it actually is saying, these things couldn’t be further apart. And I don’t think that there’s any actual understanding that these two roads have diverged as far as they have.

sar:

The only hope it’s generating is if you are good enough at passing, you can have some of what you surmised you deserved. And that’s a way different message than if you hope hard enough, you’ll get literally whatever you want. It’s about adjusting your expectations via your actual ability level. And then even then you’ll probably only be able to do part of that.

Derek:

Yeah. Yeah. Just to echo your point, I think you’ve put it perfectly, Jeff, in terms of I think what the message here doesn’t just impact folks with disabilities, it, it actually sends the message that you should, and we should all be willing to put our bodies through an incredible amount of pain, harm and potentially long-term consequences in order to do the things we love. We quote unquote love. And that that’s a really terrible message, especially in sport when you realize so many people get injured, like lifelong injuries. So many people are dying. So many people are, I think mostly of American football when I talk about this. There are other things boxing, there are other violent sports of course, but people are literally subjecting themselves to years and years and years and years and years of head trauma and receive no remuneration ever.

Jeff:

Yeah. There’s no payoff.

Derek:

And in this case, there was no payoff here. So in 2022, if you played aaa, which is the highest level of major of minor league baseball, you were getting at most $700 a week, a week. That is not some

sar:

To be at the top of your game

Derek:

In 1975, I would say that was probably, and he was what, single or aa max? Like 20 bucks. I would say.

Jeff:

You were paid in steroids. Yeah, he paid in steroids.

Derek:

You have travel to the away game. That’s your payment.

sar:

I agree with all of this.

Jeff:

So I think what we’re all sort of saying here is that I think this movie may have been a horror movie by accident.

Derek:

Well, certainly not for the 65-year-old evangelicals. They love this movie.

Jeff:

They just don’t realize it yet. They don’t realize that they are in Get Out.

sar:

It supports comfort viewing in so far as if you don’t think about it at all, it is an inspirational film about a disabled guy who makes it into the minor leagues. And as soon as you apply a modicum of thought into the scenario, it’s actually a disempowering film about hiding disability at all costs and how disability is antithetical to anything you could hope or dream of.

Jeff:

Right.

Derek:

But here, look, there’s Dennis Quaid.

sar:

Yeah, but

Jeff:

Do you like Dennis Quaid?

sar:

Made by Dennis Quaid? So whatever. Yeah.

Jeff:

Hell yeah. Hell yeah.

Now, as you will know, if you’ve listened to the blog before, we have a perfectly empirical, scientifically rigorous method, which we use to measure all of our movies tongue firmly in cheek. This is of course the invalid culture scale. Now, like golf, we play this with the lowest score wins or the lower the score the better the film did. So let’s take a look and let’s see where the hill falls on the invalid culture scale. So first up, on a scale of one to five, with five being the least accurate, how accurately does this film portray disability?

Derek:

I would say a 4.5. Can I do point fives here? Wonderful. I think that the day-to-day lived reality are completely put out of focus and just hidden. And as we’ve talked about on the podcast, and Sarah’s mentioned several times, the ability to pass was centered and throughout the film, so portraying disability as kind of the only this quote nuisance that arises only when something good is about to happen, I think that’s really problematic. Incredibly problematic. When you think about the lived reality of everyday dealing with anything, with anything that might make you less able-bodied or able mentally than other people. I think you had an opportunity to really dig deep into that lived reality and you had two hours to do it and you didn’t do it at all. So I think it was not accurate whatsoever.

sar:

I agree with everything Derek said. I’m a little harsher. I want to give it a five because it kind of went out of its way to obscure disability at best. And given the runtime, disability is about as tangential as baseball itself. It is a minor character if you consider it a character. I’m kind of surprised Jeff picked it, but I think Jeff did not know upon picking it how little this disability film had to do with disability.

Jeff:

That actually is completely correct because if you look at the Netflix description of this film, it is like watch this man overcome his disability. And it wasn’t that at all. For some people they tricked you with baseball. For me, they tricked me with disability.

sar:

Goddamn right

Jeff:

Marketers, man. Can’t trust him. Okay, so I I’m going to split the difference. I gave this a four a little bit. I was not as harsh. And the only reason I was not as harsh on it is that I love that they not love. I appreciate that they had the ES to openly acknowledge that if Rickey could not have raised the money, his body would’ve just been left broken. So despite the fact that there is a medical treatment that he just wouldn’t have got it. And so I’m like, whoa, this is an American movie that is about rah rah America. But it also was able to be like, oh man. But also, wouldn’t it be weird if we just didn’t raise that $8,000 and he just had broken lines for the rest of his life? Whoa. That would be weird. So I’m giving them one bonus point for openly discussing the

sar:

…accidentally in favor of Obamacare?

Jeff:

Of being accidentally critical of capitalist medicine. Okay, next question. On a scale of one to five, with five being the hardest, I don’t think I even need to ask. How hard was it for you to get through this film?

Derek:

I think that I originally wanted everything in me to not give it a five and I wrote down four. And one of the reasons why, because the happy go lucky storyline, it’s easy to get. I’ve seen it a million times. It’s actually quite easy to get through a fight. But now talking about it for two hours in a couple episodes here, I have to change that to a five because it was so long I wouldn’t have continued watching it past 46 minutes, which is just getting into that. After that 35 minute buffer, I would’ve stopped watching it and I will never watch it again, nor will I ever speak about it again, probably in my life. So I have to give it a five

Jeff:

Except at my funeral. You will be bringing it up at my funeral.

Derek:

It’ll certainly be in the eulogy

sar:

Thanksgiving dinner. If somebody really wants to start the table fight, they can bring up the premise of The Hill and Derek’s going to stand up and go like, this is my Roman.

Derek:

My father-in-Law will just say, oh, I watch this really interesting movie The Hill. It’s about sports. Derek, let’s talk about it.

sar:

It’s gone. I can’t do that.

Jeff:

I’m filing for divorce.

sar:

I’ve watched some pretty brutal films with Jeff, but they don’t usually have this length of runtime. And I did think that you could have done this movie in 40 minutes and told the entire story as it appeared on the screenplay as it’s written now. So I got to give it a five.

Jeff:

Okay, so we are aligned on this one. I love to be punished by movies for what you will about me as a human, but this one was brutal. I was bored throughout. I wanted it to end. I would not have gotten through it if it wasn’t for you guys. Thank you, Jeff. Don’t watch this movie. Having said that, if this movie was a tight 88 minute, I think they probably could have pulled this off. I think they probably could have held my attention for 85 minutes probably if you cut out basically his entire childhood, this movie actually probably would’ve been decent. And maybe the entire father storyline and maybe the entire, you know what if the movie was just the final game? Yeah, just that time. The film. Yeah. I think if…

sar:

The childhood and the father storyline is like an hour and a half of this two hour film.

Jeff:

So yeah, I think, yeah, it was brutal. That’s a five. That’s a pretty solid five.

sar:

That’s a five.

Jeff:

Okay. On a scale of one to five, with five being the max, how often did you laugh at things that were not intended to be funny?

Derek:

So I went through, and to the best of my recollection, I counted the number of times that I actually did this. And I said, if it’s from one to five, that’s the number that I’ll give it. And it was four and it was four times, and it was mostly due to, it had nothing to do with anything substantive. It was like the cheesy one-liners that I just couldn’t get over that were so bad. They made me laugh. And I am not really a motive when I watch films, so I wouldn’t laugh. Even in comedies, I don’t really laugh very often, but for instance, when the sort of scout I, it kind of put the MLB player in to face Rickey right at the end, and then the camera pans to the angel investor and he says he’s sending in his final attempt to ruin Rickey’s day.

That stuff makes me laugh. That wasn’t necessary. That dialogue was not necessary. And it makes me laugh. Or when Dennis Quat actually seemingly aged when he went from, I don’t know if you guys noticed that, but he seemed to look younger when Rickey was older and I couldn’t fully understand that. And then the final scene, another one was when they are reunited and Rickey realizes his father, the hard ass pastor is actually at the game for the first time because of course, and Dennis Quaid looks to him and goes, I guess we’ll have to get used to your new career now. I’m like, what? That’s not even aligned with the character arc whatsoever or, yeah, I think I had one other, oh, and I think I laughed out loud when Rickey just objected to being sent away and every other player was being sent away and they were arguing and they sent, and then Rickey’s just like, but just give me a try. And they’re like, okay, here you go. I laughed out loud. That makes no fucking sense. Why would they do that for 30 players? And then Rickey, you’re just made no sense. So four times I laughed out loud, so I’ll give it a four. That was a long-winded answer to that. No

Jeff:

Fair. I think for our viewers, for those who care about authenticity, Rickey Hill has also stated that his father did not, basically, his father didn’t come to a lot of baseball games, but his father came and checked on him after every game they talked about it. His father was actually pretty actively involved in his fall career throughout. So anyway, I don’t know why they thought it was super important to make his dad a dick in this film. But I

sar:

Do also remember laughing at Rickey Hill’s plot armor moment where they have the big explanation, do not disagree with the coaches. If you’re out, you’re out. And as soon as our main character was out, he was like, no, wait, but I would like to disagree. And it was just accepted, no questions asked. I did laugh at that and I hate this question every single time, every single episode because I’m laughing throughout the entire film every time, but it’s because I’m watching it with Jeff and we amuse each other. So then I have to go back and try to piece out, okay, when was I laughing at Jeff and when was I laughing at a legitimately funny thing the film did, and I think it was very little, the film. This film was kind of bleak for an inspiration porn narrative and spends a lot of time with the kind of poverty porn circumstances of his childhood exploitated to the nth degree for the purposes of this film, because it just makes a better story. This was like narrative journalism 1 0 1 as a film, but if you’re going to do it as narrative journalism, it’s not funny. So two,

Jeff:

Yeah. Okay. I was actually right. I’m lined up exactly where Sarah is on this one. I also gave it a two. And the reason is the only time that I legitimately actually laughed out loud at a non-intentional laugh out, loud moment again, man, I’m going to come off looking such a bad person in this episode. So he is in the doctor’s office and the doctor is, every tendon in your life is destroyed, everything in your body is broken. And also you have this spinal cord of a 60-year-old, and then there’s this sort of like, but you’re telling me there’s a chance. And I’m like, this doctor’s literally just told you that your body is broken, irreparably broken. And he’s like, okay, but I can probably make that tryout in two months.

sar:

You laughing in the face of this young man’s optimism.

Jeff:

It was so straight faced and so silly that they have this super serious, we’re going to give ’em this terrible medical. And I’m like, okay, but you couldn’t even make it six months after the surgery. You had to make this two months. I had a bad ankle sprain and that sucker was at least a month and a half of recovery. And that wasn’t even surgical. That was literally the amount of damage that they described. And then they’re like, oh yeah, you’ll be ready to play in two months. I was like, objectively, that’s hilarious. I’m in the power of prayer baby, but otherwise boring, not funny, even when it thought it was being funny. So I gave it a two. Okay, last but certainly not least, my favorite question, if that last one is Sarah’s worst, this one’s my favorite. On a scale of one to five, with five being the most, how many broken leg steps has this film put back? Disabled people?

Derek:

I would say five. If you approach, I have two answers. If you approach this film as a film about disability, it’s a five. Absolutely. If you think that that’s going to be a centerpiece of this film, it’s a five, it’s a 10. But I think most people are not approaching this as such. And because it’s actually not part of the plot line, it’s not one of the fundamental things. Keeping this film together, it’s actually just a story about believing in Jesus and following capitalist rules. I would say a three or a four for most people that the underrepresentation of the issues is a big issue, but I think most people aren’t even going to associate this with disability whatsoever because it was so few scenes that actually showed anything.

Jeff:

So we’re going to call that a four. Is that a five? A three and a four. We’ll split

Derek:

The difference. Yeah. Sounds a four sounds. Yeah. The very empirical objective measurement here. Yes. We’ll do a four.

Jeff:

It’s scientific folks. Yeah,

Derek:

Scientific, of course.

sar:

Derek, is that your final answer?

Derek:

Final answer.

sar:

Gotcha. Okay. I think it puts us less overall steps back than quid pro crow. And I don’t think it deserves a one or two either, because as Derek so aptly put it, this film is in no way about disability. So if you read the back of the box and you think, oh, this is disability overcoming narrative. You’ve been bamboozled. Not it’s a shitty baseball movie that has very little baseball in it. It’s a coming of age. Bill D’s Roman from a bunch of preacher kids in sixties, Texas. So three.

Jeff:

Yeah. Yeah. Again, we’re pretty aligned. I waffled a little bit on this a little bit. I was also in the five range. At first I was like, God, I’m like, you probably shouldn’t tell people with debilitative disabilities to ignore science and ignore doctor’s advice.

sar:

Try harder,

Jeff:

Brother. If you just hit a few more dinners, you’re going to make it, brother. So I was there, but then I came to the same place that all of you did, which is that mercifully, I think this film largely left us out of the mix. That disability was such a small part of it. They were like, we’ll give you your Forest Gump moment where he is running in the straight leg brace and we’ll give you the for gum moment when he breaks the brace off and gets full body rotation. But after that, I mean, if we imagine the film started when he’s in high school, this actually feels more like the film about just a injury prone athlete, which it’s like, is that really a disability text or, I think that for most audiences, they would separate this out and they would see it more as just sort of an injury prone and not debilitating disability, which is separate from the reality of course, of Rickey Hill as we understand it. So I landed at three. I think three is probably where this fits. It’s not the, I mean, you can’t even compare this to Quick pro quo. I mean, come on. That’s not fair. It’s not fair to anybody.

sar:

Do you want to know, do you want a drum roll or do you just want to hear it straight up?

Jeff:

Yeah. Well, we never do drum roll. I mean, we’re very low budget here.

sar:

You need to be a drum roll. Last episode,

Jeff:

I called for it and then I did not do it.

sar:

I did all this math for you. I added these numbers under 10.

Jeff:

Would you say that you overcame your disability?

sar:

I did.

Jeff:

How much addition did you do in the creek when you were a

sar:

Child? There are probably people from primary school who would come on here and argue with you that I’m mildly dyscalculus.

Jeff:

It’s a reason I make you do it and not me. For the same reason.

sar:

God gave me a Windows machine and a said machine on the seventh day it Unoo gave me calculator. So I just run that through twice. So Calculator came up with a score of 46.5,

Jeff:

Just barely making the major leagues with a score of 46.5. I am proud to announce that Hill qualifies for the prestigious and sought after Jerry Lewis seal of approval, our worst score than you could receive, an invalid culture. Congratulations. The Hill. Wow, you’ve won your Oscar.

sar:

That’s close as they’re going to get.

Jeff:

Dennis is still waiting for the call. It’ll come in a day now.

sar:

Honestly, in his role of shitty fundamentalist preacher, he killed it. I don’t have many notes for him in terms of how he played that role. I have a lot of notes for how that role was written. I don’t have any notes for how Dennis Quaid played it.

Jeff:

If you’ve taken nothing from this episode, take Dennis Quaid. Consummate professional.

sar:

Yeah, phenomenal actor.

Jeff:

So this concludes another episode. We are at the end. Thank you so much for joining us, listeners. But more than that, thank you so much for subjecting yourself to this Derek.

Derek:

Oh, thank you very much for having me. This was a lot of fun.

Jeff:

Absolutely. And this means that we probably should do another sports movie next season. I don’t know. Is it time to do Soul Surfer?

sar:

Angels in the outfield?

Jeff:

Is there a disability in Angels in the outfield? I don’t know. Think viewers, listeners don’t think if there is a disabled character.

sar:

See, since I was a child, there’s about as much disability in Angels in the outfield as there is in the Hill. So if the Hill qualified, I feel like Angels in the outfield should qualify.

Jeff:

Fair enough. Okay. That actually maybe. Maybe that’s fair. Maybe. Alright, well fans, if you have a movie that you would like us to do a baseball, no, we’re not doing another baseball movie. No, no. If you have another sport movie that has a disabled character and you want us to do it, please. Well, okay. Sorry. Hold on. Boys and girls, I need to back up. I have been completely ignoring the fact that we started this podcast with a movie about soapbox derby. So we have done a sports movie on this podcast. I’m so sorry. But if you want to do more, give us another one and we’ll talk about it. So tune in again next month. We have a very special movie with a special guest. It’s going to be a ton of fun before we go on our summer hiatus. Take care. Be safe and do not watch this movie.

<Mvll Crimes theme song>

Jeff:

And this concludes another episode of Invalid Culture. Thank you for joining us. I hope you enjoyed it or not. Did you have a film you would like for us to cover on the pod? Or even better? Do you want to be a victim on Invalid culture? How to word to our website invalid culture.com and submit. We would love to hear from you. That’s it for this episode. Catch you next month and until then, stay invalid.

DVD cover of Quid Pro Quo

When you try to be super sexy but accidentally make a pro-abstinence film…

It isn’t every episode where we cover a movie with legitimate promise. A dark and sexy film about disability subculture? That could be amazing! But, unfortunately for society, Quid Pro Quo isn’t amazing. Instead, we get a psychological thriller that, at times, feels a bit like talking to your parents about sex — jaw-dropping but certainly not darkly erotic. To help us unpack this deeply upsetting film, we’re joined this month by the legendary Lawrence Carter-Long who regales us with tales about how Quid Pro Quo played an unexpected role in the NYC disability rights movement.

Listen at…

Grading the Film

As always, this film is reviewed with scores recorded in four main categories, with 1 being the best and 5 being the worst. Like the game of golf, the lower the score the better.

How accurate is the representation?

Jeff – 4 / 5

sar – 3 / 5

Lawrence – 5 / 5

Total – 12 / 15

How difficult was it to watch the movie?

sar – 2 / 5

Jeff – 3 / 5

Lawrence – 3 / 5

Total – 8 / 15

How often were things unintentionally funny?

Lawrence – 4 / 5

sar – 4 / 5

Jeff – 5 / 5

Total – 14 / 15

How far back has it put disabled people?

Jeff – 5 / 5

sar – 5 / 5

Lawrence – 5 / 5

Total – 15 / 15

The Verdict

The Jerry Lewis Seal of Approval

Transcript – Part 1

[Episode begins with the film trailer for Quid Pro Quo]

Jeff:

You are listening to invalid Culture, a podcast dedicated to excavating the strangest and most baffling media representations of disability. This podcast is all about staring into the abyss of pop culture adjacent films that never quite broke through because well, they’re just awful. So buckle up folks. The following content is rated I for invalid.

Mvll Crimes (theme song):

I’m arguing with strangers on the internet. Not going out today because I’m feeling too upset. Arguing with strangers on the internet and I’m winning. And I’m winning!

Jeff:

Welcome back to another thrilling episode of Invalid Culture. As always, I am your host, Jeff, and I’m joined once again by co-host sarah. How are you doing, sarah?

sar:

Oh, I can’t wait to talk about this movie. How are you doing?

Jeff:

I am frigging thrilled to talk about this film. This was one of the first movies I’ve wanted to cover on this podcast. It was an insight incident and years later, here we are, we finally get to talk about it. But this is a special episode. This is a special movie, and so we thought we would bring in a special guest. So we are joined today. Sarah and I joined by the one, the only, the legendary Lawrence Carter-Long. How are you doing, Lawrence?

Lawrence:

Oh, I am thrilled to be here with you as part of this very special episode.

Jeff:

Yes, they’re all special, but this one is a little more special. Now, for those of you who don’t know, Lawrence is of course most famously, perhaps for some people, not for me. Most famously curator and founder of this film series that was running in New York in the early 2000s. I was co-hosted three different spotlights on disability and film on Turner Classic Movies. Get that on your cable box. And for me, most famously portrayed a police officer in a very special film about a really fun summer as far as I know.

Lawrence:

The Best Summer Ever. Yeah, The Best Summer Ever.

Jeff:

Can you tell us a little bit about your turn on film?

Lawrence:

Sure. I’d spent so much time talking about film critiquing, film analyzing film, battering people around the ears with film. But what folks probably don’t know is that I started out in my youth as an actor. So in high school and in college, I was on stage doing theta spelled with an RE at the end instead of ER and very, very serious about that and thought it was something that I might pursue, right? So I got out of college early nineties, moved to New York City and found it was similar somewhat in college, but everybody was casting me. Here I am 20, 21 years old full of piss and vinegar, and yet I’m getting cast as the old man or the neighborly grandfather type or that kind of thing. And I was like, nah, that’s not me. So I shifted my energies and my attentions to focus on media and media representation, but film was always near and dear to my heart.

It was the thing that I always went back to. I didn’t walk till I was five. I have cerebral palsy myself, didn’t walk till I was five. So I was weaned in the days before cable in the seventies on old Laurel and Hardy films and chaplain films on the independent PBS station there in Indianapolis where I grew up. So I always seemed to go back to film and had this idea around 2006 when I was the communications coordinator for public policy org in New York City called the Disabilities Network of New York City. And a lot of the older folks, folks who were older than me, I was in my late thirties, early forties at that time, started saying, where are the young people? Why aren’t young folks coming to our meetings? How can we not engage with the younger generations? We want to get some cross-pollination going.

And it was my thought that if you want to appeal to young people, people, then you have to do something that they’re going to be interested in. And so I started thinking, well, how can we get folks in the door? And I had this wackadoodle idea. I thought, well, everybody, most of the films that we see about disability are all sappy, safe, and sentimental. What if we showed films that are kind of edgy and in your face and hard to label or hard to categorize? And so got a space donated, got six month grant to license the films, bring in guest stars. We’re doing this little experiment called this film series, and it was sort of like a middle finger to the establishment. And the way that we talked about it was disability through a whole new lens. And so with that idea in mind, we started this experiment downtown, lower East side Manhattan, to just surprise people, sex, drugs, and rock and roll all with wheelchairs. And it was this six month experiment that lasted four years because they wouldn’t let us stop once people started coming, right?

People could get a beer there. We had a popcorn machine. People could move the chairs around the space. It was a place called the Old Firehouse where they film the TV version of the Democracy Now program, or at least did in those days. So it was just kind of this hip edgy thing. It really wasn’t anything else like it in 2006 in New York City. And what started out as kind of a showcase for some British short films had about 20, 25 people and then it had 40 people, then it had 60 people, then it had 75 people. By the end of the six months, we were right up to around a hundred people a month for these monthly screenings. And we thought, oh, well, we can’t stop now. My initial question was, will people show up if I show this stuff that isn’t sappy safe or sentimental?

Will it just be me sitting there drinking beer and eating popcorn by myself or will other people show? And they did. And so the second question for the second evolution, if you will of this was we learned during the first iteration that it was a really great idea to have a conversation about the film after we screened it. So we would bring in producers, directors, actors, social workers, film critics, whoever it was to talk about the significance of this film. And I thought, ah, that’s where the magic happens. The movie is the vehicle, but it’s that crosspollination sitting across aisle from somebody that you may never wouldn’t be in the same room with otherwise sort of having the same community experience. And so we thought, oh, we’re never going to show a film without a conversation again. And this was after the second screening. And so the question became for the second round, will this spark conversation? And so I would always try to program movies that would get people talking. And we were about two years, just a little bit into two years of that experiment when we started having filmmakers, film producers, film distributors come to us and say, this movie hasn’t been released yet, but they’d written about us in the New York Times and other places by that point. So we were getting up some buzz and we were getting known. And so people was like, would you be kind of our test audience, if you will, our focus group?

sar:

That’s amazing.

Lawrence:

And that’s how the film that we’ll be discussing over the next couple episodes came to my attention and eventually came to be screened as a part of dismiss.

sar:

Did Quid Pro Quo end your film series hosting career?

Lawrence:

I’ll tell you this, it nearly did. We were able to go for a couple of years after that when I got a federal job and had to move to New York City. But it was very interesting, so I’ll give you the backstory. So the producers came to us and said, we’d already had our screening booked for that particular month. And they were like, would you add an extra screening? We’ll rent the room, we’ll pay for whatever the sign language interpreters, whatever it is you need. We would love to get your honest feedback. And I said, well, send me a screener. Let me take a look at the film first, right? Is this us? I’m not sure. It looks like it might be, but who knows? Hadn’t seen it yet. And by this stage, we had a really sophisticated audience. There were people there that were unpacking and really looking at, they knew a bit about disability history.

They were certainly part of disability culture. They were thinking critically about, because we were doing repertory films, we were doing first run films. We were doing films that were shown overseas at that point but didn’t have us distribution. And so people had been, at this point, two years in exposed to a lot of different things, and we had our regulars first Wednesday of the month, every month. They didn’t even care what we were showing. They would show up in order to have that conversation. And so I said, you got to understand this is a sophisticated audience. We’re there to have fun, but people are thinking critically about this stuff and analyzing it. Oh, that’s exactly what we want. Okay, good. So I got the screener, watched it and was flabbergasted because for so many reasons and we’ll get it. I know the second part, we’ll get into all the reasons, but this was 2008, maybe late 2007 or early 2008 when this happened, film hadn’t been released yet. Basically nobody had seen it. And I remember thinking as I was watching, I tried to pay close attention to the moment when it just fell off a cliff when I was just like, and it was this hard right turn up until about the 46 minute mark. I had problems here and there issues, concerns. I was wondering about it, but it just took this hard turn at about the 46 minute mark halfway through the film and it never recovered.

sar:

I think it’s generous to give it 46. Yeah, that’s pretty generous. That’s incredibly generous.

Lawrence:

Well, I think I was, I’m an optimist by me, and so I think it was up until the 46 minute mark, I thought, maybe it’s redeemable. Maybe they can do something and surprise me, pull this out. I think the saddest thing about this film and the most bewildering mind blowing thing about this film is that it actually has potential. There’s a lot that they could have done with it if they had come to us a little bit sooner. If they had talked to folks like yourselves or me or anybody actually,

sar:

Yeah, anyone would’ve qualified.

Lawrence:

…they put the film out. And so I think that most of my kind of antipathy and anger, which is very strong toward this film, and I think it was also very strong from our audience, was really based on the fact that it could have been something, it could have been a contender, it could have been something. And it just, after it took that turn, there was just no redeeming it. And just when you thought it couldn’t get any worse by God, it did. And so we set up the screening and so I tried to diplomatically talked the distribution company out of it, which was Magnolia Pictures and their PR person, oh, I want to attend, but don’t announce me. I just want to be a fly on the wall in the back of the room. And I was like, we can do that. Are you sure? Well, absolutely. We’ll do that.

And so everybody was there. It was our first time. We’d done two screenings of two different films in one month, and I promoted that the film studio had come to us and it was very excited about getting their honesty actions. And I’d warned the PR person from the distribution company, you’re going to get it. And I knew what was coming. I could see it, the writing on the wall because I’d seen the film and I was just like, okay, well, this will be an interesting experiment. And it literally, Sarah, it literally was in the four years that we did the film series, no film at any point caused the type of blowback and visceral hatred did. People were just so angry and just throwing bombs at this thing. And I remember I would always lead discussions after the screening, and I remember about 15 minutes into it, I had noted at the beginning of the screening that the PR person had introduced herself to me before things began, and I noted where she sat and all of that, and I looked up, gone.

sar:

I was expecting you to say she had burst into tears crying her eyes.

Lawrence:

There might’ve been this little pile of dust or ash there at the bottom of the chair. I don’t recall, but she was just no longer in the room, and I remember trying to email her and talk because I felt kind of bad,

sar:

Deleted, unfollowed.

Lawrence:

She just disappeared off the face of name change.

sar:

Yeah, she actually changed countries. She’s no longer an American citizen. I actually would’ve paid real life money to have been there, preferably beside the Magnolia producer PR person. As soon as that movie ended and the energy in the room kicked off, I would pay concert ticket money to have been there in that moment. As soon as the movie,

Lawrence:

It was so funny, I would do a thing where as the lights went up, the credits start to roll and the lights would go up and I would stand in the front of the room. I had a bar stool. I kind of lean up against it and the first thing I’d always say was, so what did you think? Right? The booze, this chorus, this cacophony

sar:

Having the microphone: okay, guys, we’re going to do this one at a time.

Lawrence:

And I was like, well, yeah, I’m glad we don’t have tomatoes. I was just like, okay. And so I see that you didn’t like it and well, why? And the magic shoes and all of the people were just flabbergasted. But as I think back now, having literally just watched this because I’ve been putting it off, I want to tell you Jeff, I’d seen it in 2008. I was so scarred and traumatized by that experience. I had not watched it again in all these years. So we’re talking well over a decade. I was like, no, man, I don’t want to revisit that thing. But watching it again this morning and having the benefit of hindsight, I think the thing that frustrates me most about this film is that if they’d gone about it differently, they actually could have done something.

sar:

I actually totally agree with that. I think that a bunch of, I think Jeff said it was only one writer, but this guy had clearly encountered some entry level Crip theory and then was like, I think I could do something really subversive with this. And the movie wanted to be so critical, and it was trying to come up with new acronyms and new ways of looking at Crip theory in the moment, but they were also wasted and haha and blatantly offensive that every time it tries to have an inspired moment, it’s something like Welcome to Hell or Paralyze Yourself.

Jeff:

Yeah

Lawrence:

It was all this kind of this fun house mirror of Crip theory where it’s just distorted left and and up and down and where it’s almost recognizable, but not quite,

sar:

But not quite.

Lawrence:

And so you’re left sort of a little literally off balance watching this thing going. This is almost familiar, but this is some alternate universe that I’m not a part of where the streets look the same and they look like human beings, but something’s dangerously desperately off.

Jeff:

I think there’s an apt metaphor here. It almost feels like a movie about someone who is pretending to be disabled, and that is maybe fitting because…

sar:

Holy shit, Jeff,

Jeff:

That’s the film that we are talking about right now is of course the one and only Quid Pro Quo. Now, for those of you who have not seen Quid Pro Quo…

Lawrence:

Wait, congratulations. First off, congrats. Congratulations for not seeing it.

Jeff:

Yes, you have made a phenomenal choice with your life. That’s why we exist. You get to learn about these films without having to subject yourself to them. Okay, so what is quid pro quo? Well, according to the mixers of the film, it is a darkly erotic movie from the box. When a man walks into a hospital and offers a doctor $250,000 to amputate a perfectly healthy leg reporter, Isaac Knot Next all becomes intrigued, not who lost the use of his legs in a childhood car accident, finds his professional interests turn into personal business. Fiona Viga, a mysterious and sexy informant, offers him an odd exclusive, an introduction to the disturbing new subculture.

sar:

I think it’s even generous to call professional disability pretendianism a subculture. I really wouldn’t even reward it, that name.

Jeff:

Yeah. Okay. So if we take a step back, how does this box, does that accurately describe the movie that you were forced to watch here?

sar:

Not really.

Lawrence:

No. No, I don’t think so. And I think that is the problem with the film in general. If I were to narrow down and distill the issues with the film disability, not withstanding, which we’ll get into the nitty gritty about that in a bit, I was like, what does it want to be? It has this identity crisis. So it’s like not only do the characters have these identity crisises, but the film has an identity crisis. It’s sort of marketed as kind of a Cronenberg-esque or a David Lynchian kind of film. But as I was watching it, I’m seeing more Brian de Palma and shades of Michael Powell’s, The Red Shoes, even with the magic shoes and all of that business. And so what I think with the filmmaker is that either knowingly or not knowingly, I’m not sure. I think they directed and wrote it, had all these influences that had either subconsciously seeped into their brain or consciously tried to rip off all these other filmmakers but didn’t commit to any of it. So there’s this kind of half-assed touching on a theme or dropping a hint somewhere, but then never really committing to that theme or to that idea, which leaves you with this unsatisfying hodgepodge of what is going on here, what are we watching, and how did this film get made?

Jeff:

Yeah. Well, I mean, that is a great question. How did this film get made? Well, it was written and directed by a person named Carlos Brooks. Brooks would actually follow up this film with another writer, director, joint/calamity, which was titled Burning Bright. This was a film about a woman and her autistic brother that have to survive being trapped in a house with a tiger during the hurricane. So this is somebody who likes to mash stuff together.

sar:

That’s next week’s film.

Jeff:

Spoiler alert…

Lawrence:

God, just put it in a blender. Wow.

sar:

Okay. Yeah, I love it.

Jeff:

Spoiler alert, we will be doing this film next year.

Lawrence:

Wait, let’s just revisit this minute. We’ve got a hurricane, a tiger, single mother. Is it a single mother?

Jeff:

Sister.

Lawrence:

Sister, okay. And an autistic child.

Jeff:

Correct. Yeah. I think he is a teenager possibly, but yes. Yeah. Anyways, I am anxiously the DVD to arrive at my house, and we will be doing this film next year.

sar:

Life of Pi as visualized in a New York slum.

Jeff:

Yes. Yeah, it’s basically like Rain Man and Life of Pi slammed together with that Hurricane Heist movie. Yeah,

sar:

I like that he seems to think that slamming together two really iconic directorial styles is a film sub genre, and he is not even wrong. And the films that I would’ve used for Quid Pro Quo were kind of Mary Harran, American Psycho with anything by David Lynch, slammed together to try to make Disability Theory as visualized by American Psycho and Memento.

Lawrence:

And it did. It tried so hard at the beginning of the film, really.

sar:

It was a really earnest effort at Memento, American Psycho Crip Theory, and I really like how hard it tried, but it didn’t stick to the Landing.

Lawrence:

You’re five minutes in and he’s talking about ABs and PWDs

sar:

Table bodies.

Jeff:

Oh, man. Okay. So we are going to talk about the acronym nonsense in this film. I pitched to Sarah that we should do this entire episode just in acronyms. Yeah, because there were so many shot down. Now, part of the answer on why this may might not great is that it was produced in part by HD Net Films and Sanford Pillsbury Productions, I’m assuming Sanford Pillsbury Productions, I don’t know this, but I’m guessing is probably Carlos Brooks’s production company in which they produce two films, HD net films, mostly concert videos. So they have concert videos for Bush Newfound Glory sticks, Liza Minnelli. They have put out several dramas, including the architect and several horror movies, one of which is called S Ampersand Man, which apparently is known as Sandman, not S and M Man, which I think would’ve been way better as well as a movie called Bubble.

So I think there wasn’t a lot of production support, let’s say. But despite that, this film did draw two very big actors at the time. Nick Stall is our main character who plays Isaac Knotts. This is not his only disability related role. Nick Stall is also appeared in film’s life, A Man Without a Face, Thin Red Line, Sin City, Disturbing Behavior. While he was a bit of an A-lister at the time of this film, he’s sort of devolved into more of a B or possibly C list actor at this point. He just was in a thing called Knights of the Zodiac, which has nothing to do with the Zodiac Killer. Very disappointing. As well as,

Lawrence:

Or Knighthood maybe at all.

Jeff:

It’s like if you took the Marvel Universe and then you put it in the microwave for about an hour. And then of course Stall is also Beloved in HBO’s Carnival, which is a whole other disability conversation. Exactly. Entirely. Nick is mirrored by Vera Farmiga, who plays Fiona the love interest. Now, Vera is of course a legitimate actor who’s had a remarkable career, included Oscar movies like The Departed, Up in the Air, is in the billions of horror movies associated with the Conjuring-verse as Lorraine.

sar:

I was going to say: how are you naming anything but The Conjuring first?

Jeff:

All of the Conjuring. Yep. She’s also done well in television with Bates Motel.

sar:

Bates Motel. She’s actually playing the same role in this movie.

Jeff:

Pretty much. That’s what she disappeared to at the end.

Lawrence:

That’s kind of her archetype.

sar:

Yeah, she’s reprising her creepy, oddly sexy, but not sexy at all mother.

Jeff:

And so I have never seen both Bates Hotel. How much does ancient Chinese girls come up in that show?

sar:

Oh, absolutely none. Because America doesn’t observe other cultures, but there would definitely be more ancient Chinese women.

Jeff:

And last but certainly not least…that’s right, sports fans! You did see for a brief moment the beloved Amy Mullins as Isaac’s ex-girlfriend Raine. Now, interestingly, by my count, she has one scene in the entire movie. However, there are deleted scenes from this film that you could watch on the DVD, and most of them are scenes involving her character. So yes, this is true. The movie cut out almost all of the scenes that involved the actually disabled actor that was attached to this film.

Lawrence:

Which begs another question, Jeff. Now I have not had the pleasure of seeing these deleted scenes, but, and when director’s cut with these scenes included in context to the rest of the film, would you subject yourself to that?

Jeff:

Okay…we are going to put an enormous pin on that because I did subject myself and I did it for a very specific reason, which we’re going to talk about in about 15 minutes.

sar:

He actually did it to give me a textual blow by blow of every single deleted scene, which was appreciated because I didn’t have to watch.

Jeff:

I narrated it. Now, we obviously have our own opinions about these movies and they’re valid opinions, however, we are not the only ones. So let’s take a look at some of the critical response has been to this film. So I’ve got a couple quotes here from Rotten Tomatoes that we’ve pulled from movie critics. As you can imagine, this movie was not really beloved by the critical class. David Eldine has written. The first half of quid pro quo is amongst the most jaw dropping things I’ve ever seen. Who knew there was a closeted subculture of people pretending to be paraplegics…

sar:

Which to be, I want to be super clear about this. There’s not.

Jeff:

Who knew?

sar:

I feel like the movie that its chief fallacy is perpetuating the subculture of people faking disability, which is what everybody’s getting so mad about. If you haven’t seen the film and the fact that people are coming away, coming away with this saying, wow, I didn’t know so many people were faking disability is the problem with the film.

Jeff:

Every single one, every single person you’ve see in a wheelchair is actually probably a wannabe

sar:

They have been. Try to push them out because they’ll probably get up

Lawrence:

And Yeah, I guess when we’re doing the scene by scene, we can talk about this. There’s several scenes where they do that. They literally do that. They get up and they carry the chair

Jeff:

…the wheelchair away

sar:

This movie put the ADA back 20 years, and it was released in 2006.

Jeff:

Now, Rex Reed has a very interesting, I would love to hear what your thought is on Rex Reed’s comment. Rex Reed writes about this film. It certainly won’t be everyone’s cup of breakfast bitters, but you can’t dismiss it nonchalantly.

sar:

Oh, I can.

Lawrence:

Well, I got to tell you what, he was with me. I was with him completely until that last word. No, I don’t think you can dismiss it nonchalantly. I think you have to dismiss it vehemently. I think you have to dismiss it with all the passion that you can muster. So he had me, I was with him up until the nonchalant, and I’m like, you know what? I guess he’s right. You can’t dismiss it nonchalant because it does provoke such strong reactions.

Jeff:

Yeah. Now, Lawrence, it’s my understanding that you’ve also found some very intriguing references in terms of analysis of this film. What did you dig up for us?

Lawrence:

Yeah. One of the things that strikes me about this film that I did not recall from blanking it out and blocking it out, which for a movie about repressed memories, I guess that would be appropriate, but I was a radio show host and producer in New York City during time, and so part of my sort of mo in preparing for any interview, whether I’m a host or a guest, is to kind of do my research and kind of read the teale, see what people were talking about and what the reviews, basically what we’re doing now ran across this review, sort of this aside in the review in the San Francisco Chronicle, which says this, its biggest mystery is how quid pro quo was financed by Texas Trillionaire and Dallas Maverick owner Mark Cuban, no less, and selected for distribution.

Jeff:

Yes. This is a hundred percent accurate. He is in the credits.

sar:

Mark Cuban saw some form of this script or movie and was like, seems legit.

Jeff:

I’m in.

Lawrence:

I just want to know the origin story. I want to know how that meeting came to be. I want to know what was said during that meeting and how much he bankrolled. What was his buy literally?

sar:

I want to know if they got Mark Cuban via Vera Farmiga’s crip fantasy theory. I think that’s what would’ve sold him on it.

Jeff:

See, my theory is I think Mark Cuban is the reason we have these big name actors in the film. That’s my suspicion.

sar:

Thank Mark Cuban for Vera Farmiga.

Jeff:

My suspicion, I don’t want to say that you owe us as a community, but I think you owe us as a community, Mark Cuban, if you can bankroll one film, you should be required to bankroll the counterpoint to this film. I think.

sar:

What would the counterpoint to this film incredibly sexy, disabled people who weren’t faking it at all?

Lawrence:

What I’m kind of imagining is I would as a test, as an exercise to myself, a challenge, a challenge to myself. If I were given this film, I would try my best to leave everything as it was up until the 46 minute mark. And then the challenge, what would I change afterwards? And here’s what I think I would change after that 46 minute mark is I would have Mr. Magic shoes here, Nick Stall, suddenly because the only other Crip he knows is the priest, right? His buddy who

sar:

Father Basketbal

Jeff:

Father Basketball, that’s what we call him.

Lawrence:

His basketball buddy who’s in two quick scenes and that’s all. He’s supposed to be this old friend. But the only time we see or hear him or think about him, and you know that he dates Amy Mullins. He dated at least Amy Mullins character, but it doesn’t appear by my viewing of the film that he’s at all interested, invested or connected to disability culture at all. And so what I would like to see is that character, as he starts investigating this story, stumbling across a crew like the folks who used to come to this film series, and because we had disabled folks, trans folks, academics, activists, this whole spectrum of people that had their own reasons for being there that were wild, that they were always drinking. We had dance parties after the screenings. And so I’d like to see through no intention of his own, the guy kind of stumbling, pun intended across Crip culture, and then getting kind of jazzed by it and writing a different story, pursuing a different story. So instead of being fixated and hung up on the magic shoes, he gets turned on to Crip culture. He gets turned on to the people that we know and the people that we talk to, and it takes a turn. And he kind of embraces that

sar:

This is such a wholesome and earnest rewriting of this movie, and I love it, and it makes me really love Lawrence that he’s like, I love how this started and I just want him to meet Crip community and all of us can just love each other. My answer to that question was I wanted to go full mockery in the other direction.

Lawrence:

So like full blown satire

sar:

Walking into a university like, ha, check out my five degrees and all this walking, I can do down 15 building hallways and all of these meta stereotypes to ability, but done really s sardonically.

Jeff:

So Forrest Gump is what you wanted. You wanted this to become Forrest Gump.

sar:

Forrest Gump in a university.

Lawrence:

Well, and I could see a hybrid. So the Crips that he runs across, radicalize him, right? And then he decides he’s going to F with the system. I would love to see this merry band of Crips just running around New York City causing anarchy and just disrupting things left and right. That would be the movie. That’s the movie. This could have been, right?

sar:

You’re pushing the movie Newsies,

Jeff:

Crip Newsies.

sar:

It actually already exists

Lawrence:

Their own nonprofit media group, right? They’re going around. He had no issue getting into the taxi cab, right? There’s a scene. We’ll get into this, right? Yeah. I will say this. Every restaurant, every apartment building, every public space is accessible. Nobody, out of all the wannabe Crips, the real Crips, the who know Crips in the film, they never run across any access accommodations. They never that are not provided, right? They never bump into any obstacles that are the day-to-day realities that we face. And so it would be fun to see a bunch of Crips then take it upon themselves to, with Sledgehammers, create those curb cuts where they do not yet exist.

sar:

It’s true as a New York citizen, that New York City is actually a utopia for are paralyzed people and other Crip identity.

Lawrence:

Again, I think it was an alternate universe because that’s not the New York City that I experienced.

sar:

Am I to believe that New York City is actually a disability utopia?

Jeff:

Well, according to some other people, that might be the case because of course, lots of uppity people go to things like the New York Post and the Washington Post to get their culture. But the real ones know that the best critical analysis comes to us in the comment section, the IMDB and various websites. But I prefer Amazon and IMDB are my two preferred for just the best takes. So I have two that I for us to get into here. Our first one comes from Bernstein 3, 2, 9. He provided this film with a one out of 10 rating, the title being Garbola, which I like that. Zesty. Bernstein 3, 2, 9 says, this was probably the worst movie I have seen since the arrival and one of the worst films I’ve seen in my entire life having been suckered into renting this horrific piece of garbage. I left the movie experience feeling Ill, literally horrible, screenwriting, atrocious acting, contrived bullshit plots and unbelievable characters, magic shoes, ginger. Jake, am I expected to believe that someone who has been in a wheelchair for 20 years could just get up and start walking somehow? I don’t think the human body works that way.

sar:

That’s actually an unfair and incredibly hilarious review because there was actually an entire two minute montage dedicated to how hard it is to get up out of a wheelchair and walk immediately.

Lawrence:

And this guy had no physical therapy. I mean, he does talk a little bit about, well, I swim.

sar:

Yes. Oh, he does 17 sports.

Jeff:

He does 17 sports!

Lawrence:

But none of them which uses legs. And so he’s just able to rise up out of the chair via Jimmy Swaggart or whatever.

sar:

The sheer force of his masculinity allowed him to rise up and above using the magic shoes.

Jeff:

Yes, of course. So anyway, this one cracked me up, particularly because he identifies the reality that there is magic shoes in this universe, but he still refuses to believe that magic would be able to overcome disability, which I thought that was also fairly interesting. Even

sar:

A alternate universe, you’re going to need more than shoes, bud.

Jeff:

You’re trying to tell me that candle can just magic potion his way, and a Frodo is not a little person. Come on.

sar:

Which actually introduces a secondary more interesting conversation about what magic item would’ve been enough for him if he put on a magic suit of armor and able to walk.

Jeff:

A magic watch?

sar:

Is that enough magic to disability ratio that it cancels out?

Jeff:

Yeah. Well, yeah, you would need to go to a doctor to get that prescription. Sarah, obviously,

Lawrence:

Who is the sorcerer, which is duing out these magic clothing items, right? The capes, the coats, the belts.

sar:

He gave him a magic hat. Would he have accomplished the same montage?

Jeff:

And the source of said magic, of course, is a pawn shop where he found the shoes, which of course now, okay

sar:

Which implies that this is part of actually a whole series of people who used to be disabled, use the magic shoes are no longer disabled, and now they’re passing it on to the next poor disabled man who needs to get his girlfriend back. But his girlfriend implied, the one person must always walk in relationship rule

Jeff:

But we’re not going to give it to them. We’re going to put it in a pawn shop and hope they find it.

sar:

They’ll know If you’re looking for this, you’ll know.

Lawrence:

And I got to tell you what, as a viewer, again, with the benefit of hindsight, I was a little disappointed, and maybe it’s in those deleted scenes or those extra scenes, but I wholly expected upon seeing this again, that because he could walk and he had then met the criteria of one person in the relationship should be able to walk, that we would see the Amy Mullen’s character again at the end. But no, he was still obsessed with the gal that caused his injury in the first place. So I was a little disappointed by that. I thought, close this loop here, people.

Jeff:

So it turns out you actually might be an Nostradamus. So as I was going through the reviews, many of the positive reviews for this movie would make the same claim, which was, this movie was infinitely better if you included the deleted scenes. I’m not joking. Multiple comments said, you got to watch the deleted scenes. It makes this movie a million times better. You’ve just got to watch them. So that’s exactly what I did. I pulled up the old DVD and I found that there were in fact 10 minutes of deleted scenes, which largely consisted of Isaac reunited with rain, his ex who had dumped him for not being able to walk, but they reconcile once. He is now not a disabled person. My personal favorite though of the deleted scenes is one in which Isaac does go to a doctor to confirm if the shoes are in fact magic. And the doctor says, and I quote, yes, you could walk. I suspected it the minute you roll through that door, which is exactly how that could work. Exactly. A closed runner up was a scene in which he goes to visit and apologize to wheelchair, priest, basketball enthusiast, priest, Dave, father Dave. And at the end of the scene, he asks Isaac how he feels now that he’s able to walk. And Isaac responds like a bicycle, and then the scene ends. And I have zero idea what that means.

sar:

Father Basketball, you can’t do me like this.

Lawrence:

Yeah, come on. Come on, father.

Jeff:

What? Isaac feels like a bicycle now that he’s able to walk again. I don’t know, maybe that he’s getting ridden all the time now by his new girlfriend.

sar:

Okay. Funny. Okay.

Lawrence:

But that would be Raine, not the

sar:

Not Vera Farmiga, no, she gets canned in either scenario. Can I ask a possibly provocative question based on that?

Jeff:

I would love you to.

sar:

Are you feeling comfortable with me, Lawrence, to ask a possibly provocative question.

Lawrence:

I am seated. I’m strapped in. Let’s go in for the duration. Go for it.

sar:

I wonder if, because you said there were a number of reviews that said if you had included all these scenes where he spoke a little more on the shoes or got back together with the actually disabled character in the movie, it would feel like a better film. And I’m just thinking in the spur of the moment here, I feel like they kind of missed the point of the film because I feel like the point of the film was that all of these pretending are around him, and they’re all psychosomatically disabled, which is another way of saying they’re either doing it to themselves or it’s for some reason all in their heads, or it’s some kind of overcomeable circumstance by way of physical therapy, which this movie thinks is bullshit or regular therapy, which this movie also thinks is bullshit. And then the big reveal at the end of the movie, spoiler alert, is that he was psychosomatically disabled the whole time.

So if you wanted his resolution to be, oh, good, now he can get with the disabled girl, I feel like the reveal was lost on you because he actually belonged with all of these people the entire time. He was not the outlier and Vera, far Miga fantasizes about his psychoso, not the fact that he’s disabled. And she actually goes as far as applying that as far as she can go consciously upon herself. So if you want him to end up with this neat little love story resolution, did they not get the ending? Did they actually think the shoes were magic?

Lawrence:

Well, I think that’s the problem with the film. As we said earlier, it touches upon, it almost goes there. It alludes to, and it plants a seed, but then none of these things sprout. None of these things grow. And so you’re left with this hodgepodge, right? This mashup of things that could have been, that are never really actually realized, or I would say even pursued. So it just sells itself short on every conceivable level. It doesn’t commit to any of these things. And so you’re left being scratching your head and kind of frustrated by what it could have been.

Jeff:

And speaking of not committing, I am not going to commit to talking about this movie anymore this week. It’s time for us to end on a cliffhanger.

sar:

What a transition.

Jeff:

If you want to know more about this film for, I’m going to say sadomasochistic reasons, then you will need to tune in next week where we do a deep dive on Quid Pro quote

[Mvll Crimes theme song interlude]

Jeff:

And thus concludes another episode of Invalid Culture. Thank you for listening. I hope you enjoyed it or not. Either way, please take a second. If you haven’t to subscribe to our podcast on whatever platform you’re using, tell a friend, and better yet, do you want to be a victim on the podcast? Go on to our website, invalid culture.com, submit your name. We would love to terrorize you with a bad movie, have a bad movie of your own that you think that we should watch. Again, jump on our website, invalid culture.com, submit it, and we would love to watch the trash. Be sure to tune in again next week for part two, where we will start to dig into the movie and find out whether or not it wins the coveted Jerry Lewis seal of approval

Mvll Crimes (theme song):

Arguing with strangers on the Internet. Everyone is wrong, I just haven’t told them yet.

Transcript – Part 2

Jeff:

Previously on invalid culture.

Fiona (Vera Farmiga):

People who get off on braces and wheelchairs are called devotees. They’re a joke. They’re the bottom rung. Above them are the pretenders. They wear the braces, they push the wheels, but they don’t belong to their chairs Still. If they want to fantasize, that’s their choice. Then there are the wannabes. You saw how crazy they are.

Isaac (Nick Stahl):

What makes you different than I wannabe or pretending?

Fiona (Vera Farmiga):

I’m a unique case. I don’t want to be paralyzed.

Isaac (Nick Stahl):

You don’t.

Fiona (Vera Farmiga):

I already am paralyzed. I’m just trapped in a walking person’s body.

Jeff:

You are listening to invalid culture, a podcast dedicated to excavating the strangest and most baffling media representations of disability. This podcast is all about staring into the abyss of pop culture adjacent films that never quite broke through because well, they’re just awful. So buckle up folks. The following content is rated I for invalid.

Mvll Crimes (theme song):

I’m arguing with strangers on the internet not going out today because I’m feeling too upset with strangers on the, and I’m winning. I’m winning.

Jeff:

Welcome back to another thrilling day Invalid Culture, back with part two of Quid Pro Quo. Once again, we are joined by co-host, sarah, how are you doing this week, sarah?

sar:

I literally can’t wait to finish this conversation. Quid pro quo winning.

Jeff:

Are you a better or worse person a week later?

sar:

Probably better, but only because I had time to explore the darkly erotic depths of quid pro quo.

Jeff:

Yeah, that’s fair. And again, we are joined by our resident expert and quid pro quo enthusiast. Lauren Carter-Long.

Lawrence:

Yeah, it’s flipped me. I’ve, I’ve gone from somebody who was highly traumatized myself by this film to one who is imagining all the possibilities of what could have been, should have been, might’ve been if this had been handled differently. And congratulations, sarah, on exploring those dark recesses of yourself via this film. I’m glad to know it was good for something.

sar:

Thank you.

Jeff:

So what is quid pro quo for those of you who have not watched this film? Well, our dark, gritty and titillated tale that is extremely horny begins with the introduction of radio journalists, wheelchair user Isaac, who is totally not working for NPR. It is some other leftist New York talk radio station. It is not NPR

Introduced as a spicy new story. Apparently a man recently tried to bribe a surgeon to amputate his perfectly fine legs, Isaac getting over being dumped by his PWD girlfriend because he cannot walk, decides to take up the story because geez, it’s really tough being disabled because cops won’t pull over for you. And so why would someone want to do this after tugging on the frayed threads like a good noir Detective Isaac has tipped off on a literal dank basement meeting of a special group of people, the wannabes. It is here that Isaac learns. There is a whole constellation of abs, which apparently means able-bodied people who find the idea of disability, sexy and cool. These folks go around pretending to be disabled, trying to learn the PWDs way of life and and speaking so that they can pass in the culture of the pws. So basically this is a totally normal anthropology department at any coastal university.

sar:

It’s true. There’s some really inclusive commentary there about the type of people who study other people for a living, and I don’t think it was intentional, but it is funny.

Jeff:

Yeah, absolutely. Little jab, but are my anthropologist friends. Okay. So I think we probably need to start our conversation. Okay. I’m not even going to do, I don’t even know where to start. Where do we want to start on the start of

sar:

This film? Can I propose something?

Jeff:

Please save me.

sar:

I was struck in the first, I guess you’re doing thirds, the first third of this film, by how many times Stall has to tell you point blank to the viewership. I have sex. This guy has the ultimate broken masculinity, straight white male syndrome of, I need to tell you on a literally constant basis how much I’m getting it. One of his opening lines in this film, for those of you who hasn’t seen it, is I have sex. I just can’t get cabs, which I think is supposed to be sexy.

Lawrence:

We can go a little deeper with that, sarah, because as I watched it again in preparation for this conversation, the actual quote is, I can HAVE sex.

sar:

Oh my goodness.

Lawrence:

And so is this aspirational? Yes. Is my question.

sar:

I guess we’re asking, he wants to tell me every 20 minutes that he can have sex maybe because he’s telling himself

Lawrence:

Yes. Yes. I think that maybe this is aspirational for him that he can, whether or not he is, he can, but maybe he just is getting in his own way. And

Jeff:

There’s some evidence there. He does actually miss out on an opportunity for population moments later in which one of his absolutely not NPR coworkers sets him up on a date with ABHB and it doesn’t go well. Unfortunately, she does not wish to sleep with him because she, in his words, doesn’t want to be a good person that day. Which yeah, there is some gender politics stuff going on in this film, which is fascinating.

Lawrence:

Well, and the date, right? The date doesn’t even, again, it’s sort of this ends prematurely in that the date doesn’t even happen, right? No. He enters the restaurant strangely accessible. And I believe he asks for the name, says the name out loud to a bartender or a wait staff or something. And you see, I believe you see the person behind him kind of pay attention to that. And next thing you know, she’s at the curb hailing a cab. Right. Same cab that he can’t catch right?

Jeff:

Yeah. The obsession would not being able to catch a cab is throughout this film. And I found it particularly interesting. I mean, okay, full disclosure, I do not live in New York. I live in a small Canadian town, we’ll call it a village, the Village of London, Ontario. And my understanding of the problem with cabs, it’s not so much that they won’t pull over for you as the racial discrimination thing. It’s more that when you call for one, there are none that are accessible. That seems to be the issue.

Lawrence:

That is the issue. And I was the communications coordinator. I don’t think I’d quite been the executive director of the Disabilities Network of New York City by this point, but I was doing advocacy in New York City and it was all public policy work. We were engaging, the whole point of the organization was to engage with the mayor’s office to come up with public policies that would benefit disabled folks in New York City. That’s pretty cool. Taxi cabs was one of the issues that was a priority for us. And so we were doing forums with the Taxi and Limousine Commission. There were car services that theoretically speaking, pick people up if you’re not disabled. And I remember this was the same year, this came out 2008. That was the same year that I did an interview with Penn and Teller’s Bullshit television team. And the whole point in one of the scenes of the episode, I literally hailed down a taxi, had the camera crew hop in the taxi with me, and then talked about how out of millions of people in New York City and tens of thousands of taxis, only 25 were wheelchair accessible at that point. So you’d have a better chance of spotting a unicorn or Elvis at the Burger King than you would in getting an accessible taxi.

Jeff:

Now, another real New York culture question I have this film at the beginning of the film is extremely assertive, that there are specific phrases, specifically acronyms, that all disabled people use, including the assertion that disabled people refer to themselves as pws, that we refer to people that don’t have disabilities as abs as an able bodied. And that at times there are also addendums to this acronym based on the quality of the body. Specifically you are an HB as in a hot body. So you could be P-W-D-H-B, you could be an A-B-H-D, I myself am P-W-D-A-B-PhD.

sar:

Very good, very good.

Lawrence:

I think you win the acronym Olympics there. Yeah.

Jeff:

Is this a New York thing or is this a, I don’t actually know about disability culture thing.

Lawrence:

This is one of those, this is what I imagine disability culture to be without doing the actual homework is what this is.

sar:

This is kind of funny because acronyms are themselves extremely inaccessible. So it’s like the most inaccessible way of going about trying to make accessible, culture accessible, but in trying to be accessible about accessible culture, you’ve actually made it even more inaccessible than had you just said No, she’s able bodied.

Jeff:

Right.

Lawrence:

Well, I think it’s trying really hard to make it the subculture with its own lingo and its own in way of talking, but in a way that’s painful in a way that it’s like, I don’t know, akin to Sally Field saying, you like me, you really, really like me. It’s so awareness that you’re just like, oh, give me a freaking break in ways that it’s so transparent and so obvious that folks never really do. It’s those assumptions one makes about how people talk or what community is like. But having never really spent any time with those giving

sar:

Twitter academic activism, am I right?

Jeff:

It’s true. It’s so true. And the thing that that’s most jarring about the assertion of these phrases as common lingo is that there are actual phrases that are common lingo. It is not uncommon for us to refer to normies or walkies. We have these actual phrases that we actually use and the movie was like, Nope, I’m going to make up my own terms and I’m going to assert with authority that these are the terms they all use.

Lawrence:

And it’s a slightly askew, a warped version of those terms and phrases. So instead of saying, which maybe the generation or two before us would maybe say something about tabs or people who are temporarily able bodied. So it’s a bastardization of what kind of sort of did exist, but without having the context to get it right.

Jeff:

Yeah. Now, speaking of context, to get it right, we have to talk about this meeting in the basement.

sar:

I love the basement

Lawrence:

And I love that there’s this Mexican sit off as he starts to go into the room. We don’t know how he got down there, first off, because we learn later there’s a reveal. I’ll let you give the reveal, but we don’t know how the hell he gets to this room to start with at this stage in the story. But when he goes through the dark shadows and gets to the room and knocks on the door and sees them sort of in the distance in the shadows, they open the door and there’s kind of this a Mexican standoff where they’re kind of sizing up each other. Who’s the real, who are you? And you almost hear the Sergio Leone music playing in the background.

Jeff:

Yeah, absolutely.

sar:

This isn’t CDS gang. This is the handicap mafia.

Jeff:

So my question for all of you is this is apparently as the movie sets it up for us, this is a reg that we’re meeting of people who are wannabes. They want to be disabled, but they are not expecting a PWD as the movie says to a real one, a live one to walk into the room. So my question is, what in the ever living hell happens at this meeting on a regular basis? What do these people do at these meetings?

sar:

I have a theory and it’s a little bit bitter and it’s a little bit mean, but I do have a theory, and I do think it was intentional. I think Lawrence was kind of dead on with the anthropology quip, where if you get a bunch of these people where they really want to understand this culture and they’re really lusting after being accepted by that culture, by that community, and you see this a lot with people who talk about Russiaboos, Weeaboo kind of thing, where they’re not X thing, but they love X thing enough that they really want to be or become X thing. So they’re doing it with Crips. So he comes to the basement, a real live Crip with all of these academics who are studying this and want to be able to be an expert on this and want to be accepted in the community.

Sociology, anthropology, critical disability studies, all of these fields who are totally guilty of this, going and doing conferences about people with disabilities with no sense of irony that that’s not the terminology and hasn’t been for as long as I’ve been alive. And then when they encounter someone who has real claim to the identity, or at least passes better to have claim to the identity because the big reveal was that he also doesn’t, which is relevant, but if you’re in this room with all these people who are willing to revere you and put you on a pedestal as this person, I think that’s how you get cultures of academics who will circle jerk themselves, so to speak, about how much they know about a culture they’re not actually a part of, or observing from a distance or only engaging with parts that they’re comfortable with or only engaging with academics who are Crips kind of thing, instead of actually going out into not basement New York and meeting real scare quotes, disabled people who could teach them so much more. I think that was a really obvious literal, very much they’re hitting you on the head with this analogy for people who are either studying this or want really badly to be accepted by it as an expert.

Lawrence:

And I think you’re absolutely right. I mean, I do think that we’re probably giving this movie more credit than it deserves in that regard. But one of the things that strikes me, Sarah, as I listened to your astute analysis, is that these individuals really don’t care about real disabled people. What they’re interested in is their fantasy. What they’re interested in is the cosplay aspect, their notion of what disability is, and they don’t want to invite anything in that might disrupt that magical thinking that might disrupt that false impression that they have. So I think this is really more about being committed to the fantasy than it is about any real interest or inclination to find out about disability, culture, disability, community, even the issues that disabled people face, whether it’s being able to get into a damn taxi or not, those things can’t even broach the threshold of the topic because they all run the risk of disrupting the fantasy.

sar:

But that cosplay aspect is what so many not naming names and we’re not going to of disability, especially academic critical disability, are guilty of, right? They want to pass just enough to be one or be an expert or especially be loved or beloved as an expert.

Lawrence:

So yeah, you want to be sort of disabled adjacent without any of the headaches. Yeah, I think that’s what…

sar:

Yeah, those people who make tons of money doing UDL lectures, but all their information about UDL is wrong. That didn’t actually matter to them. They just want to be known for it because that’s associated with all of these great things about what your cosplay identity is. Look how much she cares. Look how EDI she is.

Lawrence:

Yes, exactly. And that’s why I think they have that face off when he opened. The door opens, there’s like, right, and he is coming into the room. He’s a threat to All right.

sar:

Yeah, absolutely.

Jeff:

And the realest part of the movie might be the one guy saying, I don’t feel comfortable doing this in front of him. And he pulls off his trach tube and they all leave. They pick their wheelchairs up and walk up a flight of stairs to meeting, there’s the reveal.

Lawrence:

So it appears right there in this dark musty, not particularly well lit basement, which says to me without overtly saying it, that this is not an official group in the way that a Alcoholics Anonymous group might meet. That they’re what? Sneaking into the church…

Jeff:

Right, they’re breaking in.

Lawrence:

…basement to have their, and the thing is, I’ve been in that building. That building is where back when I did animal protection work in New York City, that’s where group that worked to get animals spayed neutered would have their meetings. None of them were ever in the basement in a badly lit room. And so I’m like, is this an official get together? Is it not on the bulletin board of the church? Why is it that they then fold their wheelchairs up at the top of the stairs or the bottom of the stairs depending on where you are, and then go down and do their meeting? Right.

sar:

No. It’s giving pager location an hour before meetup.

Jeff:

It’s like the police were going to bust in the door and be like, no, you can’t be pretending that here. And they’re like, we’re not pretenders we are wannabes!

sar:

A cosplay. Police have busted this operation.

Jeff:

Now after the seedy underground meeting, Isaac continues to dig into this subculture and he is introduced to quote, I’m not making this up Ancient Chinese girl. It turns out to be neither ancient nor Chinese. It’s Vera.

Lawrence:

And we’re not certain about the girl part either at this point. Yeah, that’s true.

Jeff:

So Fiona is apparently an extremely wealthy restoration person who has a sexy secret. She likes to wear braces and lingerie. Fiona, it turns out, is not a wannabe at all. She is a P-W-D-H-B trapped in the body of an ABHB. And so if you don’t know what that means, well you’re not a part of the community. Isaac realizes that the best way to tell Fiona’s story is to form a sexual relationship with her to gain her trust and accessed her deepest, darkest, sexiest secrets like a good journalist who does not work for NPR.

sar:

We want to be clear about that.

Lawrence:

Yes. We want to be very, very clear about that.

sar:

The basement mafia was not a one-to-one to the MLA accessibility committee either.

Jeff:

So basically Isaac and Fiona formed this relationship, which is rooted in Fiona being attracted to Isaac’s disabledness. There’s a lot to unpack there.

sar:

There’s a weird relationship I couldn’t quite suss out, and maybe you guys can help me with this. I already brought up, I think a lot more people are more culturally familiar with kind of the wibu culture where you’re kind of fetishizing Asian, especially Japanese women and everything you think they do and anime and all this. But you think that these 30-year-old women are watching children’s cartoons on weekends, and that’s just radically incorrect. And I thought they were going to do something with the casual appropriation of ancient Chinese lady, and she has collections of mid-century, obviously Asian architecture. She had Ming Vs. In her house. There’s a deleted scene where she’s speaking Mandarin. She fetishizes this culture

Lawrence:

And she does, in one of the scenes that did make the cut right in the restaurant, she says, let’s go to a restaurant that neither of us have been to before, which happens to be a Chinese restaurant, and she does her order in Chinese.

sar:

It’s wild. I thought they were going to try to connect the kind of fetishization of culture visually explicitly with the fetishization. Vera Formiga has toward disablement more directly than they did. They didn’t go anywhere with that.

Jeff:

That’s the really interesting thing because on the one hand, you could read this as being a very self-aware critique about that this type of cultural appropriation is exactly what the wannabes and the pretenders are doing for disability. That’s the one possibility. The other possibility is that this movie is really leaning into Orientalism and is trying to use interest in Asian culture as another sexy facet of her identity

sar:

That reading…that’s so dark. It didn’t even cross my mind to tell you that.

Jeff:

Was it a darkly erotic reading, would you say?

sar:

Darkly erotic? Yeah. I mean, I’m not going to say it is not.

Jeff:

I don’t know what the answer is,

Lawrence:

But I would say it’s a fetishized attempt to be erotic. So it’s not true eroticism, you’re not totally owning the kink, right? It’s keeping the kink at arms length. So again, you really don’t invest in it in a way that somebody who let’s say is going to go all in for that kind of thing, might actually do. They’re

sar:

Kind of doing multiple layers of fetishization too, kind of simultaneously. And if this was a smarter film, I would give them credit for it. But this was obviously accidental because you’re a Amiga in the lunch scene. She’s looking around and saying, wow, look, they’re all looking at me. And she’s pretending to be annoyed by this, but you can tell she’s really enjoying the attention. And you think because of the juxtaposition of the scene before where she’s very obviously sexualizing her disabled ness that she’s getting off on it, but she could have also bitten on another level. The conversation we were having in the basement, been getting off on being associated with something that she so badly wants to look like she knows shit about. Which brings you back to the academic Crip critique of wanting to get off on your own knowledge and how other people perceive you seeing the world rather than having any actual

Lawrence:

Knowledge. And there’s a foreshadowing of this, if you remember just before they go to lunch, when they’re first meeting in the park, they’re sort of obsessed with the origin story. How did you become disabled? When did you become disabled? Where were you? What was the temperature of the time of day? All of that sense. And in part scene at one point he blurts out the word gimp and she smiles and then she even comments in a self-aware way that she’s smiling when he says the word gimp. And she asks if he’s kind of toying with her in that way. And so it does sort of foreshadow. I think if it was smarter and more committed, it does sort of foreshadow that possibility, but then drops it and doesn’t go any further.

Jeff:

So I have a theory about this and I’m going to agree with your original tape, Sarah, that I think this is really intentional. So several years before this movie came out, there was a fantastic documentary that was released that’s called Whole, so AC company this before, and this is about this disability I guess or something, this diagnosis of BIID, which is body integrity, sorry, body identity, integrity, dysmorphia, which now people would refer to as probably trans ability, which is this notion of people who identify as disabled. And in whole, one of my favorite things about whole is that they have a bunch of people that have BID, that self-disclose as having a BI. Many of them have been successful in amputating the limb that they felt was not a part of them. And what’s really fascinating about the film for me is that pretty much every person in that film, they ask them, they’re like, oh, so why do you want to be disabled?

Where did this come from? And they’re all like, I don’t know. And then several hours later in the film they’re like, yeah. So there was this time when I was a child and I was having this horrible childhood. My parents were abusing me and everything was terrible. And I had this neighbor who just happened to have the exact same amputation that I fetishized for, and he was beloved, and everyone in the community loved him, and they looked at him lovingly and he was a good father and he loved his children. But yeah, I have no idea why I want the exact same amputation as that person. And one of them had all of these sort of interesting stories where they were going through really rough patches in their life and they saw a disabled person and perceived them to be receivers of warmth and charity, that they were beloved, that they were cared for. And it was all of these things, this attention that wanted in their life and that performing the disability gave them access to these feelings of recognition that they wanted.

Lawrence:

They don’t even give themselves permission to be all those wonderful things without the disability. And that the other thing that really strikes me about the documentary, not quid pro quo, is that they are to the centimeter in terms of where that amputation needs to occur, right? Yeah.

sar:

With Vera Farmiga saying, I want to be T 12 disabled.

Lawrence:

Yes, exactly. T 11 won’t do it. T 10, no Uhuh, no got to be T 11. And so it’s this very sort of an obsession or a fixation on these imagined aspects about what disability is supposed to be that then become the compulsion or the motivation for whatever you’re seeing. Waiter, oh my God. It’s almost like, okay, so speculating. It’s almost like I believe that if, I would like to think like to think that if the director had seen that documentary that they would’ve gone a little bit more in depth and they would’ve, for lack of a better phrase, fleshed out the film better than they actually did. What I’m imagining is that they saw a blurb or a trailer for the documentary and they speculated everything else. They imagined everything else based on what the trailer or what the one paragraph blurb about the documentary would’ve said. Yeah,

Jeff:

That’s my theory as well. I think that they had some awareness if not of whole. There was also a series of articles in the press around the time that whole came out. So kind of 2004, 2005, which is probably right around the time he started writing the script. If the movie comes out in ’08, he probably was working on this thing in ’06, right?

sar:

Okay. Working with that theory, because that’s kind of a third level of socioemotional fetishization we’re now working with here. If we’re going from the kind of base sexual, then you move up to the kind of pseudo intellectual community acceptance, and then you move up toward the socio-emotional like, I belong nowhere else. This is the only place I belong. And I think you’re with me on the film’s concept until you cross the border from funny academic parody of intellectual fetish to toward people who have developed emotional fixations and disorders around not being who they say they are, particularly because you can’t talk about this without somebody then bringing up the trans community. Absolutely. But because this whole documentary, and I said this to Jeff yesterday when we were watching the movie, especially Vera Farmiga scenes where she’s quite literally sexually getting off on people looking at her. I’m like, this is kind of a republican fearmongering masterpiece. You can use this film as this definitive text of look at how many people fake disability for all these socioeconomic benefits and to feel better about themselves. This is why we won’t help any of them. And it does a fantastic job at that narrative. And I don’t think it meant to,

Lawrence:

In the incarnation of me after I left New York City, was to go immediately to Washington DC to work for the federal government. And my role there was for an independent federal agency called the National Council on Disability. That’s mandate is basically to recommend federal disability policy to the President Congress and other federal agencies. So I was basically as the comms lead for the agency, I was translating public policy speak and lawyer ease to the mass public, to the general public and turning it into plain language. And what is absolutely fascinating to me about that thesis right there, the assumption is that all someone has do is go on disability, which is what you fill out one piece of paper and then you take it into the Social security office and magically all your needs are met when in reality, 66% of all social security claims, like first social security claims are denied right off the bat. It’s a years long process whether or not you actually achieve the goal. I think your odds in getting, let’s say social security disability from the government in terms of government support go up, increase three times if you get an attorney, but most people can’t afford an attorney. And so they’re left in this limbo for years and years.

sar:

Oh, a hundred percent.

Lawrence:

And so the Republican fantasy is that all you have to do is say you’re disabled and then you get an accessible vehicle and you get somebody to come to your home and wipe your backside and you get an accessible apartment and everything is magically taken care of, quite like the magic shoes feeds into that fantasy ever with, ever without ever giving anybody the option to reality check it or to fact check it, right? It’s just presented as fact. It’s there in the ether and it’s there. That’s the ecosystem in this alternate universe in which this story takes place, and none of it is questioned as phony. It’s all accepted as fact.

sar:

But I think that’s the problem. It’s not marketing itself as an alternative universe. It’s positing itself in hyper reality and saying, look at all these bastards faking it. What are we going to do? And if I were a Republican candidate when this came out, I would be showing screenings of this film. If I were against socioeconomic policy and people getting support for disability, I would show this film every Saturday and try to get people to come see,

Lawrence:

Look these weirdos, look at these weirdos. Why do we have Medicare, Medicaid?

sar:

This is what we’re up against.

Lawrence:

This is what we’re up against. And scaring grandma. And sort of affirming air quotes here, or confirming every fantasy or every false notion about disability, because what is the narrative? The narrative is that people are going to game the system and that people don’t really need the supports and don’t really need the assistance, and that they’re taking advantage in some way of the kindness of society or those benefactors, which is anybody that’s ever had to apply for disability benefits can tell you it’s no walk in the park. And I wouldn’t wish that process on anybody. So it’s again, divorced from the reality that people face. But if you don’t know anything about it and you haven’t seen the sausage being made, you wouldn’t know the difference.

sar:

Yeah, a hundred percent. Your experience with this community is the basement handicap mafia. This is reality.

Lawrence:

Okay. Can I say one more thing too about her sort of fetishization of it, right? Some of the language that she uses and that is used in this portion of the film is very telling to me. I mean, one of the things she says that nervousness when she reveals herself to him goes into the other room. She comes back wearing what’s called a Milwaukee brace, and it’s kind of soft lighting and sexy, and you can imagine candles being burned, and she talks about being nervous to reveal herself to him. And then she says, nervousness is shame that somebody else catches you feeling. And in watching that scene, I was struck one, she’s got the leg braces on, but leg braces are designed anatomically to give weak legs, additional support for strength, for stamina, for balance, right? They’re usually locked at the ankles and they’re locked at the knees. These braces that she’s wearing are neither, she simply just saunters into the room without these braces doing the job that they were intended for

sar:

Kind of the ultimate visual metaphor of taking disability

Lawrence:

For the entire film!

sar:

Quid Pro Quo in general…

Lawrence:

If you haven’t lived it or if you haven’t done your homework, you wouldn’t notice those little details. But it’s those details, those nuances where you can actually spot a fake, right?

sar:

Well, she knows it too, because she’s so ready to share this really out there research on which vertebrae affects which muscles in your body. There’s no way she doesn’t know. No.

Lawrence:

Right? Absolutely. And then she basically jumps him, right? He does. Then she basically jumps him. So maybe, okay, you’re going to, are we going to find out if he can actually have sex at this point? He can sort of pushes back and says, wait, there’s somebody else. And here’s the gotcha, right? She’s actually paraplegic, right? And you see the wannabe kind of recoil in the way that you, I almost like Sunset Boulevard or something and the silent movie over the top. And so there’s this very, they go their whole little banter and start coming onto him again. And then they’re both in their wheelchairs making out and it’s getting the wheel steamy. And I’m like, wow, where are we going here? This is interesting.

sar:

They do the sexy wheelchairs spinning around each other wheel.

Lawrence:

And I remember thinking at this point, okay, maybe this film is redeemable, but before I’d seen the end like, oh, this is interesting. I’m curious to, and what does she do? Right in the middle of the hotness, she stands up and blows the mood

Jeff:

All while attempting to uncover the truth behind BIID. Isaac has been obsessing over a pair of fancy shoes that he sees at the window of a local pawn shop, buying them and trying them on a miracle occurs with the shoes Isaac can walk. Isaac begins to transition out of his PWD era and toward an ab era with his magic shoes, much to the chagrin of Fiona, who just doesn’t find Wiess sexy as their relationship phrase. Fiona steals the magic shoes and gives Isaac an ultimatum. If you want to walk again, you must disable me, Isaac. To investigate Fiona’s history, only to discover is shock and truth. Fiona, it turns out, was the young girl who caused the childhood car crash killing his parents and allegedly paralyzing him. But OMG guys, wait.

Lawrence:

Yes.

Jeff:

Isaac has hysterical paralysis for 20 years and is not actually disabled. No doctor ever told him. Fiona giving him the gift of his lives back then stares, longingly out his window before disappearing. And our 80 something minute episode of Touched by an Angel comes to a merciful end.

sar:

Excellent reference. That show was just heinous hysterical. Okay. I think the most interesting thing about the hysterical paralysis flash, psychosomatic injury arc was that this movie concedes pretty early on. It does not need any actual experts in the conversation. It doesn’t want lived experience experts. It doesn’t want cryp lifers, it doesn’t want anybody who’s in Crip community or academic community. It doesn’t even really want people who actually in big scare quotes are suffering from any of these BIID or et cetera, identity crises. They just want to have their experience in the moment entirely supplanted by anyone else’s approval or evidence. But the entire movie is about all of these people constantly wanting the approval of others. So there’s this kind of ironic injury, bit of, I think physical therapy is bullshit and magic Hughes are the answer, and I refuse to go see a doctor or I refuse to go see a psychiatrist. And all of those things would’ve literally fixed all my problems. But in lieu of that, I found that magic and being insanely selfish cured me all the same. That’s a dangerous message.

Lawrence:

Well, it’s an easy way out if you don’t have to do the homework. You don’t have to actually invest any time, effort, energy, or attention into the reality. You just make this shit up and then roll with it. And I think that’s what the problem with this film that you see over and over and over again, that it would set up these suppositions and then say, ah, logic be damned reality be damned. We’re just going to commit to this thing halfway half commit to it and then let you ascribe to it or attach to it, whatever you will. And there’s this, what you can see, I think that tug of war, that push pull that you’re talking that crisis of identity or conscience in the scene in the museum where she works, she’s a restorer of these artifacts or knickknacks.

And I love this because the knick stall character we’ve already established, he’s gone to work with crutches. He’s now not using the wheelchair. I believe he actually walks into the museum or wherever it is that she works using crutches or some sort of assistance. Is there a wheelchair? So you get to go a wheelchair, what happens, right? Yeah. But then you see him using the hospital issue, not his own wheelchair, but the hospital issue wheelchair, the one you can borrow at the museum if you get fatigued and then goes to visit her in her office and she’s got something she wants to tell him, he’s got something he wants to tell her. And then you literally have this role reversal with this, not ROLE, no, no, ROLL where he is what is getting up out of the wheelchair. And she then sits in it

sar:

Freaky Friday with the worst possible circumstances.

Lawrence:

And as he’s standing up, as he’s standing up and he’s excited, I can walk, it’s a miracle you’ll never walk alone. All this is happening. She’s going, no, no, no, no, no. And she’s kind of doing the here, no evil speak, no evil, see no evil thing. And she’s freaking out. She’s not at all interested in him or him walking or what his desires or needs are. She wants to maintain that fantasy, but

sar:

She wasn’t interested exactly the same way. So it really is the touched by an angel body change moment. Yeah,

Lawrence:

They were both guilty here, right? I mean they’re both doing the inverse of the same thing. Yeah, exactly. Yeah.

sar:

The moral of the story was if you are straight and white, shit will eventually just work out with you no matter how

Jeff:

That, yeah, I got to say the look of revulsion on her face when he gets up, sustains me because that was sort of the face I had watching this movie. Yeah.

Lawrence:

Finally I can identify with someone.

Jeff:

Yeah, I finally, this is my screen projection. I could put myself in her shoes. This is how I feel. So I think that the ultimate back stab of this movie, the ultimate sin of this text is the way that it presents disability in the first half as this cool hip subculture and then immediately betrays it in the second half by giving us another cure narrative. Where next all had to walk in the end. And as far as we know, Fiona does not end up disabling herself or may have jumped out a window. It’s very unclear what happened to her character. She vanishes

Lawrence:

Her neck, she literally throws him, there’s a big sort of face off, another face off right in her apartment and a conflict where she literally grabs him and throws him out of the wheelchair, throws him out of his wheelchair, and then poof, disappears. I can walk never

sar:

To be seen. We were debating whether or not she had died by suicide at the end of that, because I think, and I know the movie itself says, and then she moved away and everything was better. I dunno, I’m not convinced

Jeff:

By that. It does say that she couldn’t find her, that she asked, said he couldn’t find her.

Lawrence:

I never saw her again. That’s the last time, something like that.

Jeff:

Which is why I think she was an angel. So here’s my hot take. Are you ready for my hot take?

sar:

We’re not doing Touch by an Angel. That movie died at the end of the eighties for a reason.

Jeff:

My hot take is she also died in the car accident and she has been growing up as a ghost in this world, and that when she restored his walking ability, she was then allowed to leave this planet and finally transcended the after.

Lawrence:

So the director’s not only ripping off Cronenberg, Lynch, Michael Powell, Brian De Palma, but ripping off M. Night Shyamalan as well.

sar:

Isn’t everyone really ripping off Shyamalan?

Jeff:

Well, if only,

sar:

Okay, my rebuttal to that, A, the film just makes it fucking impossible if you haven’t seen it. She interacts with dozens of strangers and is not Haley, Joel Osmond. But B, I’ve been thinking the past couple minutes based on our conversation about the scene where she goes home with her, it’s a mom ex boyfriend, her mom, and they have that really weird conversation about, okay, mom, you are not the final arbiter on who gets to make great porcelain on Elephant. So that’s the thing she has in her basement for the reversal. And now I’m thinking, and this might also give the film way too much credit. What if that elephant, the only reason it got so much dialogue was to be kind of the central metaphor for that reversal scene. Because the whole thing was kind of an exploration of the ability part of disability and what so many abs abled people get so caught up in when they’re talking about disability.

It has to be about, well, what can you do? Or what are you able to do? Instead of any of the conversations Crips actually want to have about like, okay, well can you not just take that for granted, which is how you get stuff like ability achievement centers and shit that everybody thinks are so offensive. She’s doing that conversation with that stupid fucking porcelain elephant with her mom. And I didn’t connect it until right now where she’s saying, I don’t know who the fuck made you the arbiter of who gets to make great porcelain elephants.

Jeff:

But I think the amazing part of that scene is that the writer director is the Fiona character because somebody, his mother should have told him before making this film, you haven’t done a single drawing class. You cannot make a beautiful elephant.

sar:

There are actually arbiters of this and also ability and they’re called experts. And that’s what all of you need.

Jeff:

And it’s just wild to me that in this film, there’s this conversation of like, you can’t just manifest something. You have to actually work at something and learn about something in order to do it. And clearly the producers of this film didn’t do that work on disability community before making a film about disability community.

Lawrence:

It’s the overcoming narrative, right? You’re overcoming all these obstacles without any thought recognition or realization about the reality of any it, right? You just work hard enough or you will it into being right and it can be. So it’s the inspiration porn on steroids. Yeah,

Jeff:

Absolutely.

sar:

But with the flavor of all of these levels of ability, the sexual ability, the intellectual,

Lawrence:

Yeah,

sar:

Emotional ability,

Lawrence:

Which are hyper able, right?

sar:

Well, Nick Stall going to tell you, he’s hyper able.

Lawrence:

If the studio hadn’t butchered it up and cut out all of these scenes, Allah, magnificent Andersons, what could quid pro quo have been for audiences and the disability community?

Jeff:

Probably still garbage. But we have a way of determining this because here at Inval culture, of course, we have a fully empirical, rigorous scientific methodology which we use to evaluate the quality of the films that we have viewed. So let’s see how quid pro quo does on the invalid culture scale. Our first question, on a scale of one to five, with five being the least accurate, how accurately does this film portray disability?

Lawrence:

5.5.

sar:

You can’t do that. That’s against the rules.

Lawrence:

Five. All right. It’s five because they just got none of the details. None of them from our walking around without the braces locked to the magically appearing ramp. There’s a scene in the museum where she’s there talking to somebody and you see him arrive, show up from behind, he’s in the distance. There are four stairs there, and there’s a ramp. There is a ramp that they’ve added onto the stairs that are magically there, appear out of nowhere, that he’s then able to wheel down and then go over and see them. This is in the third act of the film. There are things like this. Nobody has an issue getting into a taxi cab. He talks about not being able to ride in a taxi, but then you see him in one. There’s so many inconsistencies throughout here that don’t speak true to reality. So I would say on this, I give it a five for those reasons.

sar:

Lawrence, the New York King, you know how I knew this was bullshit because of the cabs? Lemme tell you,

Alright, I’m going to give it, I’m going to give it a three. And I agree with Lawrence that they get just about everything wrong, but I think at least some of the time they’re very intentionally getting it wrong. And that’s when we were talking about kind of the levels of feta that were going on there, but I don’t think it sticks the landing. It wants to get some stuff wrong to try to start some of these actually pretty great conversations about the lengths of ability and how we arbit ability and all of these things. And it just does it so badly that I called it the Republican fearmongering masterpiece because it got a lot more to convince you that disabled people are trying to just pull one over on you at all times.

Jeff:

Yeah, I’m going to split the difference on this. I’ve even a four for basically all of the same reasons. I didn’t give it the full five because as host of this show, I have literally seen worse. And that is a staggering statement to say

sar:

Sobering,

Jeff:

Sobering thoughts with Jeff Preston. On a scale of one to five, with five being the hardest, how hard was it for you to get through this film?

Lawrence:

I got to give it a three because I was completely gobsmacked by it. And I remember thinking, how the hell are they going to end this thing? Just when I thought it couldn’t get any worse, it did. And I was completely fascinated by knowing that it probably wasn’t going to improve the film. It was a car crash of a movie. And I did find myself intellectually interested in just how they’re going to wrap this train wreck up. So I think I give that a three for those reasons.

sar:

I’m going to say a two. And that’s because when I’m doing a film theory for films that aren’t garbage, I’m actually a huge fan of Vera Amiga. I think she’s a really gifted horror film actress in particular, and she’s unstoppable in Bates Motel. So as soon as she came on, I went from casual disinterest in this movie to wrapped attention. I was paying attention to everything, trying to figure out some gem in the screenplay she apparently saw to sign onto this film and I never found it. But if she ever hears this honest to God dying to know,

Jeff:

I suspect that they were given the script one page at a time.

sar:

I’m already in. I’ve deposited the money,

Lawrence:

I signed the contract. I can’t get on now. I’m trapped. They’re going to take my leg braces away.

Jeff:

So I gave this a three. It’s not the worst thing I’ve ever watched, but lordy, this movie is so horny and I have never felt less aroused in my entire life. In fact, I think you could show this film to high school students and it might lead to abstinence. So I’m going to give this a three. It’s not the worst, but there are some painful moments. On a scale of one to five, with five being the maximum, how often did you laugh at things that were not supposed to be funny?

Lawrence:

Again, there’s the belly laughter, the guffaw, the I can’t believe how wrong that is. And then there’s kind of that shake my head laugh. Did that really just, did I just see that? Did they just say that kind of curiosity, right? With a raised eyebrow. So I think I was probably at a round a four there because after a certain point where it seemed like it was not, I held out hopes at the beginning that it was going to be redeemed. When it became clear that there was no redeeming this piece of trash, then I just was like, all right, enjoy the ride. See where this thing goes. And so yeah, I’d say that’s about four.

sar:

I think my bias is that whenever Jeff wants to watch a movie with me, the scale is irrevocably screwed because I know we’re not going to be watching a Hollywood blockbuster. So I kind of subdue my expectations as soon as Jeff says, okay, this is the one I want to watch. So I’m looking at between Christmas Evil to at Best Freaky Friday. So within that scale, I actually thought we did pretty well. I’ll give it a four. I was pretty entertained by this film, and I’ll give it the credit of, because I know a lot of my friends and Jeff’s friends are like legit disability theorists. This film does reward you for applying theory where you absolutely shouldn’t. We have two great conversations about where this could have gone.

Lawrence:

Yes, its own bizarro land Easter egg, right? Unintentional Easter egg for those who conceive of such things. Yeah.

Jeff:

Yeah. So I came in on a five on this one. I thought this movie was hilarious. And I don’t think it was trying to be, I think it was trying to be, as it says, it says it’s a darkly erotic tale. They were trying to be so sexy and cool and noir and this is bloody comedy. It is hilarious.

Lawrence:

So this could be sort of the disability equivalent of the room, Jeff, is that what you’re saying?

Jeff:

Oh man, it is dangerously close.

Lawrence:

Imagine. So yeah, imagine what the objects we would be that we’d bring into the screening to throw at the screen.

Jeff:

Oh God. Braces.

sar:

And everyone brings stuffed elephants. And when we went to the elephant scene, everybody stands up shaking it like I’m the elephant. I can arbit my own fate

Jeff:

Oh no…

Lawrence:

Don’t forget the shoes.

Jeff:

Oh yeah. You got to wear, wear your fancy shoes. Oh lord.

sar:

Jeff, we should unironically suggest to The Princess, who holds room viewings like five or six times a year, that we would host disability screenings of this film. Anytime.

Lawrence:

Alright, here is my pledge to you. If you can arrange this feat, this coup d’etat, if you can get the room to screen this film as a midnight movie, I will either by plane, train, boat, or donkey find a way to get there to be part of it.

Jeff:

Yes. Done. The challenge is out. And I think that this is now, I think the third or fourth GoFundMe that we have pitched on this podcast here. So open those wallets folks.

sar:

But that’s what I actually want.

Jeff:

Oh, I want all of them. Come on. You don’t want a sequel to Tiptoes? We need a sequel to Tiptoes.

Lawrence:

Oh SO right. Oh my God. We need to, yeah, we should make this a weekend. There’s so much that can be done here.

Jeff:

Absolutely. Last but not least, scale of one to five, with five being the most, how many steps back did this film put? Disabled people?

Lawrence:

You couldn’t call this the escalator, you couldn’t call this the, is the Mount Everest of films that set back disabled people. One, because none of it’s informed by actual experience of disabled people or disability community. As Sarah so rightly put, it’s all the imagined all the worst things that the worst Republicans bearing in mind that George W. Bush a Republican is who signed the a DA. But since that time, right? All the worst fantasies about disability that we’ve been conditioned to adopt or accept. And so I would say I don’t even, this goes to the moon and back. I don’t know that I can calculate the number of steps that this has set disability back. But I will say that if someone goes into it with sort of a literal mindset, that’s the case. However, if you are an imaginative personality, if you are someone who is somewhat seeped in disability history or disability culture or disability community, and you’re someone who likes to pull back the curtain and pay attention to whatever’s behind there and what’s taking place, I’d say that it’s a zero and that it’s a wealth of opportunity to explore and examine and to dissect.

I think ultimately it depends on the audience, but I would say since most people who have been exposed to this film are not in seeped in any of those wonderful things that I just mentioned, I’m going to give it a five.

sar:

Yeah, I think I said in the first episode that if this movie had come out before the ADA had passed, this would’ve introduced significant difficulty of the ADA becoming law which is impressive for one film to have that kind of power

Lawrence:

…that kind of power, right? Yeah.

sar:

It definitely strikes me as a film that would resonate strongly with people who were already suspicious of disability culture. So for that reason, I’d have to give it a five.

Jeff:

Yeah. I’m going to complete the triad. I gave this a five because watching this movie was the first time that I didn’t want to be disabled because I didn’t want to be a part of any of this. So because it undid my identity.

Lawrence:

So this film would’ve made you renounce.

Jeff:

I’ve renounced it all. If this is disability, I’ve renounce.

sar:

You don’t want to be in CDS gang. You want to be in handicap Mafia.

Jeff:

Yeah, sorry. Yes. Okay. Okay. I can, if there’s an opportunity for me to meet in a dank basement with the wannabes, I’ll hang out there. I guess.

sar:

You would do it. You would do it once.

Jeff:

Oh, you got to try it once.

sar:

Jeff Preston will do anything once. You got to try it once.

Jeff:

You haven’t lived until you’ve hung out in a basement with one of these.

sar:

So Jeff’s review is, this is the first piece of cultural media that made me actually regret being disabled. So is that a five?

Jeff:

That’s a five. That is a pure five.

sar:

Alright. You want to know the total? You want to give me a drum roll?

Jeff:

Yeah. Drum roll.

Lawrence:

[drum roll noises]

sar:

48

Jeff:

With a 48 Quid Pro Quo, unsurprisingly but very deservingly, has won the coveted Jerry Lewis seal of approval. We did it, gang.

sar:

That was it. As soon as this movie ended, I knew this was going to be a really funny episode.

Lawrence:

And to quote Mr. Lewis, right, those half persons imprisoned in their steel chairs,

Jeff:

They should just stay home if they don’t want to be pity.

Lawrence:

Right? If you don’t want to be pity, just stay home. Right. Or in the basement of a dank.

Jeff:

Yeah.

Lawrence:

Certain churches.

Jeff:

Yeah. Well, that concludes our episode. Thank you so much, Lawrence, for joining us. Thank you, Sarah, for being here. I’m really sorry that I’m your friend and thank you to the audience for joining us, and please do not watch this movie

Mvll Crimes (theme song):

Not going out today because I’m feeling too upset. Arguing with strangers on the Internet. Everyone is wrong, I just haven’t told them yet.

 

Movie poster for The Great Land of Small, featuring a drawn nature scene with man holding open a sack of magic dust.

Definitive proof that LSD and Cirque du Soleil do not mix…

While other movie companies in the 80s were riding the Beefcake wave or chasing Oscars with cripped up monstrosities, a little production team in Canada was doing something very different…creating nightmare fuel aimed at children. The Great Land of Small might not be the worst representation of disability we’ve covered on this pod but it might be the strangest film we’ve covered so far. Joined by victim Adam Kearney, we try to figure out what the heck the Great Land of Small is and debate whether or not this even counts as a disability film.

Listen at…

Grading the Film

As always, this film is reviewed with scores recorded in four main categories, with 1 being the best and 5 being the worst. Like the game of golf, the lower the score the better.

How accurate is the representation?

Jeff – 2 / 5

Adam – 2 / 5

Total – 4 / 10

How difficult was it to watch the movie?

Adam – 3 / 5

Jeff – 4 / 5

Total – 7 / 10

How often were things unintentionally funny?

Jeff – 2 / 5

Adam – 3 / 5

Total – 5 / 10

How far back has it put disabled people?

Adam – 2 / 5

Jeff – 2 / 5

Total – 4 / 10

The Verdict

Regrets, I have a few…

Transcript – Part 1

Trailer narrator:

Beyond our world, there lies a secret land, a land of magic, mystery, friendship, and wonder. A land where it doesn’t matter how big you are, just how big you dream. The great land of small. Rated G.

Jeff:

You are listening to invalid culture, a podcast dedicated to excavating the strangest and most baffling media representations of disability. This podcast is all about staring into the abyss of pop culture adjacent films that never quite broke through because well, they’re just awful. So buckle up folks – the following content is rated I for invalid.

Mvll Crimes (theme song):

I’m arguing with strangers on the internet not going out today because I’m feeling too upset with strangers on and I’m winning.

Jeff:

Welcome back to another thrilling episode of Invalid Culture. As always, I am your host, Jeff Preston, and today I’m joined by old friend, graphic designer, exceptional human being. Adam Kearney, how are you doing?

Adam:

I’m okay. I don’t know about the exceptional human being part, but yeah, I’m doing good and thanks for having me on here.

Jeff:

Totally. So for our listeners, I assume all of them are stalkers of yours, but for the one or two that aren’t, who are you, Adam?

Adam:

Oh man. If I had stalkers that really spice up my life, I’m Adam Kearney, as you mentioned, a graphic designer and a general creative. I like to say I struggle with identifying as an artist, but a lot of my creative output would be considered art, I guess. I have a side hustle called Hand Cut Company. I make Spoony spoon rings a rings out of old spoons, and I make necklaces out of the parts that I cut off. And I’ve also babbled a little bit in writing. I’ve written three memoir essays, which I was fortunate enough to ask you to write two forwards for, which is also why I felt obligated to appear on this podcast. I felt like it was in the fine prints of the paperwork I signed. But yeah, also, if you’re interested in checking out some of the things, I’ve made a hand cut company on Instagram. There’s a website there too. You can access the essays that Jeff was nice enough to edit and write forwards for as pay what you can downloads on there as well. I’ve kind recently become a bit of a event organizer with a few friends. I’ve started Punk Rock Flea Market Chatham in hopes of creating a bit of a community for all the misfits in our area. And other than that I, I’ve got a dog life partner named Pogue. That means the world to me. And I think that’s all I got.

Jeff:

Yeah, I know. I think that’s pretty good. I got to say I got a couple of really nice hand cut stickers that I use. I got a really nice wheelchair fascist smashing sticker and a Oh yeah, yeah. Algorithms killing humanity sticker on my laptop.

Adam:

I get a lot of comments about that sticker you asked me to make this machine kills fascists.

Jeff:

Hell yeah.

Adam:

Anti fascist wheelchair logo on it. I love it. It’s on my laptop.

Jeff:

Now, there’s another connection actually that you and I have, which is that we are both disabled. No, not actually the real thing. Well, that is a thing, but the real thing is that I was

Adam:

Going to say, wait a minute, we aren’t.

Jeff:

Yeah, no, we’re not actually disabled. This has all just been a giant ploy to them. Sweet benefits. No, not actually. But the real thing is that both of us, like many young people with disabilities, people born with disabilities have experiences working our way through the disability camp system. And so I thought that might be a really interesting place for us. Just to start, just for a little aside, because both of us have experienced camp on both sides. Both sides as campers, but also as organizers within the camps. And so yeah, disability camps, is this a thing that we have not talked enough about as unintentional organizing spaces for disabled people?

Adam:

Well, organizing, but also really, I’ve reflected a lot on it lately, especially after watching Crip camp in just the community there outside of social justice and connection there, just the sense of being in community of other individuals with a shared life experience. It really adds a certain context to how we navigate life, those frustrations and obstacles. So many of us face is just common knowledge between us. And so when you don’t have to spend a lot of your time explaining what frustrates you to strangers, you’re able to really dive deeper into conversation and connection. And so it really kind of makes me sad and it’s partly why I started distancing myself from the organization that shall not be named when they start transitioning away from offering camp programs and closing some of the camps that you and I both attended. I feel like there’s been at least a couple generations now that have kind of lost out on that opportunity.

Jeff:

Yeah, yeah. I mean, I got to tell you, I’ll never forget the first time I went to camp and I remember being in my dorm and there’s a bunch of dudes with disabilities, various sort of physical disabilities, and we’re doing one of, you get in a circle and you introduce yourself, and I was the last person to introduce myself. And as everybody does in your mind, you’re preparing what you’re going to say. And I was used to introducing myself. And the way that I always had to introduce myself was, I’m Jeff. I have a muscular dystrophy, had it since birth. I have done charity work. I was a poster child. I have had these surgeries. These are the things I cannot do. But this is the typical way that you’re kind of expected to disclose and to present yourself in a world because that’s what people want to know about you typically.

And I remember being in this circle, and as we’re going around, it was like, oh yeah, I know. Literally everybody around this room have done charity work. Literally everyone around this room has a celebrity friend. Everyone around this room has an award named after them. Everyone in this room has the experiences that I’ve had. And so when it got to me, I was like, well, shoot, how am I going to differentiate myself? And so it was like, yeah, my name is Jeff. I like Star Wars fishing and hockey, and that’s who I am. And it was weirdly liberating and also deeply depressing in that moment of realization that I never got to necessarily be Jeff who likes hockey, fishing and Star Wars. It was always, I’m Jeff, I’m disabled, and then those things exist too, but that’s not what people want to know. And so I found that really fascinating in camp that there was this opportunity to be, I don’t want to say your authentic self, but to be more than just your impairment label.

Adam:

Yeah, I completely agree with that. And I feel like that’s what I was touching on, that when you’re not kind of always introducing yourself by that identifier, you’re allowed to show up in a different way when you’re not putting your energy into that. And I found it afforded me a lot of opportunities that I wouldn’t have gotten had I not been part of that community. Certainly I had a different relationship with it because when I got to be a teenager, I applied to be a leader in training and make the transition from camper to counselor. And I found in hindsight now that that transition actually provided me space to disassociate from my disability to move up the hierarchy of disability in a way that turned out to be really unhealthy because in hindsight, I was no longer really in community with individuals with disability. I was no longer a peer. And I feel like I really struggled with that for a long time without realizing it, and it really makes me look back much more fondly on those days now, and I really wish I’d continued on a different path in a certain way, but hindsight’s always 2020

Jeff:

Yeah, as they say. Yeah, and I think that’s the other side of me with the camp story that I think is important for us to think about is that a lot of disability camps, yeah, there could be these incredible spaces of productive radicalization of disabled kids, of which I think is a good thing. I don’t mean that as a bad thing, but I think the bad thing is that a lot of these spaces though, are created by charities and charities that are often beholden to medical understandings of disability. So you are building this space, but it’s a space that tends to be structured by these hierarchies of ability, structured by the idea of the care provider versus the care receiver. You get these sort of thin, increasingly strong lines built between those who organize the camp, the providers of care, and those who are attending the camp and those who are the receivers of care. That’s, I think, something that we need to really engage with and think about. What would a camp, a disability justice camp perhaps look like that gets away from some of those medical imperatives that structure many of the camp experiences that people go into right now.

Adam:

Yeah. Yeah. That’s really interesting because it was something I noticed in Crip Camp in that they really kind of featured how integrated the caregivers were in their daily life. They were hanging around and chumming around, whereas, I don’t know about your camp because we went to different camps. There was that kind of separation, although I still managed to connect with a handful of counselors in a very personal and engaging way. I remember one counselor, Chris Berry, introduced me to all sorts of punk music and zine culture and all this stuff that being a teenager growing up in a small town, Chatham, Ontario, I wouldn’t have been exposed to. And so it was by going to camp, I got exposed to how other people live, other culture, other things. But yeah, it really is interesting to see that hierarchy or I don’t know the right word to describe that separation.

Jeff:

Yeah, absolutely. Yeah. I will say my first camp experience was a counselor informing me. She was a woman and informing me that her father had met her mother at that camp. One of them, I think the father was the counselor, and her mother was a camper, and they later got married and had her, and I was like, well, that’s a weird introduction, and now I don’t know how to feel about our relationship that we’re forming right now. Yikes. So yeah, I avoided that counselor for the remainder of my time. Yeah, I was just a little weirded out by that.

Adam:

You’re saying that’s not how you met your wife?

Jeff:

No, my wife and I did not meet…well, we did actually meet at a camp. A different kind of camp, which is called University. It’s a very expensive camp. Yeah. Now I want to pick up on this sort of point you made is this thing about learning how other people live because I think that is a great segue to the wonderful piece of torture that you’ve provided for me this month for Invalid Culture, which is of course, the 1980s Canadian made for TV movie, the Great Land of Small.

Adam:

I would apologize if I actually felt bad about this. I feel like you’ve subjected me to a lot of movies that I feel were kind of questionable. But

Jeff:

Yeah, I was just going to say, why this movie? Why did we watch this movie, Adam?

Adam:

So I actually don’t know the full origin story of it, but at some point, my mother discovered that there was an actor with the same disability as me, osteogenesis Imperfecta, and he starred in this movie called The Great Land of the Small and subjected us to watching it multiple times, and it really doesn’t make a lot of sense this movie, and it doesn’t make a lot of sense to a young child. I think it’s been well over 20 years since I’ve watched this movie, but when you were kind of discussing about possible movies that we could watch and discuss on this podcast, I threw this one out, and so that’s how we landed in the predicament we are currently in

Jeff:

And quite the predicament we are in. So for this month, we watched The Great Land of Small, which is a very difficult film to get your hands on. You can rent it or buy it on several, no one streaming platform, at least in Canada. Apple TV is the only place that you can physically access it for money or you can watch a, I want to say a five to 10 pixel version of the film on YouTube. If you look it up, some generous soul has broken copyright law and placed it on the internet, although I don’t know that they broke the law because there is only about half of the pixels from the movie included in the video online.

Adam:

It’s definitely a rip from a VHS too. It has the square frame formatting and the little bit of bad tracking along the top of it. At a few moments,

Jeff:

It looks like a VHS that has been sitting beside a magnet and then ripped onto a computer and then encoded to be the worst possible video possible

Adam:

Accurate.

Jeff:

So for those of you who haven’t seen this, which I again assume is probably only one or two of you listening, what is the great land of Small? Well, we found a summary on a website called Kittle. Kittle is allegedly a dictionary or an encyclopedia for children, and this is how they describe the great land of small two children. Jenny and David meet a leprechaun like creature called Fritz in the woods. However, his gold dust is being stolen by a wicked hunter, only mimic the Indian knows the creatures is in our world. As the hunter becomes mad with power, he attempts to capture Fritz and the children with mimics help they escaped to the land of small, a mystical, magical land. Does that describe the movie that we watched

Adam:

In some ways? Yes.

Jeff:

Sort of

Adam:

Loosely. I’ve certainly read worst descriptions of movies. I think the really odd thing about the description and the movie is no one actually refers to the character as a leprechaun. No. And there is no real allusion to him being a leprechaun other than he appears at the bottom of a rainbow and he doesn’t have a pot of gold. Instead, he has a satchel of what appears to be gold dust,

Jeff:

Magical gold dust

Adam:

Magical gold dust, and a nugget, I believe, a single nugget of gold.

Jeff:

Yes, I will say that in investigating this film, Fritz is described as a leprechaun. Fritz is described as a magical figure, magical. There’s a lot of weird ways of describing Fritz, but there is no clarity on what Fritz is.

Adam:

I would agree.

Jeff:

Now, obviously the politically incorrect phrase here describing Mimic as quote “the Indian,” which I believe they mean indigenous. I wanted to follow that up with you, though I did not know or read Mimic as being an indigenous person.

Adam:

No, and actually I didn’t realize he was supposed to be indigenous in character. However, I feel in hindsight, our opinion here might differ. I think you feel as though Mimic is a character who displays disability, certain qualities, but I feel those qualities might be racial stereotypes.

Jeff:

Interesting. Okay. Well, let’s put a pin in that and come back to it because I want to get into that. Okay, so what is this film? So the film is produced as part of a long running television movie series dubbed Tales for All created by the Quebec firm, Les Productions, Lafe, which were generally adaptations of children’s books or they were movies that were then turned into children’s books. It was one of those kind of multimedia type situations. Now, this is the fifth film of the series, which was released in 1986. The most recent film released in the series number 25 was released in 2023 a year ago.

Adam:

I’m still blown away by that. This franchise will not quit.

Jeff:

No, this is like The Avengers: Quebec. The Tales for All Collection has also allegedly won more than 200 international awards. I have no sourcing on what those awards are. That is just what they’ve claimed. Now, this film itself is not as you would imagine, necessarily a English only production. This was produced both for an English market as well as a French market, and in Quebec and anywhere else where French is spoken, the film has a different name. So in English, the title of the film is The Great Land of Small. However, in French, the film translates to the title. It’s not because we’re small that we can’t be big, which I guess is a way too long title for an English film. It’s also way too long for a French film, I would say, but I feel that title is maybe more accurate than the Great Land of Small to what this movie is about.

Adam:

I really agree with you there, especially we’ll get to it later. When you get to the Great Land of the Small, there is a real lack of small

Jeff:

No, exactly.

Adam:

The first people you see when you get there are not small. No,

Jeff:

It is very unclear why this land is called the Great Land of Small. There is nothing small really about this beyond our main character, Fritz and his twin brother, and there are some various little people mixed into the crowd, but also mostly children. Now, if you told me that this movie was about the power of children, that actually makes a lot more sense to me. The other thing that I think is important to note, I reached out to some of my Quebecois friends experts, and my understanding is that this phrase, it’s not because we’re small, that we can’t be big, is actually a bit of a colloquialism in Quebec. It was at the time, back in the eighties, and it’s tied to a deeper culture of the, and French speaking Canadians living within a country as an official language, but not necessarily feeling as though they’re on equal footing with the English speakers.

And so as I’ve been told that this actual narrative of the David versus Goliath, the small but powerful person overcoming the large sort of menacing adult, for instance, like children overcoming adults, this is a central narrative at this time in Quebec culture. And so that actually helps me also understand this film a little bit more. I have no idea if that’s what they were going for, but this is actually not an uncommon thing. When speaking to my friends in Quebec, they actually knew a lot about this and had never seen this film. They didn’t really know. They knew it existed, but they’d never seen it.

Adam:

Very interesting. So it’s a fair assessment to assume that this movie is a metaphor for how Quebec feels within the country known as Canada.

Jeff:

I think that’s a very plausible read on this film.

Adam:

Wow, I did not get that at all.

Jeff:

No, no. And again, I think there’s some layers here. I think on the first layer, there’s a child empowerment story that they’re trying to tell, which fits within the broader tales for all narrative. I think that makes sense. So where did this even come from? Well, this production company is Productions LA is the brainchild of Quebec Wall filmmaker, producer, and Order of Canada winner Rock The Bears, the first film in the series, the dog who stopped the war was inspired by an article about youth suicide. So that’s kind of where rock is coming from. In this whole project, he has gone on to explain that there are not enough individuals concerned with developing the imagination of young people in the right way and goes on to say, I want to help children leave childhood and go into adulthood with certain values. This is the age when they will build the values they will carry with them for the rest of their lives.

Adam:

As a child who witnessed this movie, I can certainly say there’s probably only one element of this movie that I carried on through the entirety of my life, and that’s slime.

Jeff:

Right? I thought you were going to say you did Cob, but that’s okay,

Adam:

Jeff. I thought we weren’t supposed to talk about that on the podcast.

Jeff:

Yeah, sure. Right. Okay. Well, we’re going to talk more about Cobb later. So who made this film, r de Mars, obviously attached as a producer, but no real indication that he played a major role in the production of this? This was directed by a Czech director by the name of EK Ja. Long career in film and television, starting first in Czechia in the mid 1950s. Eventually after Survival World War ii and Ja, his father was killed in World War II. He died at Auschwitz. He did escape or survive rather, world War ii. He would eventually go on to study and eventually teach film, both in broader in Europe, moved sort of west and then eventually into the United States, and somehow ended up attached to this film, which I do not know. That story, as far as I could tell, has been lost to history. The film was written by a man named David Sigmund. This is his second film that he has written a script for and also his last script. So take that for what you will. I don’t know that this movie necessarily killed his career, but it is possible that she was like, I’m putting the pen down. I’ve written my opus. There’s nothing left to say for David Sigmund.

Adam:

He left it all on the page. You may say, yep,

Jeff:

Yep. You can’t improve on perfection. That’s the reality tip of our hat to David Sigmund. Most of us though probably have come to this film because of the star of the film, arguably the star of the film, which is of course the famous Michael J. Anderson, who plays Fritz as well as the twin brother of Fritz, the king of the land of small. Now, as mentioned earlier, Michael has the edge genetic disease called osteogenesis. Perfecta used a wheelchair growing up. An interesting yet strange fact about Michael J. Anderson, which I actually learned from Adam, is that he has developed the ability to talk backwards. He is able to talk naturally backwards, so if you play a tape backwards, you’d be able to understand it in forward or in English. He learned this skill while attending a school for disabled children. This is how he passed the time.

Adam:

Yeah, and actually the interesting tidbit there is David Lynch found this out when Michael J. Anderson, who I don’t know who stole the idea of using the initial first Michael J. Fox or Michael J. Anderson. This might be a case of the chicken or the egg, but when David Lynch hired Michael to play the man from another place on Twin Peaks, he discovered that he could speak backwards and actually had Michael teach his scene mates on Twin Peaks how to do it at a last minute thing, and so in the episodes where Michael appears and they’re talking backwards in the Black Lodge, it’s all Michael’s doing. Also, the interesting tidbit is the extra tidbit to the tidbit is Michael Anderson may be one of the few instances of somebody gripping down in a movie. David Lynch, also quite happy to have Michael back for Mulholland Drive, actually built a large prosthetic for Michael to sit in to appear as though he was a tall gentleman, and I believe Michael is somewhat, I think he’s under five foot. I actually don’t know. Yeah, I’d

Jeff:

Imagine.

Adam:

But yeah, he appeared as like a six foot a human being in Mulholland Drive, so I definitely suggest you listeners Googling Michael J. Anderson, Mulholland Drive, because you’ll be quite fascinated. Yeah,

Jeff:

Yeah. He’s an absolute trendsetter.

Adam:

Oh, totally. Speaking of trends setting, I jokingly suggest to my friends about starting a GoFundMe or Kickstarter to get a red suit made to fit me like the one Michael wears on Twin Peaks. It’s red, top to bottom, and he is styling.

Jeff:

Well, that’s a good promo. If you’ve enjoyed this episode, donate to Adam Kearney’s Red Suit campaign.

Adam:

So funny. We

Jeff:

Fully endorse this, fully endorse This will be the second GoFundMe that we have started this season. Oh, wow. First GoFundMe, you’ll have to listen to a previous episode to hear about that. It is a sequel to Tiptoes. Yeah.

Adam:

Oh, right. Yeah.

Jeff:

Mike Hoja Anderson is not the only star. Well, okay. No, Michael J. Anderson is the only star. However, there are other actors in this that have histories, one of which is Ken Roberts. Now, Ken Roberts plays what Kiddle described as the Evil Hunter. I am going to be describing him instead as his proper title, which is the owner of a bar who was named Flanagan. He also though plays the man dog Hybrid Munch. Now, Ken Roberts has appeared in a variety of movies, including an uncredited role where he was also a bartender in Brokeback Mountain. He also played the character Terrance in a star-studded film that no one has ever seen called, never Was. Have you ever seen? Never Was Adam.

Adam:

No. It’s my first time hearing about this.

Jeff:

Seriously, go to the IMDB page of Never Was. I’m not convinced this is a real movie.

Adam:

I’m sure we could track it down.

Jeff:

I’m guessing It is horrible if no one has heard of it, given the stars in This is unbelievable. Now, the two children, the brother and the sister, the brother is played by, sorry. David is the brother played by Michael Bule, I’m assuming is how he would pronounce his name. Not sure. Michael did not become a baseball star. As David wishes instead, he actually became a successful stunt artist and has appeared in shows that you maybe have seen such as Gotham, the Punisher, and one of my favorite shows. Happy Jenny. The sister is played by Clarine Elkin, who has not done really anything else mimic. The River Living Man is played by Cirque du Soleil clown Chocolat Trombley. You love whenever a person has chocolate as their middle name.

Adam:

Love it. I know, and the fact that he, it is all throughout the titling too. He demanded that his pseudonym be part of his titles. It’s fantastic. I love the dedication of Chocolat.

Jeff:

Absolutely. We will only be referring to him as Mimic or Chocolat for the rest of this episode. The rest of the cast is a random sprinkle of Quebec television regulars. Many of the folks reappear in future productions of the Tales for All series. I believe several of the cast members went on to direct future versions of this series. It is the strangest thing that I had no idea existed and continues to exist as of last year.

Adam:

I’m proud of them. Keep going guys.

Jeff:

It really does show you that without getting too deeply into Canadian politics, the two solitudes kind of thing, that there is this entire media empire that has been happening in Quebec since the eighties, and we had very little knowledge of it existing.

Adam:

Now I’m going to throw this curve ball out here. Do you think that Cirque du Soleil has anything to do with throwing money into this thing considering the amount of gymnasts that appear in this movie and I imagine continue to appear throughout the series?

Jeff:

Probably there is a weird focus on aerobatics gymnastics clowning in this movie. I really go back and forth on it. I think that there are two possible explanations. Explanation number one, Cirque du Soleil saw this as an opportunity to legitimize their work in sort of children’s cinema and thought it would be

Adam:

Kind of like what the WWF does with horror movies.

Jeff:

Exactly, yes, and thought it as like a promo opportunity. Right. They were diversifying their portfolio, and so they were glad to perform and to support this. The other possibility is they got paid for this, and this was just a moneymaking venture for random people in Cirque de Soleil. I would love to know which path they went down on this one.

Adam:

Oh man. That’s a whole other wormhole rabbit hole.

Jeff:

The other actors that were not included on this list was the very surprising number of animals. The animal budget in this film had to have been staggering.

Adam:

Oh, it’s phenomenal, and it almost seems trivial at parts too when Michael Anderson rolls over and cuddles a tamed raccoon only to say, what are you doing in my bed and end scene,

Jeff:

And the raccoon is attacking him.

Adam:

Yeah. I would love to hear a story about that.

Jeff:

Yeah. I believe that’s how Michael Anderson got rabies.

Adam:

He had to take some time out off after this feature film.

Jeff:

Now, we of course have our own opinions about this film, but we are not the only ones. There are lots of people that have actually written about this film, some of which more legitimate than others. I want to draw our attention, however, to a 1988 review that was published in Cinema Canada by a Marika Seno. So Seno says, “Jasny and Brault capture the forest at dusk. This quality of light–rarely seen in films–makes Flanigan and his men appear as undefinable shapes lost in the darkening forest. The blue tinge together with the mystical synthesizer music adds to the be witching feel that the Jasny-Brault duo creates.”

Adam:

I would like to comment in that they must have definitely watched the HD transfer on Apple TV because the rip that is on YouTube, and I imagine the VHS version that I watched when I was younger basically presents that scene as pitch black. There is no contrast or blue hue to it. It’s just darkness.

Jeff:

As a deviant who purchased this on Apple tv, because again, I have a problem, I can confirm that the best quality version you can buy of this film, it is black. You cannot see anything for about a third of the movie.

Adam:

Yeah. There’s a long part in the second half of the movie that is just pretty much, you just have to adjust your TV basically if you actually want to see anything.

Jeff:

Yeah. That felt extremely generous. There was critique though Sano goes on to say, “still the spirit of the film outweighs its weaknesses. The desire to capture the inner lives of the character makes the great land of small a film in which both child and adult finds meaning.”

Adam:

Do they though?

Jeff:

I think we’re going to spend the rest of this episode and next week’s episode attempting to find meaning.

Adam:

Oh man, just like my life, right?

Jeff:

Precisely. There are, of course others that have better opinions than the official critics, and those are internet comments, which we have found on things like Amazon and IMDB.

Adam:

I cannot wait to hear these. I purposely didn’t read these when you sent them over earlier. So

Jeff:

Phenomenal going in completely sight unseen, so our first year is an IMDB review by Siouxsienova giving this film a 1 out of 10 rating. They go on to say, “film we disapprove of. Though details elude our memory, we recall an inexplicably cheerful little man and people in colored saran wrap. We fail to see what was “great” about the land, other than a volcano that burped glitter. Years after viewing it, we need only say the title to send everyone into fits of laughter and gagging sounds. This earns “The Great Land of Small” our resounding two thumbs way down. Were we to judge it on a star ratings system, it would be a black hole”

Adam:

Wow. Now, to be fair, there is no volcano that burps glitter. I think that would actually really drastically improve the great land. Instead, it is a creature that does the burping.

Jeff:

Yeah, slimo

Adam:

Of course. Slimo. Yeah. My hero. Obviously,

Jeff:

I aspire to be Slimo when I’m older. Maybe that was the moral or what they wanted you to take as a child. You too could grow up to be Slimo.

Adam:

Yeah, slim o be your own Slimo. Yeah.

Jeff:

Be the Slimo you want to see in the world.

Adam:

You know what I really took away about Slimo too was the costume or the

Jeff:

It is a puppet.

Adam:

The puppets that is Slimo really reminded me of the character Bill Paxton gets turned into in weird science. It’s basically Slimo

Jeff:

Totally,

Adam:

But they definitely put a lot of budget into creating slimo the puppet. I wonder if slime still exists.

Jeff:

Probably. There’s no way you could destroy it. That thing is huge.

Adam:

Is it though or it, did they shoot it with perspective to make it seem big?

Jeff:

That’s an interesting question. It could be a hand puppet, but I don’t know. Given everything I’ve seen in this film, given that there is basically zero practical effects at all beyond cutting things to make them look like they’ve disappeared or turned to different directions, I don’t know that they had the technology to make things look bigger than they appear.

Adam:

I feel like this could be a podcast unto itself finding slime.

Jeff:

Yeah.

Adam:

2025

Jeff:

GoFundMe number three…

Our next review, also an IMDB review, comes to us from Muppets1. I guess Muppets was already taken. Also giving this a one out of 10 rating with the title stupid movie gives nightmares. Muppets1 says, “This movie frightened me. It was an awful movie that should not be shown to little children if you want them to grow up as normal human beings. I saw it at a friend’s house, and everyone who saw it found it to be extremely disturbing. You barely see anything of the Great Land of Small except people turning into butterflies or being “slimo”d. I definitely rate this as one of the more unintelligent family films that has come out of Canada”

Adam:

I feel as though that review really undersells the great land because there was also baton, twirler jugglers,

Jeff:

Many jugglers.

Adam:

There was a parade though. It was a practice parade. There was a lot more happening in the great land of the small than just being slime mode.

Jeff:

Yeah. Keeper lives in a dungeon with his man dog.

Adam:

Yeah. Like a mirrored dungeon, oddly enough. Right. Hopefully we get back to that one.

Jeff:

Yeah. People are just getting railed on cob down there.

Adam:

It’s a tasty treat, man. Don’t knock till you tried it. Don’t yuck my yum.

Jeff:

It’s the only thing that states some people. Finally an anonymous. This is a rotten tomato reviewer that I loved, so I had to include it. This review is quote, “this movie is fucking disturbing. I was okay with it.”

Adam:

Fuck yeah, bud. I feel as though the more I lament about this movie, the more I kind of feel like it almost deserves to be compared to the work of somebody like David Lynch. There’s this real I dreamscape mentality, this alternative universe existing within our own, but yeah, it’s really not a good movie, but you can’t stop thinking about it.

Jeff:

My best belief, my best understanding, this feels like a movie where if you were to get several very well intentioned, very artistic qua folk, put them in a room, pipe that room full of LSDU gas and then have them write a movie about child empowerment, I think this is what happens.

Adam:

I would love to see remake the Great Land of Small and see his adaptation of this.

Jeff:

The best thing about that is that I could not tell you if it would be better or worse. The adaptation, I have no idea. Yeah,

Adam:

Or even if David Lynch redid it, would his adaptation be better or worse?

Jeff:

Oh, that would be upsetting. I think that would be even more upsetting In some ways.

Adam:

It would be funny if he just shot it scene for scene if it was just what they did to Psycho.

Jeff:

Oh, no. Okay. Yeah. No, I’m on board for that. David Lynch, I assume you listen to this podcast. Please do this. You can have this one for free. We don’t even want royalties.

Adam:

Also, David, if you’re out there, send me that red suit. Let’s save some money here,

Jeff:

Right? Yeah, please, David. Now, this is really only the start of our journey into the Great Land of Small, but unfortunately we need to call it a day, so I know. I know. So if you don’t want to get slime mode, make sure you tune back in next week, Monday morning when we will actually talk about the Absolute Bananas movie, the Great Land of Small.

Adam:

I Can’t wait. I personally hope you end this episode with one of the two theme songs they had written for this movie.

Jeff:

All right. Rolling

Great Land of Small theme song:

And You

Jeff:

And thus concludes another episode of Invalid Culture. Thank you for listening. I hope you enjoyed it or not. Either way, please take a second. If you haven’t to subscribe to our podcast on whatever platform you’re using, tell a Friend, and better yet, do you want to be a victim on the podcast, go onto our website, invalid culture.com. Submit your name. We would love to terrorize you with a bad movie. Have a bad movie of your own that you think that we should watch. Again, jump on our website, invalid culture.com, submit it, and we would love to watch the trash. Be sure to tune in again next week for part two where we will start to dig into the movie and find out whether or not it wins the coveted Jerry Lewis seal of approval

Mvll Crimes (theme song):

Arguing with strangers on the internet. Everyone is wrong. I just haven’t told them yet.

Transcript – Part 2

Jeff:

Previously on invalid culture.

The Great Land of Small theme song:

Keep your eyes wide open, can you see the special beings? You will never know what you’ll be seeing. If you let them show you…

Jeff:

You are listening to Invalid Culture, a podcast dedicated to excavating the strangest and most baffling media representations of disability. This podcast is all about staring into the abyss of pop culture adjacent films that never quite broke through because well, they’re just awful. So buckle up folks. The following content is rated I for invalid.

Mvll Crimes (theme song):

I’m arguing with strangers on the internet not going out today because I’m feeling too upset. Arguing with strangers on the, and I’m winning. And I’m winning!

Jeff:

Welcome back to another episode of Invalid Culture, part two of the Great Land of Small. So glad that you are back. We are joined once again by our co-host. Adam, how you doing, Adam?

Adam:

I’m good, Jeff. I’m good. I just got back from a rainbow trip back from the Great Land of Small.

Jeff:

Oh good. You caught the rainbow.

Adam:

Yeah, I caught the rainbow. I wasn’t late like Michael was and I made it for the birthday celebration.

Jeff:

Can I ask you, what is the wheelchair accommodations like on rainbow flights?

Adam:

Very lovely. Lots of large entryways. There’s really no limitations, no stairs at all. The only thing, the incline is a little challenging, especially at the starting point.

Jeff:

Right, but they didn’t break your wheelchair like every other airline in the world.

Adam:

No, no, no, no, no. They were quite accommodating in that fashion. But let me tell you something, there is glitter everywhere. Everywhere. It’s like going to the beach.

Jeff:

Absolutely. Well, as I said, this is part two, which means it is time for us to get analytical. So let’s talk a little bit about the Great Land of Small. Now for those of you who have not watched the movie, our film begins in the wilderness where we meet a surly magical something or other, maybe leprechaun, maybe not named Fritz, who has returned to Earth to verify whether or not humans are still terrible. Before Fritz had learned about Donald Trump, he misplaces his bag of gold dust while escaping several hunters that are led by barman Flanagan cut to New York City where baseball enthusiast David is refusing to visit his grandparents unless can bring his dog along with him, David, his sister Jenny, and his single and ready to mingle Mother Linda, all packed into a bus and drive to the mystical land of Quebec. It is here where his grandpa gaslights the children into believing that magical creatures exist, but only if you truly believe otherwise they are invisible to you. Get it? It’s a metaphor for the French Canadian experience.

Adam:

Oh boy. Yeah. The start of this movie is quite challenging, although it’s very entertaining to see them really try and wedge as much acrobatics in the beginning of this film to just set the baseline of what you’re going to experience in the Great Land and that grandfather. Best of intentions, that guy. Oh, absolutely. He wanted to share the magic of the world with his grandkids.

Jeff:

Yeah, absolutely. Now, okay, so let’s talk a little bit about Fritz and his introduction into the film. He is sort of just laying around in nature. He loses his bag of magic gold powder and it’s at this point that we’re explained, it’s told to us that Fritz, for reasons that are never explained, has access to five magical spells that he is allowed to perform.

Adam:

And I feel like we need to also address one factor too in that we both, I think we paused the movie, we watched the movie the first time together, the exposition in this movie is handled quite awkwardly. There’s a moment where Fritz loses his bag of gold dust and literally says to the camera, oh no, my gold dust fell out. What should I do? Moments like that happen a lot in this movie where it’s like, no, obviously Fritz just dropped his gold. I don’t know why he’s saying this out loud.

Jeff:

Yeah. The movie at the exact same time, both imagines its audience as completely unable to follow what’s happening while also presuming that the audience is fully literate in the magical world that it is set in. So of course, Fritz is invisible to the hunter that stumbles across his bag of gold dust, which is perhaps kind of a bit of a fitting allegory to some experiences of disablement in which the bar owner literally does not know you exist.

Adam:

No, because he can’t see you through the bar that he’s sitting behind. Yes. That is something I didn’t consider until my second viewing actually is how Fritz navigates the world by only being seen by humans who may not have been taught to see disability as a negative. You know what I mean? Kids often approach me and ask questions that are very innocent and unknowing, whereas adults who have been taught that disability is a negative often just ignore my existence. So that little allegory may be the most in-depth quality of disability representation in this film. Otherwise it’s pretty non-existent in my opinion.

Jeff:

And also might not have been intentional.

Adam:

No, no. I think that’s also the odd thing is in all the promotion and all the write-ups that I read for this film, Fritz is referred to as a leprechaun, but in the movie, characters are stopped short when they almost say the word leprechaun and instead they say one of them. And so the really odd thing too we were just discussing off mic, is that there is a bizarre number of Irish names in this movie, Flanagans, Patrick…It’s quite bizarre because they stopped short of identifying the one true Irish character, the leprechaun. It was like, no, that’s too odd. We can’t go ahead with that, but let’s just name everybody an Irish name.

Jeff:

Right. And this is small town Quebec, but they are in Quebec.

Adam:

Yeah, yeah. In the eastern townships, somewhere in between Montreal and Sherbrooke is our rough estimation of where they are. And so there is no Jean, there is no Michelle. Instead Patrick Kelly. I forget what the mom’s name is?

Jeff:

Linda.

Adam:

Yeah,

Jeff:

I think that’s an interesting point because this could gesture toward a little fan theory that I have, which is that Quebec in the film is not Quebec. Quebec in the film is actually English speaking Canada slash America populated by the Irish and the land of small is actually Quebec.

Adam:

Oh, that would make sense why…so?

Jeff:

Hence why as we will later, well, okay, let’s move forward. So while frolicking could in the forest, David and Jenny stumble upon light bending magical figure Fritz with some very interesting colors being placed upon the screen.

Adam:

We kind of differed there because I felt like that camera trick with the rainbow effect was very, very impressive. I felt as though it wasn’t just merely a lens on the camera. There was some special effect quality to it, although the effect doesn’t last very long, so you don’t get to really bathe in all its glory

Jeff:

To me…I think they just sliced a gel from Aliko light and taped it to the camera lens. It’s very angular and the people were moving and the camera’s kind of moving. So it’s unclear, but it looks fairly static egg. I’m unclear. Unfortunately, because of Fritz’s futile search to get his gold powder back from Flanagan, Fritz has missed his ride on the rainbow to get back home. And as a result, like many of us have been forced to do, had to spend a night in Quebec taking pity on him. David and Jenny invite Fritz back to Grandpa’s house for about 14 sandwiches and two bottles of Pepsi. Fritz will eventually spend the night for a magical sleepover after which the gang decides that they must enlist the support of mimic a strange man who speaks in brine and lives in a shack down by the river.

Adam:

Before we get to the mimic thing, I wanted to interject with, we skipped over the pop scene where they reenact a scene from Willy Wonka with the bubbles that make you weightless and float, and then there’s also a quality to this film that is a big tip of the hat to the Wizard of Oz as well, which we’ll get to in a bit. But there were a few very notable classic cinema references in this movie, which makes me feel as though like this wasn’t just a haphazard attempt that the writer really did leave everything on the page here. He went deep. I feel.

Jeff:

Well, references or copyright infringement. It is hard to say. Disney might be looking at some of this magic powder animation and feeling it’s a little Fantasia

Adam:

Or a little Tinker Bell too. Right, right. The fairy dust. Yeah. Anyway, sorry to interrupt you again.

Jeff:

No, absolutely. So Fritz spends the night for this magical sleepover and the gang determines that they must use this man mimic to help them. Now on their way to mimic, they are chased by flatheads men narrowly escape at a certain death by jumping in a canoe and heading down the river almost immediately. They almost die in some river rapids and Fritz is required to use one of his five magic spells, which I believe this is his third spell that he has used now maybe fourth, to transport them to safety, also known as Montreal apparently, because they are now in the Olympic stadi…sorry, they’re now in the Great Land of Small.

Adam:

Yeah. The architecture is very hard to miss in the great land of small, but it’s very familiar to those Canadian listeners out there, the slopes, the angles, the off white color of everything.

Jeff:

Immediately when they arrive in the great land of small, we are we’re watching it. And immediately you notice that it is both like an internal, that they’ve built a set, but it’s also outside, but it’s clearly natural light. And so when we’re watching it, we’re like, where did they find this open air studio? And then almost immediately, once we get deeper into the great land of small, we’re like, oh man, I bet you, and sure enough, yes, this was filmed in the Olympic Stadium, the pride and joy of the Montreal Expos at the time. RIP

Adam:

David would be sad and his baseball dreams.

Jeff:

Yeah, crushed. Yeah. Now, as a baseball fan, how did he not know that he was in the Olympic stadium?

Adam:

It’s a different world bud. Different world, the rainbow.

Jeff:

There were no Montreal Expos in this universe.

Adam:

You know what? That’s also funny because we were commenting about David’s hat looking very weird on his head. Why wasn’t he wearing either a Brooklyn hat or an Expos hat?

Jeff:

Right? He was wearing a red felt baseball ish hat. I understand. Not going to put branding on it, but why this wasn’t a Yankees hat or a Mets hat is kind of hilarious to me.

Adam:

Right? Or yeah, it really, I don’t know. They missed an opportunity with that one.

Jeff:

When it comes to magical powers, Fritz, as I said, lead it up to this point, has used a few spells which seem to be conjured by saying little rhymes pretty on brand. And from what we’re able to tell, he is able to a drop people into holes in the ground, which he does to Flanagan

Adam:

With a very hilarious forward and rewind effect and then forward again. So it appears as though he’s being dropped multiple times.

Jeff:

So that’s one of his spells. Another spell that he casts is to astral project David’s dog from the pound. Now my read on this, my understanding of the text is that his dog is not physically there. This is an astral projection, but there’s sort of a commentary that’s made that he’s not actually there, but he is experiencing it with them and they are able to touch him.

Adam:

True. They do engage and they even have to use the leash on him when they’re walking to mimics shack on the river,

Jeff:

Right? Because that dog will run away immediately if possible.

Adam:

Yeah, I believe it was a lab or a retriever.

Jeff:

Yeah, it was definitely going to run away the minute it could possibly going to find a tasty treat in the forest because it is on our way to Quebec that it is disclosed that Flanagan and his hunting friends are not just after caribou. Adam, what are they hunting for?

Adam:

Well, there’s a theme when the kids and mother arrive in Quebec to visit the grandparents where the grandparents pick them up in the bus at the bus station during wait, fall because all the trees have turned color in a convertible with the top down. So they’re driving down country roads and highways with top down and convertible when they come across a roadblock with a police officer who is berating Flanagan and his cronies for hunting at night with flashlights. At which point Flanagan says they are not hunting caribou illegally. They are actually after rabbit eggs,

Jeff:

Rabbit eggs,

Adam:

Rabbit eggs are Flanagan’s bread and butter, apparently a real curve ball. I really didn’t see that one coming.

Jeff:

So when this happened, I thought I just misheard it and I went back and looked and no, they said rabbit eggs and it is presented completely straight and the police officer is like, oh, well that makes sense. And it is. I have no idea if this is supposed to be a joke, if it’s an absurdist line. Is it like the police officer doesn’t understand hunting and this is just a funny little prank? Or are there really rabbit eggs in the field?

Adam:

Maybe they aren’t mammalian. The really peculiar thing too is they say it multiple times in the scene and then they don’t say it again at all during the movie or reference these rabbit eggs.

Jeff:

No, it never comes up again. Which leads me to wonder, are there scenes that were left on the cutting room floor of this film, which boggles the mind?

Adam:

I wonder what the director’s cut of this thing could have looked like.

Jeff:

Well, there’s another thing that was never really addressed, which is Linda is a single mom and there appears to be a will they or won’t they with the police officer that they meet on the roadblock because apparently they knew each other growing up and maybe there’s something happening and no, that storyline leads nowhere.

Adam:

No, and there is multiple references of hanging out with a dad, but we don’t get dad’s name. We don’t see dad. There’s really just only a reference to you’re going to see your father next week type of thing,

Jeff:

Which is a really interesting part of this film, I will say, because it is like a normalization of divorce from a Quebec company, which of course in the quiet revolution you’ll know that this is actually not an insignificant thing. Talking about divorce and going against Catholic scripture

Adam:

And for the mid eighties too, right? I guess maybe that was a slight dig at her living a sinful life in New York City moving away from Quebec

Jeff:

Or they’re aligning with the quiet revolution and the pushback, the secularism of Quebec that comes in the seventies and eighties. This is just normal. It’s just a normal thing. We don’t need to address the father because he is insignificant. So we move into the final phase of the film where we arrive at the Great Land of Small, which essentially is a Cirque de Soleil fever Dream meets an abstract 1984 concrete hellscape. We discover that Fritz is not the king, but rather his twin brother is the king of this land. And the people seem to spend most of their time doing acrobatics, juggling and being turned into butterflies. But there is just one problem. Once you enter the great land of small, you can never leave. As a result, David and Jenny are scheduled by the king and queen to be slim mode, which is unclear if this is a punishment or a reward, but it essentially consists of being fed to a giant rock blob that spits magic, morphin gold dust onto you and turns you into something else.

Adam:

So the thing about that is in watching it last night, the king and queen make a quick reference to not being able to have children of their own. And the queen says how nice it would be to have a little girl and the king says how nice it would be to have a little boy, and then they decide that the children must be slime mowed so that they can live their eternally. And so it’s kind of a kidnap plot

Jeff:

And it’s also, as I said, this is confusing because when we get to the slime scene, they are sliming a woman who wishes to become a butterfly. That’s what she’s wanting to become, so boom, slim mode. However, we also have two individuals who are in an argument and they hit slim O for being in an argument

Adam:

At some sort of resolution as though the process of being slim Oed is going to absolve the situation that they find themselves in.

Jeff:

Very unclear. Now, Fritz, the selfless magic figure that he is uses his last magical spell to transport David and Jenny as well as new characters keeper and man dog munch out of the land of small and back into the forests of Quebec. However, this will then doom Fritz to have to navigate the Canadian Social Assistance program for disabled people the rest of his life. There is ultimately only one chance for Fritz to get back home, which is to reclaim the magic powder from Flanagan. The bargain Flanagan, as you imagine has become drunk with magical power and is ploting to take over the world leading to a barely visible confrontation on the aptly titled Black Mountain, ultimately Flat again, the lights after almost clearing his daughter and the gold dust is returned to its rightful owner. The film even eventually wraps with Fritz saying goodbye to his friends from the great land of small paper and dog Man Munch who take the little powder back to the king and queen Fritz, however fits his return and instead rides off into the sunset with mimic a relationship that they will never be able to report or risk losing their disability support benefits.

Adam:

I really love how you tie that in. That’s beautiful. Well done, Jeff.

Jeff:

Now one thing I do want to talk about in the conclusion of this film, so the movie sets itself up as being a morality play of some variety, but as I can understand the story, what is the moral of this story?

Adam:

I have no idea. Other than kids running around with their leprechaun buddy and a harrowing canoe trip. I don’t know. No one seemed to really learn a lesson other than maybe Flanagan,

Jeff:

But there’s sort of the lesson of youthful innocence and being open to new experiences maybe, but that’s never really addressed or dealt with, and also it ends with this crushing reality that Fritz is now trapped away from home living in exile in the forests of Quebec,

Adam:

But he seems really okay with it. They are prancing through that meadow at the end,

Jeff:

But why were David and Jenny not allowed to know that he was trapped at that point? I understand beforehand, he doesn’t want the children to stop him from using his last wish, but once you’re there, he’s like, no, no, protect them from this terrible reality. I’m now trapped in. We’ll let them think that I’m leaving and then I will scuttle away through the tall grass and write off with mimic.

Adam:

There is just so many questions left on the Answered in this film because I think they felt that they were going to wow us with some sort of magical experience that leads you to forget about all these unwrapped up storyline,

Jeff:

Right? No, Cirque du Soleil is enough. Have you been to Cirque du Soleil? It’s enough. You don’t need anything else.

Adam:

Look at these batons. We have so many batons and they’re twirling.

Jeff:

That’s all you need. They’re children. They don’t know anything. As I said, this movie equally seems to treat its audience as hyper literate and completely unaware of what’s happening at the exact same time.

Adam:

It just really weird, some really bizarre, maybe directorial choices. You would think that if Fritz also is a leprechaun, that maybe you would have your actor do a bad Irish accent, but they don’t even attempt to that.

Jeff:

No, no. And they dress him sort of like a medieval squire kind of…

Adam:

Yeah. Yeah. There’s no real leprechaun qualities to Fritz as a leprechaun. There’s some gold, but really you wouldn’t be surprised to see Michael walking around a Ren Fair in that outfit. You’d be like, oh,

Jeff:

Absolutely.

Adam:

Sweet outfit, bro. Yeah.

Jeff:

Yeah, right.

Adam:

Absolutely. No one would be like, oh, that leprechaun outfit is tight.

Jeff:

I also am confused by they seem to be gesturing toward a moral of absolute power. Corrupts absolutely, and that you should reject power because it’s dangerous. But I also don’t know that that’s the case. Flanagan gets the powder, goes crazy with it, goes to Black Mountain, ties up Mimic to a tree, and appears to be prepared to torture him or murder him, I’m not sure. And then his daughter comes and is like, wait, no, stop. And he blasts her with magic and then it’s like, what have I done and runs down and it is like, oh, my daughter here, have the dust back. It’s too dangerous.

Adam:

Yeah, there’s really no consequences for anyone in this film other than Fritz who is now stuck in Quebec,

Jeff:

The most Irish town in Quebec

Adam:

Of all the small towns. He had to land in the most Irish of them all where the local is called Flanagans.

Jeff:

Part of me also wonders if maybe this was intended as a setup to a sequel, but were we going to get another story that was about the return to the great land of small where Fritz is trying to get back and he has to do some sort of task and learn some sort of lesson about himself and away we go,

Adam:

That would guarantee us a more slim o film time and explore the relationship between Fritz and Mimic in that quick Riverside abode. Yeah,

Jeff:

I hope that they’re lovers. That is my deep desire for the end of this film.

Adam:

It is neither confirmed nor dismissed.

Jeff:

Precisely. It is a potentiality,

Adam:

But they definitely, at the beginning of the film, they already kind of know each other.

Jeff:

Yeah, they’re friends.

Adam:

They have a history together. And that also brings up something we have yet to discuss is mimic as a character, as a potential person with disability or racist stereotype of an indigenous Quebecois.

Jeff:

So I want to dig all the way into this.

Adam:

Yeah. I feel as though this at its core is the only true representation in this movie because as we’ve addressed, Michael Anderson’s character is never really as one, the character. He’s even playing a leprechaun or two as a little person or person with disability. And so in that aspect, I feel like the representation is great where I feel like we’re going to dig into the nitty gritty here.

Jeff:

So let’s talk a little bit about Mimic because, so first and foremost, when I read the synopsis and it referred to Mimic as being indigenous, I had a bit of a double take because that I did not catch that when I was reading. I didn’t know that that was intended, which also makes me wonder if that even is intended or if this was something that was projected by the person who wrote the synopsis. Mimiced to me is presented as this sort of gesture fool character if you kind of toxin rhyme. But it has these sort of insights, and so everyone thinks that Mimic is crazy or that he’s simple, that he doesn’t know what’s happening in the world, but he does have this insight that only the viewer are able to see because Mimic seems to exist somewhere between the two worlds between Quebec and the Great Land of Small because he has awareness and can understand and see these invisible creatures. He still has belief in order to see the magical creatures. He has some sort of relationship with this magical stallion that is wandering the Quebec woods as well. He seems to know the horse or is friends with it potentially. He rides it at times, but doesn’t seem to be magic himself.

Adam:

No, no, no. And I’m going to say what a non colonialist character. He exists outside of town. He definitely has a different perception of the space he’s in. And even to the point when he comes into town, flanagan’s cronies try and beat ’em up and run ’em off. And this is where I get into the stereotype is there’s a scene where Mimic saddles up to the bar and quickly downs a pint before he gets kicked out. When Flanagan comes up to his daughter and says, I thought I told you not to serve him as though he’s not supposed to consume alcohol, which is

Jeff:

Interesting

Adam:

…a stereotype, and when Flanagan’s cronies are berating him, there is an assumption that he’s just this foolish character stumbling around, and I feel as though I didn’t realize it certainly when I was a kid, and certainly in the first watching, but it wasn’t until I read that synopsis that you posted that it clicked in that he actually isn’t supposed to be projected as having disability. He’s supposed to be a racist stereotype in Quebec, and that’s kind of what I took away from it too, especially, but also

Jeff:

Accepting. The audience are supposed to accept mimic.

Adam:

Oh yeah.

Jeff:

As a good person.

Adam:

Yeah. He doesn’t have ill intent in any of his interactions within the film at all, but it would also kind of speak to the fact of why Mimic can see Fritz is because he has a different sense of maybe spiritual connection to the land, right? So he has this innocence, innocence, maybe non colonialist view of the land and of the beings within the land that allows him to see,

Jeff:

Yeah, this is I think a completely plausible explanation for mimic. I think that we could also though interpret Mimic as being a mad character, as being the mad person who appears foolish, but has insight and is a useful character because of the way that they see the world differently and how they exist outside the world.

Adam:

Oh, I was just going to add to that, the projection of childish qualities onto an adult, right?

Jeff:

Yeah. Another major part of it, he is projected, he’s really marked as being kind of childlike, potentially having an intellectual disability of some variety where he just doesn’t seem like any other adult in the film.

Adam:

No. And even at one point riding away on a child’s BMX bike.

Jeff:

Right. You literally using a child’s bike. Okay, I’m sorry. I think we need to talk a little bit about some of the tropes in this film. So as you stated, I agree, the film itself doesn’t necessarily mark our main character Fritz as a disabled character necessarily. However, I think this movie does fall to the common trope of casting disabled people as being magical characters in some way, and the bodily difference being used as a way to signify a difference within the person. Note that Fritz is regularly referred to as a creature, as a figure, as anything but a human, despite the fact that of course he’s being played by a literal human.

Adam:

It’s also kind, it’s always kind of cringe when you hear a little person being cast as one of these kind of stereotype characters, and it’s something that we really, I know personally, I really applaud actors like Peter Dinklage from avoiding being cast as these kind of mythical characters. Although at the same point, I’m going to argue that the way that the stereotype of a leprechaun is portrayed in this film, it manages to miss a lot of those kind of cringe moments. I feel. Even though Michael Anderson has played leprechauns repeatedly in his professional life, I have not seen those performances. However, this one, it felt different. It wasn’t like the leprechaun you see portrayed at Molly Bloom’s downtown London on St. Patrick’s Day. Right. College kid puking on the railroad tracks. Yeah,

Jeff:

Precisely.

Adam:

And so that’s where it gets tricky for me because I do agree with you, but I feel as though maybe not on purpose. They handled it really well.

Jeff:

I think the other thing to be said on this trope of the sort of magically disabled person and the fact that they don’t necessarily identify as a disabled person within the text, I also think given the fact that this is called Tales for All, and it is this sort of morality story that are being told to try to help children to understand their world and develop a moral compass, that is a good one. Allegedly, I imagine that the inclusion of disabled people within this text was designed not necessarily as an equity feature. I feel very confident that they were like, Ooh, we should get a disabled person in this film. I let’s get tech disability in here, and showed people it children, oh, look, you could be friends. You could be a friend with a disabled guy, and maybe they have magic powers. And I think that behind the scenes, I think possibly leans really hard into that trope,

Adam:

And I feel as though that might be the reason why my mother tried to make me watch this so many times. It’s like, see, even Michael Anderson could save the day,

Jeff:

But he doesn’t. The only reason the day is saved is because, so the daughter of her own actions was on her way to Black Mountain, so whether or not the children returned Flanagan was going to give up the powder, he was going to almost kill his daughter regardless. They had no impact on the end of this movie

Adam:

Other than he brought the kids back.

Jeff:

He did bring the kids back, but he also brought the kids there,

Adam:

Although his bringing the kids there happened by happenstance because they were being chased and

Jeff:

They almost died in the river. Yeah.

Adam:

He saved the kids by taking them out of those precarious River Rapids. And so he both

Jeff:

Which they got to on the way to getting his powder back that he lost,

Adam:

Oh boy.

Jeff:

Fritz might be the villain of this film

Adam:

In a roundabout way…he may have been the bad guy.

Jeff:

He both caused the problem and did not solve the problem. By the end of the film.

Adam:

He really, really kind of fucked himself over at the end. I mean, yes and no. Who’s to say what beautiful life he and Mimic created

Jeff:

In the shack by the river? That’s completely fair. Now, the other trope that I wanted to talk a little bit about is this really common division between an ostensibly able bodied regular world and a not regular segregated disabled world. And we see this a lot in films where disabled characters are kind of represented as being detached from the normal world. They live in their own kind of spaces. They only date each other. They don’t marry outside of disabled community. They’re educated together. And I feel that this film sets up the notion that the regular people, the Irish people,

Adam:

The Irish

Jeff:

And the different world of the magical characters live in the land of small, which is also the only place where we see little people and other sort of disabled people in general is in the land of small. So we have this distinction that those people live somewhere else.

Adam:

I didn’t get that initially from watching this movie. It’s only in discussing it that I realized that delineation. And I think that’s largely to do because the only other person with visible disability in the great land of small is Michael Anderson playing his own brother. Even when there are little people dispersed in the crowd when they’re arriving and in the King’s Court, it’s tough to tell who is a child and who is a little person, both because of the film quality and just the outfits that everybody’s wearing, those ridiculous colored onesies, the French are always going on about in their cinema. And that’s really where I felt was a stumbling point for me getting that connection. But there really is, and then it also kind of feeds into that whole, maybe you’re going to go on about this to the trope that people with disabilities are super abled, that we are special in our own ways and that we have a magical world unto our own,

Jeff:

And it’s a magical power that is both amazing and awe inspiring while also profoundly limited because there are moments in which as they are fleeing, Fritz needs to be literally lifted and carried as they run runoff into the wild.

Adam:

Yeah, I forgot about that.

Jeff:

Both limited and powerful at the exact same time, which is interesting.

Adam:

Why didn’t you use the spell in that moment? Exactly.

Jeff:

Yeah, it’s a question. And similarly, if the Great Land of Small has the ability to generate these spells, why would you not just have an unlimited number of them or a much higher number than five, for instance, so that if you did need to get away, you could just teleport?

Adam:

That’s the thing of being given three wishes and your first wish being that you have in limited wishes

Jeff:

I should have more wishes. Just like…slimo half of the population of the great land of small, and you’re going to have all the wishes. You need

Adam:

To go back to that again too. Slimo’s magical power is never fully explained.

Jeff:

Not at all.

Adam:

He just spits gold dust at people and things happen,

Jeff:

Turns them into things. Yeah.

Adam:

Yeah. There’s a whole spinoff right there. HBO should get on it.

Jeff:

I think that this does fall to the typical trope of the super Crip, as you mentioned. The other one that I think it falls to is the proximity of disability in children. As you mentioned, disabled people in this film are interspersed in crowds with children, nearly indistinguishably. Fritz becomes friends with the children. And the only other adult that Fritz is actually really a friend with mostly is Mimic, who also might be marked as a disabled character. And then the people in the land of small like Keeper and Munch are also friends of his, but he immediately connects with the children, but friends them, they form this relationship. And so I think that there is this proximity to Childness that is definitely reinforced within this movie, probably unintentionally.

Adam:

Oh, completely. And I think the intention there was that the innocence of the child is why the connection was there, although it definitely reinforces the trope of

Jeff:

The naivete

Adam:

Being childlike inequality. Yeah,

Jeff:

Absolutely. Now, as many of you will know, listeners of the show, we have a completely empirical scientific methodology, which we use to evaluate every film completely scientific in nature. Much like golf, we use a inverted rating score. So the lower the score, the better a film is. So let’s see how the Great Land of Small does when put to the test of the invalid culture rating system.

Adam:

Let’s do this thing

Jeff:

First up. On a scale of one to five, with five being the least accurate, how accurately does this film portray disability?

Adam:

Okay, so I’m going to go with a two. I was going to come into this one with a one just because I felt as though the movie really didn’t address disability at all, and thereby doing a great job. But I feel as though by not addressing it and leaving disability as a certain ambiguity that runs through the whole film, it actually serves as a disservice. So though they had the best of intentions, I think it also was a flaw. So that’s where I’m landed too.

Jeff:

Yeah. Well, we are completely aligned on this. I also was originally going in with the thought that this might be a one. However, I think if we read Mimic as a typical fool character, and I think if we take a little bit of a stretch, if we take the notion that Fritz is perhaps connected to sort of the jester little person of medieval times, I mean, he is dressed like a weird medieval dude, and I think he’s supposed to be funny, although I did not find him as such. Then I think this is probably a two. It’s not the worst by any means, but it’s not, I don’t think it’s clean either.

Adam:

No, no. There is definitely no quality of a tip Toes, Gary Oman on his knees, quality to this film, although casting a little person as a leprechaun really never ceases to make me cringe a little.

Jeff:

Yeah, you’re going to eat a little punishment for that.

Adam:

Yeah.

Jeff:

Okay. On a scale of one to five, with five being the hardest, how hard was it for you to get through this film?

Adam:

I’ve watched a lot of bad and challenging movies a lot, and I would probably rate this as a three, mostly because of the quantity of film that is almost in sheer darkness, that leaves a lot to the imagination and makes the second half of the film really challenging when you’re expecting the most action and it’s kind of delivering in some action, you just can’t see much of it.

Jeff:

So I’ve also watched a lot of terrible movies. I’m going to be honest, this was pretty rough. This is a rough thing to get through. The pacing was all over the place. I didn’t understand it often. I was constantly asking questions of what is happening in this film. I don’t know. However, it wasn’t the worst thing I’ve ever watched. It was a reasonable children’s movie. I think especially I’m made for tv, so I’m going to be generous and I’m going to give this a four.

Adam:

Oh, wow, okay. I definitely know where you’re coming from with that though, I just think personally, I felt Slimer brought a lot.

Jeff:

I mean, I spent about 40 minutes of this film trying to understand what the heck of Rabbit Egg was, and that’s not a good sign.

Adam:

I mean, it’s a tasty Easter treat

Jeff:

In Quebec. On a scale of one to five, with five being the maximum, how often did you laugh at things that weren’t supposed to be funny?

Adam:

I really wasn’t left laughing a lot here, so probably a two.

Jeff:

Yeah. I also gave this a two. It wasn’t the funniest thing unintentionally that I’ve seen, but there were some moments that were, I think, iconically kind of hilarious in ways that they weren’t supposed to be. I mean, the Butterfly people, I don’t think that was supposed to be funny. I think that was supposed to be whimsical

Adam:

Munchin’ the cobs

Jeff:

That I think was intended to be funny, I think.

Adam:

Yeah. Yeah. Although having a grown man yell, oh, he really loves his cobs. I think I was laughing at it for the wrong reasons though.

Jeff:

Yep. I think that’s fair. There were some moments, there were some moments, and in fact, I think also the complete blackout for about a quarter of the film was also objectively kind of hilarious,

Adam:

And we talked about that too, where we suspect it was shot in daylight and perhaps over underexposed in processing to achieve the look as though it was shot at night. They may messed that processing up slightly

Jeff:

Very possible. And last but certainly not least, on a scale of one to five, with five being the most, how many steps back has this film put Disabled people?

Adam:

You know what? I don’t think it did much. It neither Elevated nor declined, so I’m going to say two, and it’s not a one because they cast a little person. As a leprechaun, it’s still cringe.

Jeff:

Yeah. We’re aligned again on this one. I also gave it a two. I think this was relatively harmless, even if it was fairly cringey. And I think in part, most people will not remember this as a disability text. They might remember it as a horrific film, a thing of nightmares, but probably not because of disability.

Adam:

It really does kind of play out as something I would think Crispin Glover dreams about. This would come out of Crispin Glover’s Dream Journal. I’ll put it simply of all the movies I’ve watched, it certainly is one of them.

Jeff:

Yeah, exactly. So after tabulating our scores, we can officially confirm The Great Land of Small Drummer. Please Comes out as regrets. I have a few, the second lowest on our scale,

Adam:

And I’m not surprised by that.

Jeff:

It feels right. I would say

Adam:

It does. It’s a comfy fit. This movie, I feel like. I definitely don’t recommend it to anybody unless you’re looking for a weird film to watch. But it didn’t leave me feeling like I needed to cause a riot either.

Jeff:

Yeah, it is fully forgettable. It’s not art, but I don’t think any crimes have been committed.

Adam:

I might say that rainbow scene, it might be the closest thing to Art this movie had.

Jeff:

And this concludes another episode of Invalid Culture. Thank you for joining us. I hope you enjoyed it or not. Did you have a film you would like for us to cover on the pod, or even better? Do you want to be a victim on invalid culture? How to Wear to our website, invalid culture.com and submit. We would love to hear from you. That’s it for this episode. Catch you next month. And until then, stay invalid.

Mvll Crimes (theme song):

Arguing with strangers on the Internet…everyone is wrong. I just haven’t told them yet.

 

DVD cover of Tiptoes

A romantic comedy that isn’t particularly funny or romantic…

To celebrate the season of love, we decided to watch the shockingly star-studded cast bumble their way through the nearly unknown film Tiptoes. While the movie itself is perfect content for this podcast, the stories around the film are perhaps even more interesting. We’re joined by special guest and friend of the pod, Ian Carroll, who helps us try to get to the bottom of this perplexing film.

Listen at…

Grading the Film

As always, this film is reviewed with scores recorded in four main categories, with 1 being the best and 5 being the worst. Like the game of golf, the lower the score the better.

How accurate is the representation?

Jeff – 2 / 5

Erika – 3 / 5

Ian – 3 / 5

Total – 8 / 15

How difficult was it to watch the movie?

Erika – 2 / 5

Jeff – 3 / 5

Ian – 4 / 5

Total – 9 / 15

How often were things unintentionally funny?

Erika – 4 / 5

Jeff – 5 / 5

Ian – 5 / 5

Total – 14 / 15

How far back has it put disabled people?

Jeff – 2.5 / 5

Erika – 4 / 5

Ian – 1 / 5

Total – 7.5 / 15

The Verdict

Crimes Have Been Committed

Transcript – Part 1

Steven Bedalia (McConaughey):

Hey, Carol, what’s going on? Is everything okay?

Carol Bedalia (Beckinsale):

Your brother dropped by this morning.

Steven Bedalia (McConaughey):

You drive all this way to tell me that.

Carol Bedalia (Beckinsale):

I think you’re going to let me know that everyone in your family’s a midget.

Steven Bedalia (McConaughey):

Well, they’re not midgets. Carol, the D,

Carol Bedalia (Beckinsale):

Whatever. It suddenly occurred to me that it’s a genetic thing, right?

Steven Bedalia (McConaughey):

Yeah, it’s a genetic thing.

Carol Bedalia (Beckinsale):

Okay, so just tell me, if you and I have a kid together, is it going to be a midget?

Steven Bedalia (McConaughey):

Okay. I don’t see a midget say. Do look,

Carol Bedalia (Beckinsale):

Just answer the goddamn question, Steven.

Steven Bedalia (McConaughey):

It is possible. It’s definitely possible.

Carol Bedalia (Beckinsale):
Oh, Jesus Christ…

[Opening punk song, “Arguing with Strangers on the Internet” by Mvll Crimes]

I’m arguing with strangers on the internet not going out today because I’m feeling too upset arguing with strangers on the internet and I’m winning. And I’m winning!!

Jeff:

Welcome back to another episode of Invalid Culture. It’s good to have you back. As always, I am your host, Jeff Preston, and I’m joined once again, the reemergence of our host Erica Katzman. Erica, how are you doing?

Erika:

I was better before I watched this movie. I won’t lie.

Jeff:

Is that pretty much your feeling every episode that you’re on this podcast?

Erika:

It is, absolutely. But this was a special one. I really felt like it was a testament of my commitment to you as a friend that I watched this film at all, and in fact, a second time just to brush up on details in preparation for the podcast, so know that I care about you.

Jeff:

Yes, our friendship can never be questioned after this three hours of labor that you’ve put into this. Much appreciated. So Erica is back and that is good because we are going to need her to survive this next two episodes of Invalid Culture, but we’re also joined by a very special guest, a very special guest because this podcast wouldn’t be happy. This episode of the podcast would not be happening if it wasn’t for him. We are joined by PSW Ian Carroll. Ian is the one who introduced me to this film, who forced me into buying this film and I thought it was only fair that Ian should come on the pod and be forced to talk about it with me. So welcome to the Pod, Ian.

Ian:

Hey, how’s it going? Thanks for having me. I just want to say I think it was more like you were racing to buy this movie from the moment that you heard about it as opposed to me forcing you to do it. I think that’s a more accurate description of how,

Jeff:

Yeah, that is actually more fair.

Ian:

This is like 10 years in the making or something. It was a very long time ago that we first watched the trailer for it, and it was just this past year, a few months ago, six months that we actually watched it for the first time. It would’ve been nice to have just gone into it blind, maybe not knowing anything about it beforehand, just like a lot of these types of movies, but that’s not the way it worked out. But yeah, I am sort of fascinated by this movie as opposed to anything else. It’s fascinating. It’s not a good movie. It’s not the worst made movie ever. It’s, it’s just very, very odd

Jeff:

Everything about it. And before we actually do the big reveal, although obviously if you’re listening to this, you probably saw the title of the film in the title of the episode, but I will state that this episode is going to have a lot of stories. There’s going to be stories about how this thing was made, stories about the actual film, and the first story is actually the story of how I access this film because it was a nightmare trying to find this film. I’ve been trying to buy this film for quite a while, and it is wildly priced on the internet. You cannot find North America versions of this disc for anything below 30, $40. I finally found a version on eBay that I could buy that was in our region code. I went through a massive bidding war in order to receive this. The price escalated.

I did win. I had to pay a fortune in shipping, and it took a month and a half for it to ship here. There was about a three week period where this DVD bounced around Chicago for literally a week and a half. It was being moved from one distribution center to the other. I thought, I may never get to watch this movie, and the day that it arrived, I remember showing it to Ian, and then when we opened it and we saw the art on the DVDI gasped, I literally gasped at the DVD art on this thing. Everything about this film is incredible and needs to be spoken about and will haunt you for the rest of your life.

Erika:

Wait, what’s on the DVD art?

Jeff:

It is so hard to explain. It is Gary Oldman on his motorcycle, but the lights on the motorcycle are lined up in a way that it appears as though they’re his breasts

Ian:

And anyway, yeah, we haven’t even said the title of the movie yet.

Jeff:

Yeah. Okay, so let’s dive into it. The movie that we are going to be talking about for the rest of our lives is the one, the only role of a Lifetime tiptoes. Now, for those of you who do not know a brief summary, this is from Amazon Prime, Amazon explains this movie is when his girlfriend gets pregnant, the father to be Steve is forced to reveal his little family secret. All of his relatives are dwarves, an offbeat romantic comedy with an all star cast.

Ian:

Oh boy. It’s a little family secret, right?

Jeff:

Yes. It’s the little things that count. So what the heck is Tiptoes? Erica, if you were to describe this film or if you were to explain the plot of this film, would it be pretty similar to that or would you describe it differently?

Erika:

I mean, I would use some different language perhaps. It’s offbeat, that’s for sure. Yeah, I mean, he does seem to be forced to reveal. It’s not a family secret. He’s the only one who’s keeping a secret.

Ian:

It’s not like his family has murdered somebody and in the backyard or something.

Erika:

No, they’re all out there living their lives. He’s the only one with the problem.

Ian:

He’s the only one with the problem in the whole movie, pretty much. Well, any big problems anyway.

Jeff:

Yeah, I was going to say there are some others.

Ian:

I mean, that’s the main story, but then there’s Rolfe,

Jeff:

Right, which is the biggest part

Ian:

Of the fact, right? He’s not even technically part of that slot synopsis. Right.

Jeff:

So what probably makes this movie the most significant is the amount of star power in this film. There are so many names. This is probably the biggest cast we’ve ever covered in this podcast. Right off the rip, in the lead role of Rolfe, we have Gary Oldman,

Ian:

Rolfe…Bedalia…

Jeff:

And Rolfe is a little person. Gary Oldman is not, and so he plays much of the film on his knees mostly and a lot of shots from the waist up. Gary Oldman is twins with Matthew McConaughey. This is Steven Medallia who is not a little person and not the same age as Gary Oldman.

Carol Bedalia (Beckinsale):

So are you and Steven Blood Brothers?

Rolfe (Oldman):

Yeah, you could say that we’re twins.

Carol Bedalia (Beckinsale):

Wow. God, I can’t believe that.

Jeff:

I know that might be confusing to everyone, but it is a thing. We then have Kate Beck as Steven’s wife Carol now Kate Beck sale. This is like Prime Kate Beck. This is arguably right when her career is about to peak. We’re talking like Underworld, Kate Beckinsale. She is in this film. She agreed to do this film for the SAG minimum payment on one condition, which is that she was allowed to wear her lucky hat during the filming, and that’s going to play a role in this film. I know you are wondering what that means and it’s not what you think. And last, but certainly not least, we have Peter Dinklage. Yes. That Peter Dinklage. In a movie that stars a person that is not a little person. They also cast an amazing actor who is a little person in a side character role, and I imagine if you were to tell me that Matthew McConaughey and Peter Danko are twins, I would actually probably buy that.

Ian:

That’s plausible, right? Yeah.

Erika:

They have got to be closer in age.

Ian:

They’re born in the exact same year. They’re both born in 1969. They’re, in real life, they are months apart, and they’re like, let’s get Gary Oman. Let’s just make him do it.

Jeff:

It was right there, and they chose against it. Do you guys have any thoughts on the casting of this film other than the obvious?

Ian:

Well, there’s also, I don’t think you mentioned Patricia Arquette.

Jeff:

Oh, yeah, absolutely.

Ian:

Other very famous acts who he plays dink’s love interest. I don’t know. What’s more offensive is Gary Oldman on his knees as Dorf or Peter Dinklage’s French accent. I’m not sure which one. It would be more upsetting to more people

Jeff:

And Patricia Arquette with Cornrows. Dreadlocks?

Ian:

Yep.

Erika:

And eventually Peter Dinklage

Ian:

With cornrows. Yes, later on decide to get them as well. Yeah.

Jeff:

Yeah. I will say they did absolutely foreshadow the coming crystal obsession, Crystal healing and things, in the Arquette character. I’ll give them that.

Ian:

Peter Dinklage is not only French, he is a French Marxist. He is in pain, he has constant pain, and that’s the whole, I think a more interesting movie would’ve just been Dinklage and Arquette on the road, their story, just them. That would be a more interesting story, I think, than

Jeff:

A hundred percent agree.

Ian:

…the tiptoe situation.

Jeff:

Well, okay, so let’s head into our second story about this film, which I think is really important for us to get a sense of what this is, which is the story of how this film got made and the story of how this film subsequently got buried. So the film was written and directed by a man by the name of Matthew Bright. You will notice that the writer of the film is not Matthew Bright. That is because Matthew Bright had his name changed eventually to the name Bill Wiener as the writer of the film. However, because of Guild Rules, he was not able to remove his name from the director slot. Now, Matt Bright was predominantly a writer of indie films before this and was a bit of an up and comer having movies like The Forbidden Zone, Shrunken Heads, and most famously Freeway 1 and 2,

Ian:

Right? Yes. So Freeway was 1996. It was Keifer Sutherland and Reese Witherspoon, and it’s sort of a modern retelling of the Little Red Riding Hood story. It became sort of a cult favorite on VHS, and I remember watching it back in the nineties. It was sort of very fast paced, very sort of think hacker style editing type of movie. I saw Freeway one. I never saw Freeway two though. Okay, so it was Freeway two subtitle, confessions of a Trick Baby. And so instead of a modern retelling of the Little Red Riding Hood story, freeway two is a modern retelling of the Hansel and Gretel story

Right on the freeway. We’ll just keep going on the freeway. If you’ll just indulge me, it’ll take me 20 seconds. I’m just going to read you a description of the story of the plot line of freeway, two Confessions of a Trick Baby in this modern update of the Hansel and Gretel fairytale, actually more like Gretel and Gretel. 15-year-old Crystal is a bulimic delinquent. That’s the Natasha Leone who makes her living by beating and robbing potential tricks while awaiting a 25 year prison term. Crystal hooks up with a psychotic young lesbian named Cyclona doing time for slaughtering her entire family after escaping, they head for Mexico, where Cyclona Savior Sister Gomez lives in a confectionery, a confectionary full of children. Along the way, they leave a trail of crack rocks, binging and purging and dead people.

Erika:

What are the chances that Patricia Arquette’s character came from that film?

Ian:

She somehow lived in that world.

Erika:

She just walked off that bus onto the freeway, onto the bike, straight out of that world.

Ian:

I like that. It’s the Matt Brightverse.

Jeff:

Oh God,

Ian:

It’s all the same world.

Jeff:

This is actually really good preliminary information because I think it gives us a bit of a puzzle piece in trying to understand how the heck this movie happened, and one of those puzzle pieces is that at the time, so late nineties, Matthew Bright was seen as both an up and comer, but also someone that was willing to push boundaries. His films were seen as being movies that would say things that others weren’t necessarily brave enough to say or to engage with. That was an important part, I think, of how this script eventually was accepted. Now, it should be noted that in interviews, Matt Bright has stated that he originally wrote the script for tiptoes when he was 18 years old. In that original script, he had designed it to be a sex comedy with little people. The idea was it would be a movie about little people and they would all be having sex with each other. That was kind of the original conceit of tiptoes in the mind of 18-year-old Matthew Bright.

Ian:

Now, I wonder, was it still called Tiptoe or Tiny Tiptoes

Jeff:

That I have no idea.

Nor is there any clarity as to why the movie changed from a century like American Pie with little people and turned into this semi political, semi educational, extremely confusing romcom that we eventually got. Now the movie got picked up and got pushed forward, and people started to sign on relatively quickly. Producer Chris Hanley had told Yahoo Movies famously quote, it was really one of the first movies that approached the subject of little people in the story and one of the biggest movies that involved small actors that’s ever been made. Now that is an interesting comment. I mean, I didn’t realize that Tiptoes had come out before The Wizard of Oz, for example.

Erica, would you say any of that statement is accurate?

Erika:

I don’t know because I don’t know. So I was actually just observed in the film that there were so many little people, actors, and so the statement that it’s one of the first movies that involved small actors seems where are all these actors working, if not in other movies,

Jeff:

Right? Yeah, a lot of them were recognizable. There were little people, actors that I’ve seen in other movies

Ian:

Famously, the little woman who is in Total Recall in the Mutant Bar on Mars, she is a character in tiptoes. That’s someone a lot of people might recognize. So to talk about Wizard of Oz now, there was a movie made in 1981 called Under the Rainbow. It stars Chevy Chase and Carrie Fisher, and it’s about the production of Wizard of Oz. There were all these horrible Hollywood myths about how the little people who played the munchkins in Wizard of Oz in real life, they all stayed at a hotel together, and there’s all these horror stories about they would have giant parties and orgies and all this stuff, and they were just out of control, which all these bad stereotypes of just little people gone crazy. But I looked up, I was curious how many little people were cast in Wizard of Oz and I was dead. 124 with people were cast in Wizard of Oz and Under the Rainbow claims to have cast 150 little people. So it could be this little known Chevy taste Goofy from the early eighties, I think has the most, or the record for the most little people actually cast in a Hollywood movie. No one’s ever seen it. No one’s heard about it. So that doesn’t really help the case, but I think technically it has the title.

Jeff:

Yeah, I don’t think there were more than 150 little people in this film. I feel like probably under a hundred…

Ian:

The party scene is the only one where there’s a large number of little people altogether.

Jeff:

Another important part of this film is that it had a significant funder and that significant funder, hilariously was a man by the name of John Langley, who maybe you have not heard of, but you’ve probably heard of his show, which is Cops. Yes, the TV show Cops. Do we want to move forward on this?

Ian:

Well, I just wanted to mention that the reason that Matthew Bright knew John Langley is that he was his mother’s boyfriend’s neighbor.

Jeff:

Now, Erica, if your neighbor knocked on your door and said, I got this great idea, it’s going to be a sex comedy. It’s little people. Will you fund it? What would your answer be?

Erika:

My answer would be, let’s get the GoFundMe going.

Jeff:

This thing’s going to be huge. It’s going to win so many Oscars.

Ian:

Well, part of that hypothetical question would’ve had to been, and also dp you produce the show Cops?

Jeff:

Right?

Ian:

If you produce the show cops and someone comes to your door, it might be a little different,

Jeff:

And the answer was yes.

Erika:

In that case, the answer would be, do I have the demographic for you?

Ian:

Right?

Jeff:

Yeah. You know what? I suppose if you look at it from that perspective, from the perspective of someone who’s made all of their money doing essentially like freak shows, criminal freak shows with cops, maybe I understand now why he didn’t even think twice about this.

Ian:

John Langley said, as long as the theme to the movie is “Tiptoes, Tiptoes, whatcha gonna do?”

Jeff:

We got to have a rap scene in this film!

Ian:

We have to have a variation of the song “Bad Boys” or else I’m Not In.

Jeff:

Now Langley plays an important part in this movie. Number one, there was a dispute on set because John Langley’s wife allegedly did not want Kate Beckett sale wearing this silly hat was demanding that she remove her hat. There was apparently a fight over that, but a more significant fight breaks out after the film is completed. It’s at this point where there is a rupture in the film in which Matthew Bright refuses to work with the movie editor that was hired by Langley. Now eventually the edits will go on without Matthew Bright turning the film into a 90 minute rom-com, which Matthew Bright says is not his original intention was not his vision. This fight then boils over in a semi-famous, urban, legendary kind of way in which the film was premiered at Sundance, and it’s here that Matthew Bright would take the stage and go on a bit of a tirade about Langley allegedly verbally attacking Langley, and then allegedly was forcibly removed from the stage by people that work for Sundance. The movie Festival Bright, however, says that this was not true, that he was not removed from the stage forcibly.

Ian:

I’m guessing that story is a bit of both. Maybe somebody sort of pulled him off the stage and he wouldn’t describe that as being forcibly removed. I’m guessing he did it. He seems like this type of person probably who did it. But…

Jeff:

Yeah, and I think that probably contributing to that is the fact that after this film, Matthew Bright, basically this was the end of his career in Hollywood. Matthew Bright, I believe, has said publicly that he feels that he’s been blacklisted, but he hasn’t gone on to do much else after this. This was kind of the beginning of the end, which is funny because for those of you who have not watched the trailer go and watch the trailer, because this was a movie that I think people clearly believed that this was going to win a ton of Oscars, like the most Oscars. Gary is literally described as this being a role of a lifetime. Everyone believed this, it was going to be a hit. It gets shown at Sundance. The director is yelling about it, and the thing can, it’s just it tanks. The movie does not do well at all.

Erika:

Was the director’s cut shown at Sundance or the edited version?

Jeff:

Only the edited version. So this is the other wrinkle. You are not able to access the director’s cut anywhere. However, there is rumor that Matthew Bright has a director’s cut, would like to release it if a fan movement could start, which that’s just never going to happen, just never. But allegedly, he has sent a copy of the director’s cut to the director of the film Drive who apparently really enjoyed it. So the other thing that we should talk about behind this film before we get into reviews is that a lot of people trying to be generous to this film often will refer to the incredible special effects that allowed for this film to present allegedly, and I’m put in a lot of weight on the word allegedly to produce a realistic image of a little person out of the body of Gary Oldman.

Ian:

Oh boy.

Jeff:

I would love to hear both of your opinions on whether or not you thought the special effects, which I will note…this is early 2000s. We’re not talking pre-CGI 2000s. Were the special effects “incredible” in your opinion?

Ian:

Well, I thought they were incredible. Not that they were good, but incredible that everyone in the crew and everyone on the set was like, yep, that’s good. Let’s just stick Gary Oman in a couch and have some little legs popping out from beside his torso. And yeah,

Erika:

I would say if by incredible you mean not believable. Yes, yes. Incredible. Truly

Ian:

Non-credible effect.

Jeff:

So famously, Gary Oldman is not just on his knees, he also is wearing a prosthetic hump. He is apparently wearing prosthetic makeup on his face, and his arms have been tied behind his back to shorten or make the appearance of his arms being shorter than they actually are, which again, when I rewatched the film with that knowledge, his movements made so much worse sense

Erika:

Watching him without that knowledge, his movements made very little sense.

Jeff:

So we have our own opinions of this film, obviously, and we are probably actually kind of aligned with the critical response on this film. So let’s hear what’s a critical response? Well, as you can imagine right now on Rotten Tomatoes, this film holds a 20%, which is 19% higher than I thought it would be.

Ian:

Two

Jeff:

Roger Moore, probably not the one you’re thinking, Roger Moore famously has written, giving it a one out of five, and said quote “still like road accidents and the films of Uwe Boll, it’s worth a glance as evidence of how a whole lot of people, many of them agents whom one suspects must have been fired after this can get anything so terribly wrong.

Ian:

Most fascinating about this movie is that everyone involved had established Hollywood careers and everybody was like, yeah, this is a good idea. Guys,

Jeff:

The sense of GED is that this is a great example of follower syndrome within Hollywood where once they got the first bit of actor, which I don’t know this to be the case, but I wonder if it was Kate Beckinsale given this whole lucky hat situation. My guess is that it’s like Kate Beckinsale was in, and then McConaughey is like, well, if Beckett Sales is in, then I’m in. And then Gary Oldman is like, well, if McConaughey is in, I’m in.

Ian:

See, I’m wondering if Gary Oldman was like, I’ll only be in it if I can play a little person. I think because he is an actor taking, he likes to take chances or whatever. Maybe this information is out there somewhere. But I have a feeling Gary Open was like, I’ll do it as long as I can be a little person and I have a wear a harness and a hump, and I’m on my knees, and they’re like, okay, you’re a big actor, and that would be interesting, I guess. I don’t know.

Jeff:

There definitely is. There’s an Oscar bait vibe throughout this. I’m feeling this is like Gary Oldman was trying to do My Left Foot, what was happening here, I think, or Lieutenant Dan maybe from Forrest Gump, I think going on here where it’s like, oh, we’ll use the movie Magic to make me into this disabled character and I will touch an authentic piece of the human experience and I’ll make people feel things through Rolfe.

So that’s what the film critics say, but of course, film critics are garbage. The real reviews come to us from user generated content on the internet. So I got a couple here that I want to share with you, get your sense on it. This one comes from Google Reviews. This is from LMT (Common Core Diva). They gave it a two out of five, generous, and they said Matthew McConaughey was an absolute jerk in this movie. I kept watching waiting for the funny parts. After all, Amazon Prime build it as joyful never happened by far and away, Gary Old space Man pulled off a great role. My whole beef is that Hollywood picked yet another way to make special needs children out to be beyond a parent’s ability. This is hardly what I would call a comedy a tragedy. Maybe.

Ian:

That’s a weird review. I mean, it sounds like they didn’t like it at all, but still two out of five. Why not? There’s one out of five at that point. I dunno.

Jeff:

Well, for Gary Old Man pulling off a great role…

Ian:

Gary, Old, Man.

Jeff:

Erica, can you help us understand what do you think they mean by Hollywood 50 at another way to make special needs children out to be beyond a parent’s ability?

Erika:

I mean, that was certainly a dominant plot theme here that this, I mean, Matthew McConaughey, I really appreciate how this review just fully conflates Matthew McConaughey with the character. So Matthew McConaughey…this jerk, this ableist jerk. I mean that is his character’s kind of, is that his family being little people? Is this, I mean, he treats it as a shameful secret, but really when he finally puts it into words without the help of a therapist, because he refuses to see one, his true fear is about the pain and suffering that little people experience, which is represented in very minimal ways elsewhere in the film, except in his imagination, his hyper-masculine imagination.

Jeff:

Yeah. Actually, when I first started reading this, I was like, okay, and then by the end I was like, okay, I think common core diva kind of won me over a little bit.

Ian:

McConaughey does treat the whole thing. It’s like a curse basically, even though he sees his whole family having a great time and they go to the wedding and they’re having fine lives, and you would think also if their child was a little person, what better family for that little person to be a part of than the one where it’s like Matthew McConaughey is the only non little person in it. It’s very odd. He be like, oh, okay. I mean, if they a little person, at least they have this giant family and community of little people that I’m a part of and stuff. Was it their cousin is the leader of the Justice League for little people or something like that? Yeah, I think this kid would’ve been okay with all that support around them. But anyway, he’s just a jerk. Matthew McConaughey is a jerk.

Erika:

What a jerk. Absolute jerk.

Jeff:

He does full blown launches cell phone into the night at one point in a fit of rage for similarly, no reason, but

Erika:

Moments before he invites two young women to join him at a party that he wouldn’t have taken his fiance to.

Jeff:

We have another review from IMDB, this one by Fedor8, which I hope is Fedora enthusiast. The title is, Whoever Dreamt Up This Nonsense Needs Our Help. (I agree.) Certainly one of the most idiotic films ever made a PC message movie that ends up making fun of midgets a dialogue. The situation, the acting, especially back in sale, all move constantly, somewhere between ludicrous and bizarre, sometimes unintentionally funny, not funny when it meant to be, and sometimes just appallingly dumb and even disgusting, like the Marxist dwarf wrenching with Arquette. Yuck.

Erika:

Okay. I feel like this reviewer’s actual beef is just that the movie was attempting to be PC because they clearly are not.

Ian:

They’re dropping the M word, just to make that point clear.

Jeff:

Yes. Yeah. The movie very clearly tells us not to use that phrase, and then he very clearly does. Yep.

Ian:

When he said, what did you say? Wrenching.

Jeff:

Wrenching,

Ian:

Is that a term for coitus?

Jeff:

Believe so.

Erika:

It’s a regional thing. Yeah.

Jeff:

It’s an upper Midwest

Ian:

Pittsburgh because of the steel town they’re wrenching.

Jeff:

I don’t want to tell on myself a little bit here, but I’m going to Peter Dinklage was a snack in this movie. I mean, the accent was terrible, but the hair, the handlebar mustache, he was ripped.

Erika:

The painted nails.

Jeff:

The painted nails. Peter Dinklage, I would say was not disgusting or yuck in this film. Maybe a little greasy, but I would say he was bringing it in this film,

Ian:

And again, that would’ve made more sense for him to be Matthew McConaughey’s brother, the two handsome dudes. It just made, anyway, I was thinking, make him either French or a Marxist. Don’t make him a French Marxist. It’s one too many things

Jeff:

And misogynist, they add that later. That is a stone cold misogynist at the end of the film,

Ian:

Too, right? Yeah. That whole relationship goes absolutely nowhere. It’s completely pointless. But I would still rather watch a movie about those two, like a road trip movie about they should do a sequel, like a soft sequel to this movie with Dinklage and Arquette meeting up again, and

Erika:

They could call it Freeway 3. Yeah.

Ian:

Oh, I like it. I mean, Matthew Bright, if you’re listening,

Jeff:

Make this movie. I did not make the movie Cops, but I will fund Freeway 3 with Patricia Arquette and Peter Dinklage. Our last review comes to us from Joe Masca with the title, just a bad movie, giving This a three out of 10. Again, generous. Joe Masca says, tiptoes is dealing with serious themes using a combination of romantic comedy and melodrama tools, life of dwarves, their relationships with big people, human value behind appearance, prejudice, and pride. All of those are serious subjects, but they get no more than a schematic treatment in tiptoes.

Erika:

Was this written for a first year of film school?

Jeff:

Honestly, it’s either that or it’s chatGPT is now put in reviews on the internet by itself.

Ian:

The prejudice and pride thing is very weird because did they just write it like that so it didn’t sound like the novel?

Jeff:

Right. They were like, we better flip that.

Ian:

Nobody will notice if we say prejudice and pride.

Jeff:

Yeah. I love the concept of life, of dwarves relationship with big people.

Ian:

I dunno for sure. I’m guessing that’s not what little people call regular sized people is the big people.

Jeff:

I hope it is. Erica, what did you learn about their relationship with the big people in this film?

Erika:

Big people are the problem.

Jeff:

Well, one is, yeah.

Erika:

I mean, strangely enough. One was, and then one was trying to redeem one, and then she wasn’t anymore. So it’s just a whole complex, big people melodrama that’s really making life difficult for the rest of us.

Jeff:

Big people were the most volatile in this film, by far.

Ian:

Well, there were some volatile little people at the party, in the party scene, I think as Maurice got a little volatile there,

Jeff:

Right? A little bit.

Ian:

A little bit. The French Marxist, if you don’t remember what he was, he was a French Marist. Marist, yeah. Yeah.

Erika:

It’s because he was bringing the big people energy.

Jeff:

Right. Marx was a big person, as we all

Ian:

Know. Well done the big beard person too. He was, I think, big beard.

Jeff:

Yeah. Yeah. So those are the opinions of the internet. I’d like to hear just sort of some general impressions. Erica, what are your thoughts on the film?

Erika:

I mean, it is not terribly enjoyable to watch. I’ve had worse, I would not voluntarily watch it again, but on second watch, I did think that if you can look past all of the ridiculousness, the fact that a woman gets pregnant, has a baby, gets married, leaves her husband and her roots never grow out, although I do now understand why she was wearing that ridiculous hat. If you can look past those things, the special effects and whatnot, I think there are some redeeming narratives below the surface.

Jeff:

Ian,

Ian:

I think it is more of, like I said, an interesting sort of fascinating movie than it is a movie that you’d want to watch ever more than once ever. It’s not like, again, there are bad movies where there’s, there’s boom mics in the sided, or it’s just badly edited or the sound is bad or something like that. There’s that type of bad, this movie’s well made. For the most part, it’s edited. Well, that kind of stuff is done okay, but it’s just fascinating that, like I said, everyone involved from beginning to end. The fact that it got finished is sort of very interesting. I find that sort of thing fascinating. And then it went like what? 2003? 2003. I found out about it in about 10 or 11 years ago, about 2013. That’s about, I think when I showed you the trailer, I’m pretty sure I showed you the trailer right after I saw the trailer. So we found out about it around the same time. Nobody talked about it for 10 years. So somehow they were able to hide this movie with all these huge stars in it. Most fascinating that these giant stars were in it and that Gary Oman was walking around on his knees like Dorf golf. It is worth watching for the oddity of it all. That’s about it, I’d say.

Jeff:

So you brought me to my conspiracy theory when you asked this about how do they keep this under wraps, and my conspiracy theory is that the reason I could never find copies of this thing for reasonable prices is because Gary Oldman is literally buying every DVD and destroying it.

That is my theory, but it should be noted. I will say, for those of you who don’t know, this film was included in a mail out in Britain, so there was a newspaper in Britain that there was one edition of the newspaper. The newspaper had a different movie every week, and one of the movies that was in the package was tiptoes. So it was shelled off to this newspaper at one point as a promotional giveaway, which is kind of counter to my conspiracy theory that they were literally trying to Nintendo, what was that game? Nintendo do this game or Atari?

Ian:

Atari, yeah, the famously bad ET Atari game,

Jeff:

Which they’ve literally buried in a desert. So there were actually a bunch of copies of this movie, which you can find in Britain. They’re everywhere. I think they use them as coasters in Britain, actually, predominantly. So now there is so much more for us to discuss, but that is the end of this episode of this week. We have a lot more, so if you haven’t watched Tiptoes yet, why don’t you take a second, find one of those coasters in Britain, pop it in your DVD player, take a little look, and we will see you back next week where we will get into the analysis of tiptoes. See you on the other side.

[Outro punk song, “Arguing with Strangers on the Internet” by Mvll Crimes]

I’m arguing with strangers on the internet. Everyone is wrong, I just haven’t told them yet.

Transcript – Part 2

Voice Over:

A walk down the aisle

Rolfe (Oldman):

Steven, he’s a very lucky guy. I just hope he’s smart enough not to screw it up

Voice Over:

Is just a beginning.

Sally (Powers):

They’ll be rough patches. There’s no doubt about it.

Voice Over:

Canal Pictures and Langley Productions proudly present command performances from Kate Beckinsale, Matthew McConaughey, Patricia Arquette, and in the role of a lifetime, Gary Oldman.

[Music intro, “Arguing With Strangers on the Internet” by Mvll Crimes]:

I’m arguing with strangers on the internet not going out today because I’m feeling too upset, argue with strangers on the internet, and I’m winning. I’m winning!!

Jeff:

Welcome back to another week of invalid culture. We are back for part two of tiptoes because one was not enough. As always, I am your host, Jeff, and I am joined again by beloved host. Erika. How are you doing, Erika?

Erika:

Glad to be back.

Jeff:

Oh, that’s good. I’m glad that you’ve accepted the request and we are also joined by special guest Ian. Ian, you survived. How are things?

Ian:

Good. Good. Yeah. I’m also glad to be back. This is fun.

Jeff:

Yeah. Okay, well, without further ado…I’m sorry. Can we please talk about this film? So our movie begins with the introduction of Steven, who is played by Matthew McConaughey. He is a firefighter instructor who is getting into a serious relationship with his bizarrely dressed girlfriend Carol played by Beckinsale. As discussions of starting a family begin, Steven invites Carol into his little family secret. His entire family consists of little people except for him. He actually has a twin brother, Rolfe, who is totally not 11 years older than him and is gainfully employed as a journalist. Steve has been going to annual little people conventions without Carol knowing has hidden his family forever from her. Carol struggles a little bit with the news, but decides to go ahead with the relationship because, well, only Steven seems to have a problem with the fact that his family are little people.

Erika:

May I point out that she is already pregnant when she learns this? This is the reason this seems to be actually the source of the bulk of their relationship tension, is that Steven is deeply unsure about bringing a child into the world, but has not yet revealed to her the reasons for this concern, which is that based on his lived experience with his family, who by all appearances seem to live fabulous lives, he’s deeply concerned that this child will have a horrific life.

Jeff:

Yeah, it actually does come up. In one of their discussions, he’s saying that, oh, they’re going to need all these surgeries, and she asks, did your brother need these surgeries? And he says, thankfully, no. So it actually didn’t even necessarily reflect his own…

Erika:

Family experience, which then I believe the follow-up question is, oh, was he bullied? And he’s like, no, actually he was way cooler than I was in school.

Jeff:

Yeah, he was a stud. He was a stud in school, which of course, it’s a very Oldman.

Ian:

A lot of contradictions there. We have to at least briefly address, we talked about her lucky hat, but Kate Beck in sales wardrobe in this movie, it is a whole other movie by itself. They were very aware that they were in the two thousands and they were a few years in and they’re like, let’s just, even though this is more nineties than two thousands, she looks like she dressed as a different spice girl in every scene she’s in. I think that’s the best way to describe it, is just it’s a lot of hats, a lot of…

Erika:

Oh, we got chokers, we have got millimeters above the butt crack, low-rise pants.

Ian:

The whale tail, I think is involved at one point.

Jeff:

Yeah, there’s bows. Her hair is also different, and the hair budget for this film must have been out of control. Very elaborate hairstyles only on Kate Beckinsale. Matthew McConaughey, Gary Oldman, have the exact same hair for the entire film.

Erika:

Don’t forget…

Ian:

The cornrows.

Jeff:

Yeah. Oh and the cornrows. That also would probably have cost a bit of money unless she just caved that way. It’s possible that Patricia, that was just her hair at the time, possibly

Ian:

Beckinsale gets her special hat and Arquette gets her special cornrows or else they’re out.

Jeff:

That’s the deal.

Ian:

Since she’s an artist, I don’t think we talked to, they live in a big loft in la, downtown la. I’m guessing somehow they make enough money to have live in a giant loft as an artist, a sculpture. I don’t know. Painter’s. A painter. Painter, and a guy who teaches firefighting, which is also a weird thing. Why not just make him a firefighter

Jeff:

And a former Navy man? He was in the military beforehand, apparently.

Ian:

Yeah, obviously there are people who teach firefighting, but why not just make him a firefighter? It seems last week we talked about being French and being a Marxist. Be one, don’t be a firefighter and a teacher, just be a firefighter or just be a teacher. I dunno,

Erika:

They’re allegedly in their prime child making years, which makes him, what, late twenties, maybe early thirties?

Jeff:

Probably even earlier, probably like mid twenties. He was in the military, so five years after. So yeah, he’s probably like mid to late twenties.

Erika:

It’s just that usually people who teach in a profession have had a career in a profession.

Ian:

I wouldn’t want some 25-year-old kid teaching me firefighting. It’s like, I’m your age. Why are you here? Why are you teaching me this?

Jeff:

It’s also really important to note that in the few scenes that we do get of Matthew McConaughey firefighter instruction, he essentially is just the drill sergeant from full metal jacket. Essentially, he is just screaming in their faces. He is fat shaming one of his students.

Ian:

He is a horrible person in every aspect of his life, apparently

Jeff:

He’s a jerk. According to the review,

Ian:

Handsome guys can get away with a lot in life, and he’s a jerk to his students. He’s a jerk to his wife. He’s a jerk to his family. Matthew McConaughey is a jerk.

Jeff:

Just a jerk. Just a jerk. There wasn’t even a script. He actually thought that that was his real life. He was just

Ian:

Be himself. Again, it was another prerequisite Dale hat, our cat cornrows and McConaughey is like, I’m just going to be myself and the character’s going to be like me.

Erika:

I’m tired of acting like such a good guy.

Ian:

All the regular size actors in the movie, these prerequisites that they’re like, I’m not making this movie. Well, except one wanted to be a little person.

Jeff:

Well, then Peter Que was like, can I be interesting? And they’re like, no, you’re French. You’re a Marxist

Ian:

And you drink, was it the cherry morphine? Codeine, right,

Jeff:

Or morphine. It might be morphine. I think it might be morphine,

Ian:

Some painkiller because he did have the surgeries, right? Was that the thing? And

Jeff:

Ulcers, he had ulcers and a hernia, right?

Ian:

Yes. I see. Yeah.

Jeff:

Now, before getting married, Carol, as we’ve said, becomes pregnant and she begins her little person era. She meets Rolfe. Rolfe comes to her house, she meets other little people. She reads books about little people. She learns not to call them midgets, et cetera, after getting married and having a very strange moment in which she opened mouth kisses Steve’s brother Rolfe, after getting married, tensions begin to arise and Steven thinks that a little person’s life can only be composed of pain and suffering. Rolfe meanwhile is struggling with the fact that his girlfriend is sleeping with everyone in Hollywood, and so he decides to move to a cabin in the woods with his little Marxist friend, Maurice and Maurice’s Traveler, hippie Magic Stone wielding life partner, which is of course Patricia Arquette. So this is sort of the middle of the movie, which kind of hangs in a little way. I was not totally sure where this was going after the wedding. I’m like, where is this going?

Ian:

Well, apparently it’s going to the Friday the 13th, part four cabin in the woods, a little side, the same cabin from Friday, 13th part four that Cory Feldman is in that movie. Anyway,

Jeff:

That makes so much sense.

Erika:

I feel like we lost something significant in the edits. What we see is marriage at the altar in the car, husband and wife, post wedding. She says, hang on, I need to do something. She gets out of the car, runs over and kisses her off on the mouth in her wedding dress

Jeff:

And says that she’s an amazing person or something along these lines.

Ian:

So is the implication that she always liked Rolfe instead, and how long is it from when she meets Rolfe to their wedding?

Jeff:

So I can actually fill some of this in because I was paying eagle eyed attention and there actually are some time cues throughout this film. So the way that I understand it, as I understand it, Rolfe enters into the equation right around the point that she’s become pregnant, in which as all women does, she balances her PIs stick on top of her coffee mug away to the results. I’m assuming that’s what everyone does. Okay. So that’s the start of it, which means that we’ve got nine months until baby pops out and they get married before that happens. But she is very pregnant when she gets married. I would put her at probably around the seven month mark, give or take when they eventually get married. When they get married, she’s known Rolfe for about six months. We also know that when Rolfe first enters the equation, Matthew McConaughey is on a week long training out of town.

So Rolfe and Carol have been living together at this apartment for about a week before Matthew McConaughey comes back for the party and have apparently been talking and hanging out, and he took her to meet all of those things according to the way the movie was presented. All of those things happened within about a week’s time from when Matthew McConaughey was away, and then there’s a gap that we don’t know about, and then they get married. They then have the child probably a month or two after the wedding, and then they break up about 11 months after that. Matthew McConaughey says that it’s been under a year that they’ve been going through this and he thinks that it’s better for him to leave.

Erika:

I’d say you’re on, except that baby was not 11 months old.

Jeff:

No, not at all.

Ian:

So she did fall in love with Rolfe though, is that, or was it just the time after the wedding that she fell for Rolfe at the cabin? Yeah,

Jeff:

So this is where I think we have this divergence in the script because I’m thinking that the idea originally was that Beck and Sale and Rolfe were sort of building this relationship together while Matthew McConaughey was off doing this firefighting trainings and such, and that this all culminated the wedding had to go ahead anyways, but she had started to develop feelings for him, but that is not presented in the film at all.

Ian:

It was jarring. It was very jarring how quickly I remember watching it and saying, oh, wait, so they’re together now at the end. I mean, apart from the mouth kiss and him being nice to her, there wasn’t any sort of relationship developed there at all. So yeah, it must be the edit.

Erika:

I mean, they are twins, so essentially they’re the same person. He’s just a little person. So it is almost like one walked out and the other walked in and boom.

Ian:

It might’ve been like she didn’t even realize that it was Rolfe and not her husband. Right, right. Wait, so there’s playing a trick. There’s playing a trick on her.

Erika:

He does have all the sensitivity, calm, attune that his brother lacks.

Ian:

Yeah, I mean they’re alike in every way really looks and demeanor.

Jeff:

And I think there’s this other side story of Rolfe and Sally who is his high school sweetheart. There’s sort of an on again off again, they fight a lot. Weirdly topical. Her boyfriend was from the Gaza Strip, and there is a weird sort of Gaza sub-story in this movie, which Okay, interesting. And

Ian:

Were they trying to, that’s so bizarre. They’re trying to make these weird political statements with the Jewish family and the guy from the strip. Just again, too many things, too many things. That’s a theme here. They’re trying to do too many things with every character with the plot.

Jeff:

So I, what’s happened, I think the idea here was that they were trying to set up that there were these two troubled relationships, that there’s McConaughey and Beckett sale and their relationship is strained because of a disagreement about having the child. And then Rolfe and Sally have this strange relationship because Sally is immature and is a sex addict.

Erika:

Maybe promiscuous. Promiscuous is the word you’re looking for.

Jeff:

Seems to not be able to say no in a lot of ways.

Erika:

I don’t know. I think she’s just hot and getting a lot of offers.

Jeff:

Fair enough. Completely fair enough. So I think that was the idea was both of them are strained, and I wonder if there were scenes where Rolfe and Carol were sort of talking about these problems and that maybe that’s sort of where the relationship starts to form. But all of this is fully imagined because they don’t show us it ever.

Ian:

They show more of the Maurice, or sorry, the Dinklage and Arquette relationship that goes nowhere than they do the one that they should have been showing us, which was the Rolfe and Beck. I’m mixing up the actor’s names, the character’s names, but yes,

Jeff:

So many. And again, this movie is 90 minutes, 99 0. I assume the director’s cut is four hours. So the middle of the movie also features, I think one of my favorite scenes, and this is where I’m going to contest something that Ian said last week about this beautiful web made technically filmed because the middle of this movie features an incredible scene that makes absolutely no sense in which Beck and Sale has a cell phone conversation with McConaughey and McConaughey is shot completely normally, and Beck and Sale is shot with a closeup of her mouth, and she is very breathily talking from Matthew McConaughey about nothing sexual.

Erika:

If there is a need to set the stage, it is a scene perhaps actually taken directly out of Red Shoe Diaries.

Ian:

I was literally going to say Red Shoe diary. Steve is somehow stuck in an episode of that and he’s in tiptoes and she got for a moment transported to early nineties cable erotica moments.

Erika:

But the conversation is not remotely sexy

Jeff:

And Matthew McConaughey is talking completely normally, and Kate Beck and Sale is breathy, very breathy.

Ian:

It would’ve been something if maybe they had made McConaughey somewhat the same way or shot him in the same way, but they didn’t. Not at all completely different. So yeah, maybe that was editing as well, maybe or in the edit something was lost there maybe.

Erika:

But this was the turning point in my rewatch because as I was watching that, I was watching her lips because I was like, there’s no way that she’s saying the audio that we are hearing right now. There’s no way. It is completely illogical what she’s talking about and the sexiness of this scene. So yeah, from there on out, I was watching Eagle eyed, what has been changed, what have been modified, because this is just so clearly a reach on the edit,

Jeff:

And I’ll note that there’s a moment where they pan up to her eyes and then backed out to her mouth again. And her eyes, the facial expression that she’s making is one of concern. She is concerned, which matches the nature of the phone call. In some ways

Erika:

They were probably fretting about having a baby because that was most of what they talked about. I can’t remember. I don’t know if it was in that phone call or I think it must’ve been in that is either in that phone call or just after the phone call that he reminded her it’s not too late to adopt.

Jeff:

Yes. Oh yeah. He was pressing adoption throughout this film throughout

Erika:

Already pregnant

Jeff:

And Beckinsale does make it very clear she’s not some sort of anti-abortion person that was also a broad, she was open to the concept. She just wanted the baby,

Ian:

Which I think is reasonable.

Jeff:

Fair enough, fair enough. So ultimately, obviously as you can imagine, Steven Relent and the Baby is born apparently little at a hospital that is apparently staffed only by little people. This will eventually lead to Steven and Carol breaking up because gosh darn it, Steven just can’t stand to see another little person, and he figures that it is best for the baby to be fatherless. Carol will eventually move into the cabin in the woods with Rolfe and after I think a breakup scene between Steven and Carol, which is all about how they love each other, but also Steven is leaving and tells Rolfe to take care of his son. The movie ultimately culminates with Carol and Rolfe kissing because apparently they are now in love and the credits roll.

Ian:

Very jarring ending. I remember watching it and just thinking as soon as they start kissing and then the credits that that’s it. It’s the beginning and end of the relationship for the audience. Right.

Erika:

Second watch still fully jarring.

Ian:

Knowing it was coming. Oh boy.

Jeff:

Frustrating and abrupt. Okay, so that’s our film. That’s the nature of the film. But I think that we need to talk a little bit here about this edit situation because I have some theories. I think you guys have some theories. So I want to turn first to Erika. Erika, this movie is a mess. Is this movie a mess because of edits or was it always going to be a mess?

Erika:

Alright. I mean, I think it was going to be a sexy mess and it became something entirely other. I’m always here for the generous take. I’ve just got to believe that this was a good movie, that this was, I mean, I believe Peter Dinklage is quoted as saying it was beautiful. I believe he also said it was not problematic that Gary Oldman played a little person. So credibility questioned, but I don’t know. The portrayal of this community of little people just living great lives that is in the background of this strange problematic narrative makes me think that there was something good here and that got written out for Hollywood.

Jeff:

Yeah, I mean there is some compelling evidence that stuff was dropped here. There was, for instance, the fight that, the thing that does it for me is the fight with Peter Dinklage at the party because they start to get into a political conversation about how little people are represented and how the political wing of this little people organization is or is not actually supporting little people.

Ian:

Don’t forget the name of that organization is the Justice League of Little People in the movie. That’s what it’s called, which is odd.

Erika:

So I looked it up and it does not exist, but if you look it up, there is some real political baggage there. I’ll leave it at that.

Jeff:

Yes. Yeah, exactly. There’s that piece of it. It feels to me like there was a subplot here around opioids and people becoming addicted to painkillers because of medical management of DM as a child, but also was never fully dug into or explored in any way meaningfully.

Erika:

I mean, I think that something that didn’t get cut out even that is quite redeeming of the film is there’s a toxic masculinity commentary, right? Because McConaughey is so toxic. His character, what did they call him? A jerk. But he is, he’s just horrible and his twin brother is all that. He’s not. He’s the masculinity without the toxic. And there’s something that, I mean, not to say that that is redeeming, actually, now that I think it out, it’s kind of this impaired masculinity situation, right?

Jeff:

Yeah. The good guy wins, so to speak at the end of the film.

Ian:

I guess the good guy wins…ish. I guess they’re together.

Jeff:

Yeah. So my theory on the part of the edit thing theory is I think that they have flipped the final scenes of the movie. So I think that in the original script, I think that the Kiss actually happens earlier because you will notice that when the weird breakup scene happens, a Matthew McConaughey says to Rolfe, Rolfe take care of my son. Which is a weird thing to say to your twin brother as you’re walking away. And number two, Ralph actually takes Carol’s hand. They’re holding hands as McConaughey walks away after he says, take care of my son. I think that was intended to be the end of the film, that the film was supposed to end a century with this like, oh, it’s all wrapped up. McConaughey is out of the picture, Rolfe is in the picture, everything’s good. And I think for whatever reason, they were like, okay, no, no, no.

We’re going to strip all of the relationship building with Rolfe and Beck and Sale and we will just gesture with the kiss at the end that they’re now starting a relationship for another movie. The devil’s advocate, I think, to this question of was this movie ruined in the edit? And I was thinking a lot about this as I re-watched it is what could have been added to this film to make it better? And I don’t know, with what was provided to us as an audience, I can’t imagine if you added another hour to that film that you could actually save this thing. There are moments in this film that feel like afterschool special. Some of the scenes when they are laying in bed and just idea dumping, they’re just information dumping things about little people feels so afterschool special. So edutainment of a lot of this thing feels very entertainment, and I feel like if we had more film, it would’ve just been more of that.

Ian:

Are you talking about the guy who made confessions of a trick baby?

Jeff:

Maybe. Perhaps Matt Bright was part of the problem.

Ian:

I feel like if this movie had been made in a different alternate universe and had been made today, it could have been a good movie. It would probably be written by little people at the very least, maybe written in directed. It would just be more a real movie. This is not a real movie in a lot of ways because was not made by the people that it’s portraying really.

Erika:

That’s a huge question I have of this film is why, what was the inspiration? Where did this guy who I guess I’m assuming is not a little person,

Ian:

Matthew? No.

Erika:

Matthew Bright. Where did he get the idea to make a film about little people?

Jeff:

Well, as we understand it, his own story, his claim is that he wrote it as an 18-year-old and it was intended to be a sex comedy where it was funny to watch little people have sex.

Erika:

Do you know the one scene in the movie that actually captures that vibe is when the parents meet the dinner, when both sets of parents come together

Jeff:

And they very clearly the trying to drive this, what’s that movie? Who’s coming to dinner? Guess who’s coming to dinner? What was that famous? Yeah, guess who’s coming to dinner? What’s City? Yeah, that’s clearly what they were aping in that scene, and then they subverted our expectation and they were like, no, no, the parents are actually not upset about the little person thing. They’re nervous about the Jewish thing.

Ian:

Great.

Erika:

Aren’t we all.

Jeff:

Aren’t we all…

Ian:

I was going to say, so Matthew Bright, we talked about, so Forbidden Zone, let’s talking about the origins of this movie. So he was in the band Oingo Boingo with Danny Elfman, who famously, yeah, he wrote all the themes for all the Tim Bird movies, Batman, and he did Men in Black and stuff like that. And they did a movie in 1980 or 1979 called Forbidden Zone, and it’s just a very, very weird musical. So Matthew Bright is a bit of a weirdo, so I think he had this idea, this weird idea for a weird movie, little people and their sexual hijinks or whatever. He said it when he was 18, so he is just this 18-year-old weirdo punk in LA something, the underground music scene wanted to make a movie about little people, and I don’t know exactly the timeline. I don’t know how old he was when he made tiptoes, but over the years it clearly evolved into something else. Maybe he talked to people about it. I’d like to know if you talked to actual little people about it and they maybe gave their input about what kind of movie they’d like to see, and I’m sure this was supposed to be a very, very different movie when the genesis of it came to him. I would like to see how it went from weird little person’s sex comedy to what it became. I would like to see the evolution of that thought process, but

Jeff:

Yeah, maybe that’s the movie. Maybe that’s actually the movie is like, how did Matt Bright get from that point? At this point, a very fascinating journey. As listeners of the show know we have a rigorous, perfectly scientific tested way that we rate all of our films, our scale, the invalid culture scale, which as you know, we play a little bit like golf. The lower the score, the better the film. So let’s take a little look. Let’s see, final thoughts here on how we feel about tiptoes and the carnage that this movie has left behind. So let’s get started. On a scale of one to five, with five being the least accurate, how accurately does this film portray disability?

Ian:

I wouldn’t know exactly. I might not have a great insight into this. I’m guessing some of it is accurate because they show all these little people we’ve talked about living great lives, they have some of the best lives of any characters in the movie. I’m going to say three. I can’t say for sure either way, but I’m going to say three on that one.

Erika:

You know what, I was going to go two, but you swayed me. I’m going to go three. I think most of the actual portrayal a little people was good, and I think that the negative view from the non-disabled character was the problem. So yeah, I’ll join you on three.

Jeff:

So I was actually a little bit more generous than you guys. I actually gave this a two. I kind of felt like they actually did a pretty good job of showing a diverse world that the little people were living in. They showed lots of different little people, they had different interests, they had things outside of their disabilities. They also gave us lots of information, and as Erika says, the villain of the movie was the big person that was really the problem that needed to be overcome. So I don’t think this was horrible and I feel terrible saying that. On a scale of one to five, with five being the hardest, how hard was it to get through this film?

Ian:

Okay, so I’m going to give this a four. It was hard just because it is an awkward watch. I’m guessing it would be, I mean, depending on who you’re watching it with, again, it’s not a good movie. I said it was technically sound. There was the one red two diary scene that was technically not great, but apart from that, not a bad movie to get through. It’s just awkward. Again, it always comes back to Gary Oldman’s character. It’s just so silly and it’s just so distracting the whole thing. So it is just like, oh my God, and they’re replacing him with actual little people and they’re going and the legs and the chair and the, I’m going to give that a four. It was hard to get through just because the Gary Oldman character is so distracting and weird.

Erika:

It’s a two for me was honestly, I was dreading the rewatch and then I was actually, I was pretty captivated. So yeah, surprisingly I wouldn’t watch it again, but I wouldn’t say it was hard to watch.

Jeff:

So I gave this one a four and I originally going into this, assumed I was going to give it a five, but Erika on the rewatch, I distinctly remember dreading when I turned it on. I was like, oh geez, here we go. Watching my clock. I literally googled if there was a way to speed to watch faster on Plex, if you could watch it at double speed so I could watch it in 45 minutes instead of 90 minutes, and they just would talk fast, which spoil, alert, alert. I couldn’t figure out how to do that. And before I knew it, I was 60 minutes in and I continued watching it. The rest in one sitting, I was like, wow, this actually wasn’t as hard as I thought. So I said four, I’m actually going to revise it down to a three. I’ve convinced myself this wasn’t the hardest thing to watch, and I think the oddity of it also kind of helps get you through it. It is just so perverse in so many ways that there is, it’s like a car crash you don’t want to watch, but you kind of have to. On a scale of one to five, with five being the maximum, I don’t even know that I have to ask you this. How often did you laugh at things that were not supposed to be funny?

Ian:

Well, I think we’re all going to have the same answer here. That’s a five. That is a five for me. Again, Gary Oldman, the French accents, the kids in the park, throwing the Frisbee with the adults, making out this movie is full of moments of unintentional humor, and for that I maybe should revise how hard was to get through it because that does make it a lot of more fun to watch, watch. But yeah, this is a five,

Erika:

It’s only a four for me, and that’s just because I’m not sure that I ever actually left. It was just WTF factor where I was like, oh my, oh God. Oh, it was, it wasn’t not humor for me per se. It was the laugh where you kind of put your face in your hand and you’re just like, oh, it was more like that.

Ian:

Fair.

Jeff:

Yeah. So I gave this a five as well. I originally gave it a four for the similar reason to Erika that there wasn’t a lot of belly laughs by any means, but I gave them a bonus mark because the things that were supposed to be funny were so not funny that I felt that that needed to be honored in some way. So the absolute abysmal attempt at humor I think gave them an extra bonus, a bonus mark. So I bumped it to a five last, but certainly not least, on a scale of one to five, with five being the most, how many little steps did this film put back the disabled population?

Ian:

How many tiny tiptoe steps? I’m going to say one on this. I don’t think it brought disabled people back at all. The people who are the problem in this movie are the quote big people who made it for one thing, Gary Oldman and essentially black based, all the horrible characters. Matthew McConaughey is a horrible person. Kate Beck and sale, not great, not great, sort of a boring person. The disabled people are the most interesting. It’s not offensive to them in the movie. They do say the M word a few, maybe one too many times, but I think in the end, this film does not bring disabled people back at all. So I’m going to say one on that.

Erika:

My gut said four and I’m just going to run with it. Honestly, I totally agree with what you’re saying. I agree there is some good representation. Honestly, I looked up the criteria of the fries test. I was like, does this film pass the fries test? And I do believe it does, but I don’t think there was any consideration for acting disabled in the fries test, and that’s a massive fail. And so all that star power, and although congratulations to Gary Alman for his efforts successfully bury the film, we still have the stars of the show. The dominant narrative is one of a negative view on disability.

Jeff:

So noted moderate. Jeff Preston comes right in the middle. I give it a 2.5 because I think that one

Ian:

Wait, we can have gradients on it?

Jeff:

It doesn’t actually end up mattering in the end, but I do it to be cheeky. So I gave it a 2.5 because I think one leg was being dragged backwards by Gary Oldman on his knees and the repeated assurances about how much pain and suffering little people experience. I think the audience was definitely intended to kind of sympathize with what’s, say Matthew Broderick, not Matthew Broder. It would never be in this film. I think that the audience was intended to sympathize with Matthew McConaughey a little bit. We were supposed to be a little bit be like, yeah, maybe she should ab report the child. Maybe she shouldn’t have a little person child. I think that that was sort of there, even though at the end we were supposed to be brought forward to it. But yeah, I don’t know that this did a very good job of necessarily arguing on behalf of little people, and so I’m going to give it a 2.5.

Ian:

Lots of differing views on that question. That’s good.

Jeff:

Okay. We have tabulated our scores. Drum roll please, with a score of 38.5, which we will round up to a 39 tiptoes is a crime, may have been committed.

Erika:

I think that is really on brand with the film.

Ian:

Yeah. Again, it always comes back to Gary Oldman. It would be a different experience without him, his character, or without him doing that character. Anyway. That’s the crime. I think actually legally, he committed at least three crimes by doing what he did in this movie.

Jeff:

Yeah, I mean, you always know it’s a good and valid culture movie. If it feels like a human right is being violated,

Ian:

If anything movie has done it, then it’s this one.

Jeff:

Well, that pretty much wraps up our interrogation of Tiptoes. I would say that you should take your own view and take your own opinion, but I can’t in good conscience make that recommendation. But thank you for joining us for another fun episode of Invaled Culture. We will be back next month with a very interesting movie with a very interesting special guest. So we will see you in March. Happy Valentine’s Day, everyone!

 

[Musical interlude by Mvll Crimes]

 

Jeff:

And thus concludes another episode of Invalid Culture. Thank you for joining us. I hope you enjoyed it or not. Do you have a film you would like for us to cover on the pod, or even better? Do you want to be a victim on invalid culture? Head over to our website, invalid culture.com and submit. We would love to hear from you. That’s it for this episode. Catch your next month then. Until then, stay invalid.

[Outro song “Arguing with Strangers on the Internet” by Mvll Crimes]:

Everyone is wrong, I just haven’t told them yet.

 

DVD cover of The Amazing Mr. No Legs, featuring the iconic shotgun wheelchair firing.

Will anyone survive the wheelchair of mayhem?

We launch season 3 with a bang, heading to the mean streets of Tampa Bay to learn about drug smuggling and murder cover-ups. Despite what the title of the film implies, Mr. No Legs is weirdly absent throughout much of the film…but will that hurt or help it’s rating?

Listen at…


Grading the Film

As always, this film is reviewed with scores recorded in four main categories, with 1 being the best and 5 being the worst. Like the game of golf, the lower the score the better.

How accurate is the representation?

Jeff – 2 / 5

Sarah – 1 / 5

Total – 3 / 10

How difficult was it to watch the movie?

Sarah – 1 / 5

Jeff – 1 / 5

Total – 2 / 10

How often were things unintentionally funny?

Jeff – 2 / 5

Sarah – 1 / 5

Total – 3 / 10

How far back has it put disabled people?

Sarah – 1 / 5

Jeff – 1 / 5

Total – 2 / 10

The Verdict

Is this actually art??

Transcript

Jeff [talking over the theme music of Mr. No Legs]:

Tampa Bay, Florida. The 1970s. When a college boy turned drug dealer accidentally kills his girlfriend, there is only one person who can solve the problem. The amazing Mr. No Legs. Drugs, murder, a man with no legs. This movie has everything that you could possibly want and will likely piss off the liberals. Tune in to Mr. No Legs.

 

[Invalid Culture’s punk theme song, “Arguing With Strangers” by Mvll Crimes]

 

Jeff:

Welcome back to a new thrilling season of Invalid Culture and boy oh boy, do we have a year in store for you. As always, I am your host, Jeff Preston, and I am joined by my co-host, victim, Sarah Curry. How are you doing, Sarah?

Sarah:

I’m pretty good. How are you doing this year?

Jeff:

Well, I got to say it’s a new year and we have quite the belated Christmas present that’s been delivered to us here in January. This month we watched The Amazing Mr. No Legs. This is a movie from 1978, which you may have not heard of because it’s actually … Well, it was actually very difficult to get your hands on it, but thanks to some miraculous restoration, I was able to get my hands quite easily on a Blu-ray of this film, which may or may not be the final cut of the film. From the box, Mr. No Legs is about the “double amputee”. Mr. No Legs may not see much of a threat at first, but cross him and you’ll see why he’s Florida’s ruthless drug kingpin D’Angelo’s deadliest enforcer. With his unique martial arts mastery and shotgun welded wheelchair, Mr. No Legs is virtually unstoppable. But when a henchman kills the sister of a straight shooting cop, D’Angelo’s whole enterprise made undone and threatened to bring Mr. No Legs down with it. Would you say that’s a pretty accurate description of the film, Sarah?

Sarah:

It’s only missing the 15 minute long car chase, but I think other than that it’s pretty faithful.

Jeff:

Yeah, that’s spoiler, I think. You don’t want to spoil the ending there for people.

Sarah:

I don’t want to spoil a seventh of the entire film.

Jeff:

Yeah. You got to keep that under wraps. Under wraps.

Sarah:

Gotcha.

Jeff:

Now, this of course is … It’s a movie from the ’70s. It is a grind house film that is exactly what you probably imagined it is. It’s shooting, it’s punching, it’s bar fights, but it’s also a whole lot more than that, particularly because of the people that were involved in the making of this film, which is almost as shocking because the film itself. So Sarah, what can you tell us about Mr. No Legs?

Sarah:

According to my research, there is a kind of Adam Sandler like cast style to this film, as in the producer and the head writer of the screenplay already knew each other from five different adaptations of Flipper, like the dolphin, which apparently has five films. And then they called up all their friends in Tampa, Florida and said, “Hey, I’m doing a ’70s action film,” except it was the ’70s so I guess they didn’t say the current year, but they also might’ve. You don’t know. Because genre evolves and is inherent like that. And they got a shocking amount of people. They got an actual double leg amputee to play the titular role and he is also a double black belt in karate in real life. And he was a Marine and the director was on the US Air Force swim team. And the director was also a scary movie monster in one of these old horror films so he had some notoriety for that. There were a number of action movie stars in this that people recognized from other films. There was … Oh no, it wasn’t John Agar. John Agar was known for being the former husband of Shirley Temple. So everybody here is also really, really old.

So it was hard to get the original cut of this film and we still don’t know if we have the full cut of this film, and I think we can talk about that a little bit more when we get to the ending because that actually made the ending make more sense. Because you said you got the Blu-ray, which was restored in 2020. It came out in 1978, but it was filmed in 1975. But between ’78 and 2020, the original pre-VHS film versions, which were apparently recorded on a rarer film stock, were damaged. So they had to restore the damaged film stocks to get to the VHS versions to get to the Blu-ray versions and so on and so forth. So we don’t actually know if we have the full version of Mr. No Legs, also known as … What was the UK name? Destructor. Also known as The Amazing Mr. No Legs, also known as Gunfighter, which was the script name, and also re-released as Killers Die Hard.

Jeff:

Yeah. So this is a prequel to Die Hard is what you’re telling me.

Sarah:

Yeah. And it does better. It goes harder than Die Hard.

Jeff:

Yeah. There was a ton of very familiar actors in this. Rance Howard was here from Chinatown. Luke Halpin, also from Flipper. Flipper is all over this movie. I would say that we wouldn’t have this film if it wasn’t for Flipper.

Sarah:

It was a reunion of Flipper.

Jeff:

I never thought I would say that ever on this podcast.

Sarah:

Yep. But here we are.

Jeff:

So while it was difficult for them to actually get this film out, whether it be for the damaged film stock and the VHS and then numerous different names or the re-releasing, there is still a bit of critical acclaim for this film, in part because it becomes a bit of a cult classic. Which I was skeptical of at first. I fully understand now that I have watched the film. The film really became popular, weirdly though, in the 2000s. Probably because of the internet making it easier for people to access this film, which led to a variety of film websites and podcasts like this one that started covering this absurd film, which then spread its popularity. But people’s response to the movie is actually really interesting in a very kind of strange way. I have been provided a series of reviews for us to go through and talk a little bit about. Most of them have been culled from our favorite place, Amazon reviews. They’re the best, most authentic reviews, I would say, of popular culture. So let’s dive in a little bit.

Our first one, this is a five star review from Sean R., coming to us from Australia in 2020. So this would’ve been right in the thick of COVID. Take that for what you will. The title of this review, “Have you ever wanted to see a guy with no legs do kung fu?? This movie is insane. It’s got everything. Bar fights, detective work, a wheelchair with guns and ninja stars and bad assery all over. More movies need to be made like this.”

Sarah:

I actually included that review because I thought it was hysterical and probably reductive because there’s no way the film actually comes out this way. It’s actually pretty dead on and it’s funny to read after the fact because he pretty much nails it.

Jeff:

Yeah, it’s a pretty good summary actually of this entire film in a lot of ways. I do enjoy the fact that he wrote this in 2020 talking about a movie that was made in the ’70s, what 50 years later, and is like more movies need to be like this.

Sarah:

It was visionary.

Jeff:

They perfected it. They perfected filmmaking in 1975.

Sarah:

The cinematography anyway. And I think I called it when I was talking to you, the David Caruso style line delivery, which was obviously made pre David Caruso. But it felt like every single scene, two cops had to look at each other and deliver ’70s quips just minus the sunglasses.

Jeff:

The script for this movie … I don’t know if this movie was actually written or if they were just feeding them lines off camera.

Sarah:

They gave them a general scenario and just said go.

Jeff:

But sharp though. There were so many zingers in this film.

Sarah:

There were.

Jeff:

And they were presented in a way that didn’t feel like they were looking at the camera after they dropped the line and be like, “I don’t get it.” They were just sort of seamlessly integrated in this casual way. It was great. I will say my biggest qualm, and this isn’t a script qualm, but the accents in this movie were terrible. D’Angelo talks like Al Capone for some reason. One of the cops’ girlfriends allegedly has a Latina accent. Maybe it’s an eastern European accent, maybe it’s a Scandinavian accent, maybe it’s a speech impediment. I have no idea what was going on there. It seemed like every character was thinking about a character that they’d seen in a film previously and was like, “I’ll just try and sound like that.” So the mobster guy is like, “I’m just going to sound like a mobster, which sounds like a person from New York, even though I’d be in Tampa.” And the girl was like, “Oh, I like bond movies and I’m by the pool a lot, so I’m going to sound like a bond girl.” Who are European generally. That was outrageous.

Sarah:

My bet for the brunette danger girl was that she grew up in Tampa like everyone else in this film and doesn’t have a natural Latina accent. And the director said to make her more exotic, “Hey, can you bullshit us an accent from your country?” And she goes, “I’m from here. I’m from Tampa.” And he goes, “Just do it. Just please.”

Jeff:

Right. And she was trying to do it live. She was imagining what an accent might sound like in her head as she was trying to parrot the lines

Sarah:

That is frame for frame what I think happened in the shag room on set.

Jeff:

Yeah, absolutely. Okay. So we got another review. This one is from, I believe IMDB, from Humanoid of Flesh, which is good. I prefer my humans to be made of flesh, personally. This one is a seven out of 10. A mob enforcer with no legs. Descriptive. This is the review. “First of all, Mr. No Legs doesn’t quite live up to its outrageous title, but it’s still a decent action flick with ground house exploitation feel. Rod Slinker is a mob enforcer without legs. He gets fed up with his immediate boss’ insults and pay and decides to double cross the mob when he’s had enough. The insults about his condition enrage him to the point that he decides to wage war on the mob. There is also an awesome wheelchair of mayhem, which helps him to dispatch various mobsters and other scum. Cheaply made and rather inept action flick with several fantastic fight scenes and pretty brutal killings. The action is fairly slow moving and there’s not enough Mr. No legs, but if you are into ’70s cult cinema, you can’t miss this movie. Seven out of 10.”

Sarah:

Okay, I do love the phrase wheelchair of mayhem, however, I disagree with that the action is slow moving. I actually thought that the action went a little bit too fast a lot of the time.

Jeff:

There was pretty much only action in this movie. They were either sitting beside a pool talking on phones with giant wires all over the place, or they were fighting. I mean, there were multiple murders in the same bar on different nights.

Sarah:

And the bar fights, I almost didn’t know where to look because there were multiple fights happening at once, synchronously during the shot. So whoever choreographed the fights did a pretty okay job because they don’t run full on into each other. But there’s just so much happening. I don’t know what this guy’s watching where he’s like, “Yeah, Mr. No Legs was pretty slow for me, but seven out of 10.” What?

Jeff:

Yeah, this was written in 2010. So this is of course before this man would’ve experienced COVID and understood what it really means to be in a slow event-less sort of moment, I suppose. Also, this one really stands out to me because there’s this line in it where he talks about the lack of pay and the comments about his condition enraging him. And I’m not sure here if he saw a different version of this film than we did that included scenes, but I don’t remember any scenes in which his condition was brought up, mocked or referred to in any way.

Sarah:

He had that one line when he went inside after he flips off his hot danger angel babe, where he goes like, “The mob boss is going to flick me like a pencil into the street? Hell no.” And I didn’t really even know what that expression meant, but it was clearly supposed to be an insult.

Jeff:

Yeah. But it doesn’t seem about his condition. I think he was trying to say that he was going to be penniless. That all he would have is a pencil. He would have nothing to his name, I think is maybe what that line-

Sarah:

I don’t know if the class warfare angle works for a mob film though.

Jeff:

Yeah. I’m very curious about this. I would love to know if there are scenes in which his disability was brought up, because notably, there’s only one moment when his disability is kind of … There’s two moments I suppose that we’ll talk about a little bit later, but it’s certainly not really in a derogatory way that I would say it anyway. The drive for Mr. No Legs is that he’s a bit ambitious, he’s tired of being at the bottom of the hierarchy of the mob, and he realizes that he’s about to get flipped on. That the mob boss is going to kill him, and he decides, well, I’m going to kill him first.

Sarah:

Yeah, I think he does get wise to it and he just tries to get in on the action first.

Jeff:

Okay. So we have another one, and I want to note before I read this, this was written in 2006. So this review was written before MAGA and even before … This is before all of that, and I think that’s important. Maybe there was evidence that this was coming all along. This is a nine out of 10 review from Steve Neiland. Ny-land? Neil-and? He writes, this is the title, “My New Hero and Every Liberal’s Worst Nightmare. Rod Slinker, wherever you are, whatever you’re doing right now, you are my new action adventure movie hero. This movie is one of the most amazingly endearing and delightfully stupid exercises in brain-dead cult mayhem ever created and so badly deserves a chance to see the light of day on a DVD reissue, if only for the sheer number of people who would potentially be offended by its gleeful off the wall, willingness to go beyond the constraints of good taste and show us things that will boggle the mind.”

Sarah:

I struggle to agree with this mostly because of the N word drop like an hour into the film, which makes it very problematic. But A, he did correctly predict that this would get a Blu-ray re-release a little over 10 years later. And B, I do think there’s a lot to really love about this film, especially if you’re a bad action or an ironic film watcher. There’s a lot to love. I spent a lot of this movie laughing so hard that my roommate asked me what was going on in my bedroom place.

Jeff:

I 100% agree that this movie is both amazingly endearing and delightfully stupid. Full marks. I fully agree with that. I’m wondering about this thought. And again, we will note there is a hard R N word dropped in the middle of this film. I’m wondering about this thing about being offensive. Do you think that now as we flash forward to a post MAGA world and a world where allegedly cancel culture is out of control, do you believe that there will be a sheer number of people offended by this film?

Sarah:

I think it’s possible he’s comparing this kind of off the wall nonsense film to this deep intelligentsia culture that I think is just as much a parody as the counterculture that this is parodying. Neither of those two cultures actually exist in any semblance of reality and him pinning those realities against each other is just this over the top way, like this film, of bringing two worlds together. Does it lean more to the, I don’t know, traditional hard right? Yes. But I don’t think if this came out now, anybody would A, take it seriously or B, think that it was at all trying to be this Christopher Nolan-esque hard go at epistemological thought and beat cops in Tampa Bay.

Jeff:

And at the same time, there was some interesting gender things going on in this film. I don’t know if it was intentional, but there was a scintillating homoeroticism happening at all times between almost all of the male characters. There were some delightful crop tops in this film. There was a trans woman at the bar in this film. There was a little person.

Sarah:

There was also a little person.

Jeff:

Yeah. There was a little person.

Sarah:

Watching the bar fight. Nobody punched him. They just let him watch.

Jeff:

Having a great time. And then at the same time, there were these women are to be seen, not to be heard, that women played no real role in this movie beyond delivering phones and flirting with the men a little bit.

Sarah:

But counterpoint, they did make being a danger angel look incredibly good. I came out of this movie like I wouldn’t say no to that career. They were living large. They were in cabanas. They were in rooms entirely composed of shag beds. They were eating huge breakfasts and dinners. They were being driven around everywhere. Not so bad. All I have to do is get told to fuck off when the guy has a phone call from his mob boss. Deal.

Jeff:

And also she had a gun. One of them had a gun as well. She had a loaned some gun.

Sarah:

Oh, the brunette. Yeah.

Jeff:

Yeah.

Sarah:

My gun is in the other guy’s Camaro. And she goes, “Here, take mine.”

Jeff:

Take mine. Yeah. And it’s like a little dainty two shot pistol and he’ like, “Oh, is this even a gun? It’s not even a man gun.”

Sarah:

My baby handgun.

Jeff:

There was some stuff going on there. There was also an implication of a pimp that was pimping out men potentially. They see a pimp on the street and one of the greatest lines of the film is, “What he’s selling, you don’t smoke, you stroke.”

Sarah:

Yes. Extremely memorable.

Jeff:

I’m not sure. Maybe that was a reference. I read that as referring to that he has men that he is prostituted out. Maybe I’m wrong on that. Maybe they’re within-

Sarah:

No, I think you read that completely right. I think this was one of the most accidentally inclusive films of the 1970s. It’s from the Schitt’s Creek school of inclusivity where they never comment on who they’re using ever. They’ve got gay guys in bars, they’ve got sparkle wearing guys, they’ve got every edict under the rainbow. They’ve got a variety of genders and people of various ages going to school. There was like a 40-year-old in college. There was the little person in the bar. They had everybody. They had the guy in the wheelchair, and he’s not even one of the top seven or eight I named, and that’s supposed to be the titular disability or way of inclusivity in the film. And I’m just like, everybody here has something to bring to the table. That was pretty neat and nobody comments on it at all. They’re just like, “nope. Standard. This is everyday life. This is how these people want to live. They do them and I do me.

Jeff:

Yeah. I mean there was a race riot in the bar at one point.

Sarah:

But that was only because of the one woman who was then promptly killed for not being inclusive. Everybody else hated it.

Jeff:

Yeah. Well, there was a white guy who didn’t like the black woman, and then the black bartender bottled him. So there was a bit of justice in this film too. I think it’s also important to note that this movie is named after Mr. No Legs, but Mr. No Legs is not even the main character of this film, I would argue.

Sarah:

No.

Jeff:

A side character. 100%.

Sarah:

He gets as much screen time as the danger angels, and one of the danger angels is actually the calling from on high that signals that Mr. No Legs is about to get a short scene. Whenever you see the blonde babe danger angel at the pool, you know that we’re about to see her counterpart, Mr. No Legs.

Jeff:

100%. Yeah. She is the siren that inaugurates the birth of Mr. No Legs.

Sarah:

Oh yeah.

Jeff:

Yeah. So I’m interested. I don’t know that I fully agree with Steve that this would cause a liberal nightmare to occur necessarily. Which is interesting. I think maybe this film has something for everyone, which is a very weird thing for this podcast. That’s not usually the case.

Sarah:

No. We were joking that every scene construction, I guess mostly because of Mr. No Legs himself, was automatically ADA compliant in the architectural sense. There were no scenes about, oh man, the mob thing is in the basement. Mr. No Legs can’t get down there. Which was what I was kind of expecting coming into this film. No. It’s just inclusivity and compliance and racial justice and LGBT justice and alliances the whole way through.

Jeff:

We got to put a pin on that because I actually want to come back to this and talk a little bit more about the fact that this film is wildly wheelchair accessible. But we will come back to that. We have one last review. This one from Coventry. I assume the entire town came together and wrote this. I assume that’s what that means. This one is the eight out of 10, so another happy customer. This one is titled, hilariously, “He’s a role model to us all. Let Mr. No Legs be a source of inspiration for all of us. Not because he’s a relentless one man killing squad, of course. Because he’s living proof that you can still chase your dreams and realize your ambitions even if you’re physically disabled. Yeah, right. Enough with this rubbish. The Amazing Mr. No Legs is totally demented in idea as well as execution exploitation feature with a premise that is unique and refreshing, and production values look so cheap and amateurish that you simply have to show admiration for the costume crew.

“If you just imagine what these guys could have accomplished if they had a proper budget at their disposal. The titular anti-hero controls the complete drug business of a major town and acts as judge, jury, and especially executioner whenever someone screws up or tries to double cross him. Although he hasn’t got any legs, duh, everyone fears it obeys Mr. No Legs because he’s merciless, is an expert in martial arts and drives around in a heavily armored wheelchair. When the sister of a dedicated cop gets in a drug execution, it means the start of a devastating war between the good cops and the bad drug dealers and everyone in between. The script is surprisingly convoluted and well-written, but those are not the main reasons why this film will stick in your memory. It has girl on girl bar fights, wild shootouts, bad acting, sword fights, odd cars, and virulent chases and much more.

“The Amazing Mr. No Legs is extremely violent, but never actually shocking since the effects of the stunts aren’t exactly convincing. Some people might take offense upon seeing the fight sequences involving the handicapped lead character, but then again, I don’t suppose easily offended people are likely to put Mr. No Legs on their Christmas list. The slow motion sequence where actor Ted Vollrath demonstrates his genuine martial arts skill is literally jaw dropping. Ever seen a guy with no legs kick someone repeatedly in the stomach? No legs. The titular ought to be considered as one of the greatest cult icons ever. A truly menacing, bad to the bone and self reliable villain. Mr. No Legs is not an easy movie to come across, but it’s definitely worth the search.”

Sarah:

I love that he wrote his dissertation on Mr. No Legs and I kind of wish I did too because I think I would put out a banger dissertation on the inclusivity potential of Mr. No Legs. I think I figured out what we don’t like about these people apparently repeatedly saying that easily offended people won’t like this movie. This is what I think it is. I think it’s because people who tend to do the worst, most devilish, far right MAGA-esque part of that view would be of the opinion that Mr. No Legs could never be amazing or an action star or an action hero because to say that would be to go against the traditional American values that they hold as their Lord and Bible. So to have these people come out like, “Oh, the liberals are going to hate this super inventive and investigative and inclusive flick about this man with no legs that achieves everything we could ever offer.” It doesn’t really make sense, and then they try to throw it back at you with the, “If you’re easily offended, you won’t like this.” But he’s talking about himself and that’s wild to me. Right?

Jeff:

100%. Yeah. I think that they are feeling uncomfortable about it, and they assume then that the other side will also be feeling as uncomfortable as they are about this.

Sarah:

But we’re not. You guys are just unknowingly slipping over to our team here.

Jeff:

Yeah. I will say I do find it really interesting that this starts out as a weird inspiration porn. Being like, we should all be inspired by him.

Sarah:

I think he’s mocking the liberals.

Jeff:

…but then he also then comes back to it. He recants it and he’s like, “No, no. That’s all silly.” But then he returns to it and is like … First of all, he’s like, “The violence in this is not very convincing.” And then he says, “But the no legs guy’s martial arts was legitimate and amazing.” That this was an incredible ability that this guy portrayed. And I’m not a black belt martial artist. I did not personally find any of the martial arts in this film, let alone Mr. No Legs, as either A, legitimate or B, impressive in any way.

Sarah:

Okay. From background, we do know that this guy in real life is a double black belt.

Jeff:

Is a martial artist. Yes.

Sarah:

So he knows what he’s doing and he obviously does his own stunts, but we know there’s also a big stunt cast in this movie, so a lot of people are not doing their own stunts, especially when we get to the car chase. I think that’s just one or two guys playing the part of every single person in the car chase for the sheer danger level of that entire sequence. I do agree with him that a lot of the action scenes you kind of can’t take seriously because you can tell, especially in the bar fight, when they’ve got the broken bottles, they’re not actually hitting each other. They’re kind of coming close and stopping and you catch it in the lens, and it’s funny in kind of a kitschy way. Or that sword fight scene where he’s got the broad sword going into the Camaro, it makes no sense whatsoever, apart from the fact that it was a pirate themed bar. So you’re like, okay, I guess the broad sword could have maybe come from there. But could it beat the shit out of a Camaro? I’m not sure. I think the Camaro would win that fight. And then how many spoilers can we do?

Jeff:

All of them.

Sarah:

All of them. Okay. So the other one … And maybe I just don’t have enough martial arts experience for me to personally believe this, but you were led to believe during Mr. No Legs’ martial arts sequence that once one of the baddies got him and threw him in the water, you’re like, “Oh man, it’s over. He’s got no legs. He’s going to have to use all his energy to just stay afloat.” And he ended up being more dangerous in the water than he was on land. He was taking kills like nothing, and then climbing out of the pool and climbing back into his chair like it was just another Tuesday for him and rolling away.

Jeff:

Okay. So do you believe then that Coventry, when Mr. No Legs karate chops a man to death in the pool, do you think that this person was actually what an incredible display of martial arts?

Sarah:

I mean, I think he thinks that, which is fine with me. He is allowed to be in beloved community living the reality where his martial arts skill is so great you can karate chop a man to death underwater.

Jeff:

One karate chop to death.

Sarah:

One chop. It’s all it takes.

Jeff:

Yeah. And so I found that really interesting that … Again, I’m not a martial artist. I didn’t find any of the martial arts that this felt impressive. I mean, I didn’t feel like I was watching Bruce Lee here by any means.

Sarah:

I think his above water martial arts were pretty cool.

Jeff:

Oh, I think they were cool scenes. I don’t disagree with that. But I don’t think there was anything impressive. He literally blocks a kick. Okay. The front kick and the back kick that were in slow motion, that was great cinema.

Sarah:

He delivered a very literal ass kick.

Jeff:

Yeah. I don’t know though that that would hurt. Again, I’m not a martial artist. I’ve never been punched. But I kind of feel like getting a bum to your belly probably isn’t going to incapacitate you. But again, I’m not that. What I do kind of feel though is Coventry is like, “We shouldn’t be inspired by this guy. That’s liberal nonsense.”, but then he comes back and is like, “Oh, but he’s so inspiring in his martial hearts abilities.”

Sarah:

Okay, but he doesn’t say the word inspiring. He says the word menacing, bad to the bone and self reliable. So the real villain in this is rhetoric all along. You just couldn’t use the liberal catchphrases to describe his inspired-ness. If you say menacing and bad to the bone, that is the same thing as saying you’re realizing your ambitions and being an inspiring character. You’re just being more of a badass about it.

Jeff:

Yeah. He’s cool. He’s a cool guy. And I think he is a cool guy, but it’s interesting that this need to both preface it, recant it, but then also lean into it at the same time. That even-

Sarah:

I don’t think he knows he’s leaning into it.

Jeff:

I don’t think so either.

Sarah:

I think he sees a legitimate difference in rhetoric there. And I think because we have the benefit of multiple degrees and arguing with people, we can see that he’s just circuitously making the same argument and he thinks that argument is different.

Jeff:

Absolutely. Absolutely. And I think that this maybe actually gets us to a really interesting insight in people’s responses to disability in film. That I think everyone obviously is bringing their own baggage when they watch something. They’re bringing in past insights and past experience. They’re like, “I’m a black belt martial artist, and that’s not martial arts.” For instance. But I think that in this instance, and in a lot of instances, people are bringing in with them what they believe the expected response should be to the disabled character that they’re supposed to feel a certain way. They then maybe feel a different way, and either that’s a good thing or a bad thing. So I think often because he felt good about this character, that he felt that he was cool and menacing and badass, and maybe something that he would aspire to be, then it shifts it into this is a good representation, I like it, I’m happy. But then when those ideas are conflicted or confronted in some way, people don’t feel the same way or don’t feel right about it. They have this different response then, I think, to the film and then perhaps say maybe that was offensive or that was unrealistic or unbelievable. It’s interesting that at no point did Coventry not think it was an unbelievable thing that a man with no legs would be this mobster. He was like, “Yeah, this is possible. It’s happening and it’s fricking cool.”

Sarah:

Yeah. I think what I was saying at the beginning of the review about how I think the words easily offended are working in multiple reviews is what you’re saying about how he’s taking inspirational. So we got to the same conclusion using different keywords.

Jeff:

Yeah. Well, I have to say, ladies and gentlemen, this film was a ride, literally and figuratively. And when we come back next week, we are going to get into the nitty-gritty and take this film step by step and really unpack what is the genius, maybe, of The Amazing Mr. No Legs.

 

[Theme song, “Arguing with Strangers” by Mvll Crimes finishes out the episode]

Part 2!

Jeff:

Previously on Invalid Culture.

Have you ever wanted to see a guy with no legs do kung fu?? This movie is insane. It’s got everything; bar fights, detective work, a wheelchair with guns and ninja stars and badassery all over. More movies need to be made like this.

Sarah:

I actually included that review because I thought it was hysterical and probably reductive because there’s no way the film actually comes out this way. It’s actually pretty dead on and it’s funny to read after the fact because he pretty much nails it.

[Invalid Culture’s punk theme song, “Arguing With Strangers” by Mvll Crimes]

Jeff:

Welcome back to another episode of Invalid Culture, Part Two of the amazing Mr. No Legs. I as always, I’m your host, Jeff. I’m joined by your other host, Sarah.

How you doing, Sarah?

Sarah:

I’m pretty good. Pretty sorry to leave the audience on a cliffhanger.

Jeff:

I know, but this is the car chase of the No Legs episode. We got them here and now this is the last 20 minutes of destruction.

Sarah:

That’s true. You made it and now you get 15 unabridged minutes of hilarious violence.

Jeff:

Yeah, that’s how every Invalid Culture episode’s going to go this season pretty much.

Sarah:

Oh, perfect.

Jeff:

So it’ll be good.

Okay, Sarah, so for those of our audience who have not, for reasons that I will never understand, not watched this film, can you help us understand as best as you can, the plot line of the amazing Mr. No Legs?

Sarah:

So in act one, the rising action of what becomes Mr. No Legs, you get the inciting action of the killing of a 20-something female and her 30 or 40-something boyfriend. The boyfriend is obviously tangentially involved with the Tampa mob scene for the smuggling and selling of cocaine and cocaine accessories, and-

Jeff:

A very small amount of cocaine.

Sarah:

Yes, a bizarrely small amount for… And D’Angelo gets called a kingpin for this. So Tampa in the ’70s, extremely non-competitive drug scene. Anyway, Tina finds Ken’s drug paraphernalia in his bedroom and the paraphernalia itself is hilarious, but she flips out and Ken accidentally kills her. But this kicks off the whole film because Ken was a low level mob guy and now the mob people have been called in to help cover up Tina’s death and for some bizarre reason, they decide to also kill off Ken.

Jeff:

Yeah. To get rid of the evidence of course.

Sarah:

Yeah, but they didn’t even really have to. Tina fell… It looked like she found the stuff, she goes into the living room, she falls into the back of a CRT TV, takes a critical injury and dies on the floor. Nothing needed to be covered up.

Jeff:

No, not necessarily, but they are mobsters and the key detail here, Tina’s brother is a cop.

Sarah:

Okay, that’s true. So Ken was the problem. No, Tina was the problematic character and Ken couldn’t have Tina’s dad getting involved, but he obviously had to get involved. But with all of that action, you set up what became the kind of environment, if you can call it that from the film, where there’s this kind of Romeo and Juliet action between the cocaine mobsters and the Tampa Bay beat cops.

Jeff:

The start of the movie also introduces us to our titular character, the amazing Mr. No Legs who rolls into this film literally in his manual wheelchair in which he has double shotguns mounted in boxes on his armrests. So he rolls up on some people that were skimming a very, very small amount of cocaine out of the already tiny amount of cocaine. He pops his shotguns out of his arm rest and blasts away taking out these two dock workers. He will then later be called in to help dispose of Tina’s body. And it’s at that point that he explains that he leaves no evidence and shoots Ken in the head.

Sarah:

Yeah, my understanding is that he’s like a Mike Ehrmantraut style mob enforcer, but he kind of just comes onto the scene and his analysis of every single scenario is just killing whoever was involved. There’s no analysis whatsoever. He gets called to the scene, he gets there, he brings out the shotguns, he shoots whoever’s there on site. The dock workers didn’t need to die. Ken didn’t need to die. The people in the bar in act two didn’t need to die. Arguably, the only people he ever fought that actually had a reason to die were at the very end of act two, beginning of act three when people were actually coming after him. He was just ruthlessly killing for sport beforehand.

Jeff:

So he’s this merciless character. He’s a killer. He’s an enforcer. He’s also a problem solver, and he seems to have what may be the best PSW in the world. There is a man who is unnamed, does not talk and drives him around at times, seems to help him, but then also vanishes halfway through the film and is never seen again. So I don’t know exactly who this man was, if he was another mob guy or possibly like a state assigned support worker who just was like, I just worked here. I’m not saying anything. I’m enabling this man to live independently.

Sarah:

He could. Okay. It’s arguable because we also know from the last episode, he’s got that blonde bombshell, Danger Angel, and whenever he starts doing mob dealings, he just turns to the Danger Angel and goes, “Beat it baby.” He could also be doing that to his PSW. Maybe he just waits in the getaway car.

Jeff:

I mean, the PSW was there for the first murder for sure.

Sarah:

That’s true.

Jeff:

But the dock workers, the PSW was behind him and then helped him back into the car.

Sarah:

Yeah, that’s true. I don’t think we see him again after that though.

Jeff:

We see him once more when they’re back at the house. Yeah, which is why I’m not sure who this person is, but I like to believe that they’re just some low level PSW fresh out of college, and this is just the luck of the draw. This is who they were assigned and to work for.

Sarah:

Sometimes you get a grandfather, sometimes you get a mob enforcer. It’s just the way she goes.

Jeff:

Yep.

So I think we got to talk about the wheelchair because I think this is something that a lot of people are going to want to talk about because it’s so ostentatious. It is amazing. It’s very cool.

Sarah:

What did the reviewer call it? Because he had a great phrase for it. I think it was something like wheelchair of mayhem and that’s dead on.

Jeff:

Yeah, pretty much describes it.

I want to know. So Sarah, I don’t know if you noticed this, but you can clearly see the shotguns at the back of these boxes that they’re in. I thought they could have done a better job of hiding them. They did do a very good job of hiding the ninja stars, which are magnetized to look like hubcaps on the wheelchair’s rims.

Sarah:

The shuriken additions to the wheelchair killed me. When those came out…

Jeff:

Absolutely incredible. So he’s a gun wielding martial artist. He’s adept at throwing stars.

Sarah:

That’s right. And that brings us to act two. So act two introduces the homoerotic romance angle of Captain Hathaway and beat cop, Chuck, who teams up with his homie, who has the second-highest kill count in the film after Mr. No Legs, not Chuck, his homie to investigate Chuck’s sister’s death at the hands of her deadbeat boyfriend who was in the mob, but they don’t know yet he was in the mob, but they also don’t know yet the big reveal at the end of act two, that Hathaway, the police captain, is also in the mob. So they spend an entire 15, 20 minutes sussing this out on police investigations in Camaros and other muscle cars, and they find time to get into two different bar fights.

Jeff:

At the same bar.

Sarah:

At the same bar. Yeah.

Jeff:

Yeah. This is one of my favorite parts of the film is that Chuck goes to this bar to meet with his informant in which he walks into a full-blown race riot and is just like, okay, and just starts killing people.

Sarah:

He said something like, “You didn’t like the service here,” and then they launched.

Jeff:

He full-blown murders at least three people in this bar, like fully murders.

Sarah:

Four people were bottled to death, which I thought was awfully specific.

Jeff:

So he’s a bloody path through this bar. The following day, he returns to the bar and kills another two people.

Sarah:

Yes. And it was funny because when they were sitting in the Camaro and Chuck was sitting there like, “Man, this is really boring police work.” And Andy goes, “Our tusk is to observe and report.” And Andy can’t stop killing civilians.

Jeff:

So I also really appreciated the Colombo investigation scene in which Andy…

Sarah:

Oh, my God.

Jeff:

… goes into the house of Ken and finds the blood on the floor, which he picks up with a napkin, puts it in his pocket, the broken television, the dead flowers, and he proceeds to walk around and just push around some shirts, look under the bed, and then comes out. He’s like, “Well, I figured it all out. I think this guy killed Tina.”

Sarah:

I’ve done a better job looking for my phone charger drunk in my bedroom in total darkness than he did with the crime scene with Tina’s body.

Jeff:

The crime scene felt like those apps that you see advertisements for on your phone where it’s like, can you find the clues of the mystery? And there’s this giant key, it’s all highlighted. It’s like, can you find it?

Sarah:

And he brushes past the shirts in the closet and he lifts up the bouquet of flowers and he is like, “Well, no damning evidence under here.”

Jeff:

Now, all of this has led to, of course, Chuck has an informant who turns out to be a racist who drops the N-bomb in the middle of this film and starts out the [inaudible 00:11:48] riot, and that’s how he ends up at the amazingly named bar, the 7 Seas.

Sarah:

Okay, so the first bar fight was the race riot and the racists, which is weird for Tampa, but maybe not weird for Tampa in the ’70s. The racists are clearly the ones in the wrong here, and they get the shit kicked out of them by the rest of the bar mates, including Mr. No Legs, who shows up about halfway through. I don’t think we’re ever told who called him.

Jeff:

He was there. He was at a table. He was at a table in the background.

Sarah:

People get thrown through the plate class window. People get thrown over the bar top. There’s transgender people watching. There’s little people watching. There’s people of all different races watching. There’s the bartender who’s this older black male with an afro kind of just holds his head and rubs it like, “Oh, another Tuesday.” This is just standard practice for 7 Seas Bar.

Jeff:

After the fight is over, the bartender laments, “I’ll be damned.”

Sarah:

He was not upset enough about the trashing of his bar.

Jeff:

And so this leads to another, I would say, iconic scene in which it is discovered that the police have found the body of Ken, which was apparently not very well hidden. And now Leo, who is the branch manager of the mob, I guess, he’s like a middle management below Mr. No Legs, above Ken, I believe. And so he and someone called the Mower, never explained why that’s his name, dress up as ambulance attendants to go and try and steal the body from the hospital. And this of course does not go well. They are interrupted by our two researching detectives. A fight ensues, as every 40 to 50 seconds, a fight ensues in this film, and the badlands get away, but something very fishy is revealed. Captain Hathaway has sent them to identify if the body was Wilson’s body, but Andy had never said Wilson’s name to Hathaway.

Sarah:

But I love that he specifies it’s because he didn’t do his paperwork. He’s like, “I know he doesn’t know that name because I did not submit the work I was supposed to do yesterday.” The crime here was that Hathaway thought that his beat cops were halfway competent and they weren’t. And their own incompetence actually leads them to kind of accidentally reverse Colombo solve the crime, because he was like, “Wait, Wilson?”

Jeff:

“He shouldn’t know that name. He didn’t get the blood in the napkin like I did.”

Sarah:

“I haven’t done my homework for weeks.”

Jeff:

This was like the ChatGPT solution of a mystery, like a murder mystery, where it’s like the end of the second act, they don’t know how to wrap it up and they’re like, “Oh, I know a good trick. We’ll just have someone disclose something that they shouldn’t know and that’ll be the way that we resolve this.”

Sarah:

Well, I’m honestly surprised that they even caught that. That had to be end level mystery solving for both of them at that point. That was their career highlight.

Jeff:

Now, at this point, we haven’t got a whole lot of Mr. No Legs. I remember as we were watching it, commenting, Mr. No Legs is not actually very present in this film, and when we do see him in the middle act, it’s either A, at the bar, shanking a racist in the stomach, or B, it’s by his pool with his bombshell, blonde mistress, wife, support worker, maybe, not sure, throwing his ninja stars at dartboard.

Sarah:

Okay. And I think that actually makes him a legitimately aspirational character because when he is not out at the bar achieving racial justice, he’s hanging out with Danger Angels at the country club.

Jeff:

This is also the moment when we finally had an answer as to why Mr. No Legs is Mr. No Legs. It’s disclosed in a conversation with D’Angelo, the mob boss, that Mr. No Legs, before he was Mr. No Legs, I guess he was just Mr. Legs at that point, was at the docks. He’d worked at the docks and he’d lost his legs in a dock accident, and D’Angelo then brought him on to the mob racket to take care of him after the injury because, of course, there is no healthcare in America.

Sarah:

Yeah, I think it’s relevant at this point to include that Mr. No Legs does in fact have no legs in real life because in disability film, we really cannot take that for granted. And he does all his own stunts.

Jeff:

Yeah, they did not Lieutenant Dan this 100%.

Sarah:

No, they did not. They did not Beautiful Mind this operation.

So then we get to act three, the final act, and the final act is also surprisingly absent of Mr. No Legs for a film that’s called Mr. No Legs. So you get the showdown. Mr. No Legs decides that he’s had enough with the bullshit of his mob boss, and he’s pretty sure that the mob boss is lining up to pick him off anyway because he’s always been fairly low level. And I think that’s where we get the review, where the reviewer thought that there was some kind of class consciousness angle there, but I don’t think Mr. Legs is about that.

Jeff:

No.

Sarah:

I think we agreed on that. So Mr. No Legs sets up a showdown between his secret informant, captain Hathaway, and D’Angelo, the small shipments of cocaine mob boss of Tampa Bay, Florida. And when they meet up, it’s actually kind of funny because they look at each other and they go, “Hey, who told you to come here?” “No legs.” “You?” “No legs.” And they kind of chuckle and they go, “Well, that’s kind of funny, actually because I was a bit to pick him off.” And Mr. No Legs, just like how he appeared in act one, rolls back into the same warehouse, does the same stunt with the double barrel shotguns on both sides of his manual wheelchair and immediately picks off D’Angelo. But Hathaway puts up more of a fight, kills No Legs with, I think he emptied the entire gun, like six shots into Mr. No legs. Unfortunately, he doesn’t even get a good death scene. We just see his arms fall to the side and that’s it. We never see him again. And Hathaway goes on an epic car chase with the rest of Tampa Bay, Florida. Discuss.

Jeff:

Yeah. Yeah. So Mr. No Legs goes out in a bit of a blaze of glory. So he’s jumped at the pool by, I believe it was three, possibly four thugs. He fights all of them off with his incredible kung fu. He judo chops a guy to death in a pool. He drowns another man. He ninja stars another man. And he butt kicks another man and then punches him to death in the face. So he is taking out four guys single-handedly. His PSW helper man, I think, ran away. He was not present at all during this scene. And then he goes and has this blaze of glory, kills the man that wronged him but doesn’t get the cop.

This car chase that Hathaway then goes on literally feels like half of the movie. It keeps going and going and it has literally every car chase cliche that’s ever been created. There are rollover cars that explode. There are cars that go through a mobile home. There are cars that drive through baskets of fruit. There’s a car that drives through ice bricks. There is cars that spin out. There is…

Sarah:

You forgot the jump.

Jeff:

… power slides. There is a jump off of a raised bridge.

Sarah:

The jump.

Okay. My pop theory is that the script was actually created after they had fully written this car chase to justify the budget needed to make this spectacular Hot Wheels style car chase. It was wild.

Jeff:

I fully endorse this theory, and it’s odd that there’s so much emphasis on the car chase, but in all of the promotional material, that is not what people talk about. Everything is about fighting.

Sarah:

That’s why I was so bothered by the synopsis. Yeah, a fifth of the film is actually just the car chase.

Jeff:

Right. And so why are you talking about gunfights and martial arts and all this other stuff when the car chase is literally the only thing you cared about? And the bar fight, I guess.

Sarah:

Fair.

And if we’re talking about things the film does well, which I think is later, but I’m going to jump in really early here. Off the top, the cinematography of the car chase, the whole sequence I actually thought was beautifully shot. I think, on average, the cinematography in this film was nothing special. Definitely not Villeneuve level or anything. When we got to the car chase, he was putting some serious thought into the direction of these supercars and muscle cars and all the damaged cars and where the placement of all these obstacles should go. It was better than Die Hard.

Jeff:

My theory is this, my vibe for all of this movie is that it’s all a pastiche of the things that the director and the writer like in film and television, and they just took all the stuff they like and tried to reproduce it. So the fight scenes are WWF, right? They are so WWF. They clearly were wrestling fans, and the bar fight in particular was like they live on steroids. It was so WWF. And so I think similarly, they love car chases and they were like, well, what are all the best things we’ve seen about chases and let’s just redo them.

Sarah:

They did that. It was greatest hits. It was the Shania Twain Greatest Hits album of ’70s, early ’80s. They’re actually also omniscient car chase scenes.

Jeff:

100%.

Sarah:

Amazing.

Jeff:

It was high octane. The cops were wearing visors clearly to hide the fact that it was the same stunt driver in every car.

Sarah:

Yeah, because the stunt driving was actually really good. They were doing stuff where I was like, this is actually actively dangerous to shoot. It’s the ’70s.

Jeff:

Oh, yeah. Again, it wouldn’t surprise me if literally this movie created three or four Mr. No legs during the car chase.

Sarah:

So in that way, it’s actually disability activism.

Jeff:

Maybe, actually. Yeah.

Sarah:

DAV recruitment. Not only inspiration, but active recruitment.

Jeff:

Yeah. I really wonder if the buddy cop piece came first or if the No Legs piece came first. Was this a matter of they knew this guy and he said, yeah, let’s get him into a movie. Let’s put it together. Did they have this buddy cop car chase thing, and then they met the guy and were like, “Oh, let’s shoehorn him in”? And then we’re like, “This is the best part. So let’s make this the sell for this film.” Because it is the most original part of this film.

Sarah:

Definitely.

Jeff:

Mr. No Legs is everything else you’ve seen a million times before.

Sarah:

Okay. And this is edging into disability theory light. And I wouldn’t say I’m on the side of goodness here because you could say that I’m being kind of tropey or putting him up on a pedestal, but stay with me. If you were the guy who directed five different versions of Flipper and a producer called you up and was like, “Yo, I’m going to give you like 100K. You want to grab your boys and make a film?” And he goes, “Adam Sandler style, knocking on doors of his friends’ houses in Tampa, Florida. And one of his friends says, ‘I got a guy. He’s a war vet. He was literally on the Marines. He wants to dabble in acting as a side gig, but there’s one thing.'” And the flipper director and the flipper writer was like, “What? What could it possibly be? This guy’s a badass.” And this other guy goes, “He’s got no legs.”

Jeff:

Movie brain.

Sarah:

Origin story. And a film was born.

Jeff:

A film was born.

Sarah:

And I think the sheer notoriety of that guy, because even in the IMDB reviews, and these guys get intensively into film in ways that we don’t. I think we are casual film lovers and these guys can name every second cameraman in Caddyshack type film lovers. And they were naming other things that these relatively unknown actors were in besides Flipper. And everybody seemed to know Mr. No Leg’s backstory as this war vet, but he hasn’t actually done anything else. So I think he’s just this whole guy in Florida, like Waterloo used to have this guy named Bucket Man, and all he did was walk up and down the streets of Waterloo banging a bucket to a beat, and everyone knew who he was. My theory is that Mr. No Legs is the bucket man of ’70s Tampa. And they were like, we got to do it. We got to make an action film with Mr. No Legs and everybody treats him like he already exists and he belongs here because he does. He’s already a local legend.

Jeff:

And grew into this cult legend beyond. He is the best part of the film.

… about this film. And I got to say, of all the films we’ve watched so far for this podcast, this one didn’t give us a lot to chew on. The one most obvious thing to point out, I would say disability trope that comes up in this movie, of course there needs to be the disclosure scene. So there is that moment where it’s like, why does he have no legs? It was an incident at the dock. So we had to have that little slipped in. It had no real relevance, and there was no reason for us to know why Mr. No Legs, A, had no legs, and B, why D’Angelo employed him. Because at that point, we already knew that he was a merciless killer. That’s why he’s employed. It has nothing to do with the fact that he was injured at the docks.

Sarah:

Absolutely.

Jeff:

That didn’t need to happen. But there’s this, again, this desire that you must position disability, you must explain why it happened or what happened, because that’s the thing that everybody wants to know and they can’t get past it.

Sarah:

I think it’s worth noting though, that they wait till almost halfway through the film to do it. Normally that comes pretty early on. It was late into act two before somebody was like, “Yo, what’s the deal with Mr. No Legs?” Our introduction to him, I actually thought it was pretty badass, even from a CDS angle. He rolls into the warehouse, flips down the… What’s that called? The arms…

Jeff:

It’s an armrest.

Sarah:

… of his chair, flips them down into two fully loaded double barreled shotguns, looks up, starts firing. That’s your introduction to disability in this film. And I have no notes. That’s great.

Jeff:

Yeah, it was completely unnecessary to disclose it. I mean, and similarly, I fully believe, I thought that they were going to just be like, “Oh, he got injured in Nam.” That he’s a war vet and that’s why he’s also a killer, because he is a soldier, he’s trained, but they were like, “No, he was a dock worker and now he’s a martial artist.”

Sarah:

Well, it’s funny that they reversed the trope for it because he really was an injured and retired marine. So that would’ve been the only legitimate instance where you could do that without being tokenistic…

Jeff:

Totally.

Sarah:

… because that’s his real ass backstory. And you got to wonder if it was Mr. No Legs himself who was like, “Nah, just make me a dock worker.”

Jeff:

“Yeah, no, I’m just a regular man. Anyone could do what I do.”

Sarah:

Yeah, “Except I have shurikens on my wheelchair.”

Jeff:

“And I will go right for the neck.”

I did see the other one, and this is a little tropey. There does seem to be this desire often when it comes to adaptive devices to build in cool features. And this is something that some people get bothered by it. I actually am going to go in a really different direction with it. I think that we need to actually embrace this and realize that at the moment, we are not creative enough with wheelchairs. At the moment, we think of wheelchairs purely as mobility devices. We’re like, we’ll give you a chair, we’ll give you some wheels, maybe a battery and a motor. And that’s it, more or less. But what if we built wheelchairs that were like go-go gadget chairs. Why aren’t we putting things like our robotic arms and lift devices and all these other tools that could help somebody live independently?

We don’t do that for a variety of reasons, but a lot of them are because of policy. A lot of them are money related, but I think a lot of them is that we don’t have the creativity. And so I find… And this is where I wanted to come back to from the previous episode or mentioned, I want to talk about accessibility in this film because something that I think is really amazing about this movie, and I think this is something that we see in this super wheelchair that’s rigged out with gadgets, is that within the movie space, we have the ability to create anything. The world of a film doesn’t exist. Literally, they have to build sets to make a film. You are building buildings often if you have budget or in this instance, you’re like choosing buildings.

So for this film, they actively made these choices to ensure that all of the places that they were going were wheelchair accessible, and they needed to because they had a cast member that had a disability. But what’s amazing about it is that we then present this fantasy world in which we kind of had a what if the world was accessible? And so in some ways, in 1975, the same year that the UPIAS puts out their manifesto of the social model of disability, we have this movie that comes out that basically shows if the world was just accessible, disabled people could be anything, even killers, they could even be mob enforcers.

Sarah:

I was wondering where you were going with that whole bit. And I’m really glad we got there with it.

Jeff:

I landed it. It was a bit of a journey. I apologize.

Sarah:

You did a lot of work to get to that destination, and I appreciate that.

Jeff:

Yeah, but it’s one of those things where I feel film so often lets us down, is that rather than leaning into the fantasy of what disability and accessibility could be, they instead lean into the fantasy of a world either without disability, a world that’s precarious for disabled people or a world in which disabled people are the threat themselves because of. And I feel like this movie resists all of those things, even though Mr. No Legs is dangerous.

Sarah:

Okay, I’m going to go, yes and. And I mentioned this in the last episode, but we didn’t go into too much debate over it. I mentioned the Canadian TV series, Schitt’s Creek, because it got really famous for this kind of defacto inclusivity angle it used, and everybody was kind of wondering because the same way there’s a trope around how did you become disabled, there’s this kind of corollary trope around, especially for leading gay characters, how did you become gay? What was your moment? What was your coming out? All of these side questions. And Schitt’s Creek was really interesting because they kept doing interviews mostly for American publications where they kept answering that with, we didn’t want to honestly engage those questions. We wanted to just show you a town and a place where nobody wants to ask that. It’s just it’s fine however you are and however you come, and all the problems they have are not identity based in that way.

It’s like silly problems about socialization or class rhetorics especially, or I think there was an arc with a minor racial rhetoric, but they never, ever, ever brought the LGBT intersectionality angle to account on purpose. And I think there were some people who said, that’s not realistic and therefore not inclusive because it’s kind of this envisioning of a reality that doesn’t really exist. But I guess, my counter argument to that would be kind of [inaudible 00:34:00], the reality we’re currently in doesn’t really exist because I’ve made that up too. You can do that forever and ever and ever because my experience of the real is obviously really different from the real that existed in Tampa in 1975, and that is going to be really different from the reality of 1980s Kuala Lumpur. So if I’m trying to build arguments on what I feel the real is, we’ve entered this kind of pseudo [inaudible 00:34:31] in fantasy of now I have to define something that which is, by its own nature, undefinable. So in that instance, why don’t we just create what we want to see?

Jeff:

Yeah. Build the world that you wish to live in.

Sarah:

Yeah. Kind of Adrienne Maree Brown vibes.

Jeff:

Yeah, a little bit. A little bit. One thing that I think we need to leave off before we go into our ratings of this film is that it is remarkable in some ways, that this movie was made in the 1970s and is possibly one of the more progressive representations of disability that I have ever seen.

Sarah:

Absolutely.

Jeff:

In part because it just is. It doesn’t need to be defined. It doesn’t need to be a motivating factor.

Sarah:

No.

Jeff:

He just happens to be disabled. That’s just a thing.

Sarah:

And apart from race, which I guess was beyond the realm of the believable in the ’70s, especially ’70s America, especially ’70s southern America, you can keep adding layers onto that, but they treat kind of disabled identity, but also sexual identity with this kind of Schitt’s Creek nature of, “Yeah, dude, that’s just you. That’s how you’ve come to the table. That’s fine with me.” The only thing characters ever seem to have a problem with is race, and it’s only really the white characters who have a problem with it. So that’s saying something too, right?

Jeff:

Absolutely. Yeah, and I feel like they fully knew what they were doing in that, or not, or maybe not. Maybe they accidentally got this right. And maybe-

Sarah:

If that was accidental, that’s a phenomenal accident because that film was more inclusive than most actual published disability theory I read in my lifetime.

Jeff:

There were so many accidents, so many accidents in this film.

Sarah:

Yeah.

Jeff:

Well, as you know, every movie that passes through the gates of Invalid Culture must be evaluated through our completely scientific, rigorous, tested methodology, a scale that we use to measure the quality of film.

Sarah:

It’s at least as rigorous as anything coming out of clinical psychology, I’ll say that.

Jeff:

Taking shots, I appreciate that.

So like in golf, our scores mean the lower the score, the better a movie fares. Lower is better, that’s what we’re looking for.

So we’re going to start out here. On a scale of one to five, with five being the least accurate, how accurate does this film portray disability?

Sarah:

I think if we’re reading it with the live into what you want to see and be and do in the world argument, which is what we were ostensibly operating on toward the end of this conversation, I’d have to give it a one, because it is portraying the disabled world as we want to see and be and do in it. And it’s doing a lot of work that a lot of modern disability films seem completely incapable of or are blatantly unwilling to do, which is to take people as they are.

If you put this up against, especially psychosocial disability films like Silver Linings Playbook and A Beautiful Mind, the entire consciousness of the film is about what’s wrong with them and how you can use that positively. In this film, it’s still about… It centers on the disablement of Mr. No Legs. They call him Mr. No Legs. It’s probably not his name, but it’s about everything he can do. Even the reviewers who called themselves far writers who in this argument, you think they wouldn’t be with you on this, they could do nothing but tell us how much of a badass, how much of an inspiration, how much he brings to the world and society. So in that way, he would be a really phenomenally well done disability character, even if this came out last year, which I think in a lot of ways is kind of sad, right?

Jeff:

Right. Yeah.

So I was almost in line with you. I gave this a two out of five, and the only reason that I took off marks was that I don’t believe the full accessibility of the mob layer and everything else in Tampa was very accurate to reality. It did present this sort of dream world of full accessibility, but I think that’s a minor sin. I’m not totally against that, but it would’ve been kind of hilarious if he had gone to the bar, the 7 Seas Bar to start shit and it was inaccessible and he wasn’t able to get in. That would’ve been… Actually, and then double barrel shotguns [inaudible 00:39:43] for it. [inaudible 00:39:44].

Sarah:

Okay. He would’ve, I’m calling it, thrown the chair with one arm down the stairs, launched himself down there and started fighting.

Jeff:

Yeah.

Okay. On a scale of one to five, with five being the hardest, how hard was it for you to get through this film?

Sarah:

I thought this film was an absolute delight. I said in the last episode, my roommate actually asked me what I was doing because I was sitting in my room with Jeff just laughing maniacally for much of this film. It is genuinely hilarious. I give it a one. I’d watch it again tomorrow.

Jeff:

Yeah, this was a hard one for me. It was under 90 minutes. Blessings. But also every scene, at the end of the scene, I was ready for the next. I was like, give me more. I want to see what’s coming next. There were zingers throughout the film that were delivered perfectly. It was silly and funny and weird and a fight every 10 seconds.

Sarah:

And you know what? Callback to the cinematographer. Whoever they got for that, he was legitimately very good. He was well above the caliber of Mr. No Legs, the film, and he made it look, especially the car choreography at the end, really good.

Jeff:

Totally.

And this might be actually the hardest one for us to answer. On a scale of one to five, with five being the most, how often did you laugh at the [inaudible 00:41:20] that we’re not supposed to be funny?

Sarah:

Okay. Yeah, that’s hard because I really do think that there’s no way this was supposed to be serious. There’s no way. And if you know, it’s supposed to be a funny kind of pseudo parody, but also goes really hard for a parody on manly man bravado action films, it’s a one. But if you think that they legitimately wanted every minute of this to be Die Hard and you come out of this kind of wishing you were him, I guess it would be a 2 or a 2.5. I don’t know. I think maybe I’ll go in the middle. Maybe I’ll go two.

Jeff:

So hilariously, I had almost the exact same wrestling with angels in my mind, and I also came out at a two. And the only reason I came out at two is that I think there were lots of moments in this film that were objectively hilarious. I think they clearly wanted to be funny. A lot of the little one-liners were clearly supposed to be funny. I think a lot of the fight scenes… When you stab at a Camaro with a broad sword, clearly intended to be funny.

There were other parts of the film that I’m not totally sure if they were in on the joke or not. I’m not sure if they were trying to mock hypermasculinity or if they were just performing hypermasculinity, unclear. But either way, it was funny, and I think I lean more towards you, like this is supposed to be like a Grindhouse-like film. And so I think that that kind of over the top nature, that sort of funny, I think it’s supposed to be funny. So I’m going to give it a two. It might be a one, but I’d want to talk to the directors and find out a little bit more about what they were actually intending.

Sarah:

Yeah, if the directors came out and said, this is a parody of big macho action films, it would be a one for sure.

Jeff:

Okay.

And our last question. On a scale of one to five, with five being the most, how many steps back has this film put disabled people?

Sarah:

I think we should be citing this film in the AODA. I think this should be a core piece of disability arguments and disability empowerment moving forward because it wins over even the most hard to win people on the epistemological and ontological use value in the loosest sense of CDS gang. One.

Jeff:

Yeah, this was an easy one. I didn’t even have to think about it. If there was the ability to give zero, I would give zero. I do not believe this set us back. Okay, maybe it did earn the one. It doesn’t deserve the zero. The only thing is that I think it does unfortunately lead to a tremendous disappointment by both disabled and non-disabled people when they realize in the real world that every wheelchair does not have double barrel shotguns hidden in the armrest. And that maybe does set us back a little bit. It promises a future that never occurs.

Sarah:

You know what? Never say never. Because everybody thought iRobot was a spectacular 2044 future, and it’s looking more like a 2004 future.

Jeff:

Fair enough.

With the lowest score ever on Invalid Culture, drum roll please, the amazing Mr. No Legs clocks in with a score of 10. This might be an underappreciated piece of art.

Sarah:

If I saw a poster in a store for this film, I would buy it outright.

Jeff:

If I saw Mr. No Legs’ in Tampa, Florida, in real life, I would beg to become his Danger Angel.

Sarah:

I want to be a Danger Angel as a career choice now. This movie has changed the trajectory of my life and probably yours because you will forever be in pursuit of a Mr. No Legs style chair.

Jeff:

Yeah. So I’m going to chalk this one up as an enormous win for the disabled population and an absolute abject failure, on my part, for trying to find a terrible movie, because I didn’t. I accidentally found a good one.

Sarah:

I’m going to be so much more disappointed next month because the fall is going to be hard from here.

Jeff:

It is a steep drop-off as we get going in the year of 2024. That’s right, folks, there are many more episodes to come, so be sure to tune in next month as we continue, or rather maybe begin our descent into the depravity of disability representation in film.

And thus concludes another episode of Invalid Culture. Thank you for joining us. I hope you enjoyed it or not.

Do you have a film you would like for us to cover on the pod, or even better, do you want to be a victim on Invalid Culture? Head over to our website, invalidculture.com and submit. We would love to hear from you.

That’s it for this episode. Catch you next month, then until then, stay invalid.

[Theme song, “Arguing with Strangers” by Mvll Crimes finishes out the episode]

 

 

Cover of the film "My Christmas Guide" featuring characters Trevor, Payton and guidedog Max.

What if seeing puns became a movie?

Anyone can see it is Christmas-time, but will a blind man spot the benefits of using a guide dog? Do you need eyes to be a man and a professor? In our 2023 Christmas special, Jeff and sar peep the recently released Hallmark Channel made-for-television film My Christmas Guide. Join us in gazing into the Christmas vomit abyss that is this romantic (?) holiday thriller woke-a-thon.

Listen at…

Grading the Film

As always, this film is reviewed with scores recorded in four main categories, with 1 being the best and 5 being the worst. Like the game of golf, the lower the score the better.

How accurate is the representation?

Jeff – 2 / 5

sar – 1 / 5

Total – 3 / 10

How difficult was it to watch the movie?

sar – 4 / 5

Jeff – 5 / 5

Total – 9 / 10

How often were things unintentionally funny?

sar – 2.5 / 5

Jeff – 3 / 5

Total – 5.5 / 10

How far back has it put disabled people?

Jeff – 2.5 / 5

sar – 4 / 5

Total – 6.5 / 10

The Verdict

Regrets, I have a few…

Podcast Transcript

Jeff:

Welcome to Invalid Culture, a podcast dedicated to excavating the strangest and most baffling representations of disability in popular culture. Unlike other podcasts that review films you’ve probably heard of, invalid Culture is all about the abyss of pop culture, adjacent media that just never quite broke through because well, they’re just awful. Now let’s dig in to the worst films you’ll wish you never knew existed.

Mvll Crimes [musical interlude]:

I’m arguing with strangers on the internet // not going out today because I’m feeling too upset // I’m arguing with strangers on the and I’m winning…and I’m winning!!

Jeff:

Welcome to a special bonus edition of Invalid Culture. As always, I am your host Jeff and I am joined today by past podcast and new co victim. Sarah, welcome.

sarah:

Hello. Thanks for having me.

Jeff:

Are you excited to be here again?

sarah:

Obviously I haven’t been here since the last Christmas special.

Jeff:

Yeah, we’ve been on a bit of a hiatus, but we thought it’s Christmas time, it’s time for family, and so it was time to bring you back for another moment of torture

sarah:

Time for more terrible Hallmark films vaguely about disability.

Jeff:

Absolutely. That’s the time of the year. It’s the reason for the season, I believe. So this year to ring in the festive season, we were given a present by the Hallmark Channel. Once again, a Hallmark has decided to dip their giant toes and walking sticks into the world of disability and media or film. This time with the 2023 November release of My Christmas Guide. Now from the Box, My Christmas Guide is allegedly a movie about “a college professor who connects with a guide dog trainer after losing his eye sight and a adopting a seeing eye dog.” That’s essentially the high level, but we’re going to dig a lot deeper into this movie. Before we do though, as I said, this is a Hallmark movie, made for TV, is released in November. It was written by Keith Hemstreet. Now he has a very interesting history. He has written a ton of movies in the last year that all appear to be romantic TV shows, things like a Royal Christmas Crush also came out this year and Love in Glacier National also cave out this year, so Keith Hemstreet just banging out the romantic TV movies. It was also directed by Max Mcguire. Max splits their time between Christmas movies, Christmas by Design, Record Breaking Christmas, The Most Colorful Time of Year and murder movies. Other movies he’s done: Abducted on Prom Night, The Good Wife’s Guide to Murder, the Ice Road Killer, et cetera.

sarah:

I want him to combine those two genres. I feel like he would be the guy to do it. I want the Ice Road Christmas killer.

Jeff:

Yeah, I love it. I love it. I thought that was phenomenal. What a career path. Great. Now, unlike most films that we do in this podcast, this film actually features an actually disabled actor playing their own character. Ben Mehl is playing the main character Trevor. Ben is disabled, is blind, and is best known probably for his role as a librarian in Netflix’s show You and he’s noted in an interview that quote, my role on you was my first role where I haven’t had to pretend to be able to see more than I actually can. He went on to talk about this movie in particular, stating that to be able to represent a character who has vision loss while personally having similar experiences attracted me to the role. He says that he hopes that he’s able to raise people’s understanding and awareness of the different experiences of disabled people and wants audiences to always be reminded to be aware of disability. So that’s a little bit about who we have in our main character. Trevor, does that help you understand the movie better at all, Sarah?

sarah:

No, but I really wish that he went for the seeing pun in that based on the script.

Jeff:

Yeah, not to always be aware, but to always see to

sarah:

See disability wherever we go.

Jeff:

Absolutely. Our romantic lead, a female lead is played by Amber Marshall, who is our guide dog trainer. She is from London’s own, I should have said London’s own Amber Marshall from London, Ontario, best known probably for her role as Amy in CBC’s Heartland. So we’ve got some real Canadian media legends

sarah:

Here. That’s something I’ve actually heard of. That’s pretty cool.

Jeff:

And then there’s a third character not in the Love triangle, but critical to the film, which is Trevor’s daughter.

sarah:

Oh, I thought you were going to say Chainsaw.

Jeff:

No. Chainsaw is the most important character to me.

sarah:

He was also surprisingly important to the Love Triangle, though. Don’t sleep on chainsaw.

Jeff:

Don’t sleep on chainsaw, but Chainsaw, unlike Ava Weiss who plays Annie, Chainsaw was not in the film Moonfall, which Ava Weiss was. She is in the terrible possibly amazing film Moonfall.

 

So just off the absolute top, Sarah, just really quickly, how did you feel about this movie?

sarah:

If you excuse all of the really poorly done references to the fact that they’re trying to do an inclusivity film, but through the lens of extreme exclusivity, they were obsessed in every scene with pointing out that the protagonist was blind. He is different guys. By the way, this is an inclusivity film. I was actually much more fascinated by the love triangle angle because I am convinced and we can argue about this, that the true victim of this film was Chad, the heavily gaslit boyfriend. I really feel like he lost a lot in this, and you’re supposed to just go with it because he is a nothing character and I disagree. I’m coming out in defensive Chad here. What did you think,

Jeff:

Jim? Chad? Yeah, I would say honestly, and I apologize to all the Hallmark fans out there, this was probably one of the most boring films I’ve watched for this podcast.

sarah:

It was hard. That was a tough one.

Jeff:

It was so slow and nothing happens. I think it’s the only redeeming quality, thank God. I don’t know if this is cinematographer decision or the director’s decision, but the number of Slowmo glamor shots of the Guide back of

sarah:

Max, yes, was the

Jeff:

Only thing that helped me get through this film.

sarah:

We were counting them at one point.

Jeff:

There were many. That was great. That was great. I have huge, huge love for that, huge love for chainsaw, and while those are our opinions and our sort of overarching views of the film, we are not the only ones who have opinions views about this film. There are of course critics that have written about this film that have analyzed it, have spoken about it, and let’s hear a little bit from them. And so our first critic that I wanted to talk about is Brett White. Now, Brett White wrote a very long thing about this film for Decider. It’s basically a blog that lets you help to understand if you want to watch a movie or not, which I think is actually a pretty clever, I pretty clever conceit. This is what Brett White had to say about his experience with the film. There’s a lot of patient character work that you only realize was character work, right? As the script is making big emotional moves, he goes on to say, interestingly, Trevor feels unlike any hallmark hunk we’ve ever had, primarily because he has a brainy profession and doesn’t exactly brood smolder or flirt with our leading lady. Trevor’s a different kind of leading man, and Ben is fantastic in the part

sarah:

I’m desperately trying not to ask for his background, but I’m thinking definitely Laurier and definitely film studies, and I can say that because I did Laureate film studies. I do like, what did I call her? I called her b-list Santa Stark, the protagonist love interest. She was probably the closest thing to actual talent in the film, but the rest, I don’t know, agree to disagree.

Jeff:

I particularly like this quote because it seems almost like Brett White is kind of calling Ben not attractive, is sort of like he’s

sarah:

Not my type.

Jeff:

He’s smart. He doesn’t brood or smolder or flirt.

sarah:

I needed a positive adjective and the one I went with was smart.

Jeff:

He’s a brainy professional,

sarah:

But even, okay, can we do quick rants?

Jeff:

Yeah,

sarah:

Even the scenes where they let him, okay, so context, they let him be some kind of amalgamation between sessional professor and full professor depending on what room he was standing in. That’s another thing. But if you take for granted that he is a legitimate English professor, every single time he does a scene where he’s supposed to be very bookish and knowledgeable about classical texts, he blows it. It sounds like he just read it the other day and he’s nervously commentating on it, and everyone around him immediately dismisses anything he says about literature to be like, no, your only legitimate character trait is that you’re blind. We don’t care about this book thing.

Jeff:

Yeah, I fully agree. I feel like the one thing I didn’t believe the most is that this man was a professor.

sarah:

Oh yeah. At all. He did no research for that role.

Jeff:

He had the satchel, he had the satchel bag…

sarah:

He did have the satchel, he did the, what’s it called, mock neck turtleneck. He did that a couple times and he attempted to speak in professional situations about literature, which I guess on its face I agree with, but I’ve heard sessionals do a better job than this. Maybe full professor.

Jeff:

Yeah, it sounded like chat GPT writing a professor character. Actually, I think that would probably be better, but yeah, so Brett White, he is a fan. He liked it. It’s a different kind of leading man. He’s not a hunk, he’s not brooding, he’s not smoldering. He doesn’t flirt, but he is fantastic. This was not the opinion however of CGVSLewis on IMDV who gave this a five out of 10 title in their user response quote, A guide dog finds a home for Christmas and a woman boots or obnoxious boyfriend. This is the title of the review.

sarah:

I already disagree, but continue. Yeah.

Jeff:

Okay, so I don’t know what CGVSLewis sounds like, but I assume it sounds a little bit like this: Also, as I keep mentioning, I like my entertainment as entertainment and not social justice causes. I work all day at a hospital as I have for 30 years, and I don’t want to come home turning on my entertainment to be the lecture. Granted, this was a soft lecture, but it still took several opportunities to hit us over the head with the challenges faced by those who are mobility impaired. Guess what? I see it every day at work. A big part of our job is education, and I would like to just be entertained when I come home tired and with sore feet. I did really appreciate the classic literature quotes. That was my favorite part.

sarah:

Where was the classic literature quote? Oh, in his lecture where he started reciting Chaucer from memory or something?

Jeff:

No, you were giving them way too much credit. He had a quote from To Kill a Mockingbird of one kine. He had a quote from Mark Twain and he had a quote from Ellison, which is probably the most not high school English class book, Invisible Man, that they referred to.

sarah:

Oh I’m hoping he was quoting American Psycho. That would’ve been great.

Jeff:

No,

sarah:

That would’ve been a nice Easter egg.

Jeff:

I love the fact that somebody went on a anti woke rant about a Hallmark movie, about a guide dog,

sarah:

The absolute wokeness of mobility impairment.

Jeff:

I also love that part of their job is education, but they don’t know that this would not be defined as a mobility impairment.

sarah:

Yeah, yeah. It checks out actually.

Jeff:

Okay, I’m sorry. I think we need to talk about this film. So let’s take a little wander through the story of my Christmas guide as best as I understand it.

So our movie begins with the introduction of Trevor, a Dickens-obsessed professor of “Classic Literature” in <insert random American town that is totally definitely not St. John’s NFLD>. Losing his vision and wife, no relation, several years ago has left him disoriented. After damaging his face walking into a non-OSHA compliant construction site, there are questions about if Trevor can continue working because there is apparently no way to make a 6-month long sidewalk construction project safe for blind people. One day, while picking up his dog-obsessed daughter from school, local guide dog trainer Payton is out for a stroll and observes Trevor aggressively serving Blind Man™. After staring silently at Trevor from across the street for an entire scene, Payton decides to intrude on this stranger’s life, demanding the school secretary give her dog guide service literature in a clear violation of school stranger danger rules. After some debate about whether or not a dog would make Trevor’s life easier or harder, he eventually relents and begins training to acquire extremely photogenic guide dog, Max. This training largely consists of being guided around town with Payton cosplaying as a harnessed dog and giggling maniacally. What are your thoughts on the beginning of the film, Sarah?

sarah:

That’s almost hard to characterize. I think for the first, at least half of its runtime, I was kind of confused as to what the movie was actually about because I think I was looking for, because when we watched Christmas Evil last year, there’s a fairly robust plot line. There’s this trauma circuit between the brothers and then there’s this B Ark where the brother tries to redeem himself by this Christmas party. There is virtually no blot in this film in comparison to last year’s film. So I kept waiting for the moment of intrigue, but I think upon reflection, the moment of intrigue was actually Peyton forcing herself into Trevor’s world via this kind of weird play at his daughter’s school to get him to adopt a dog because she’s the one who trains the dogs. But then I don’t even know why she knew what school to go to. It stands up until you start thinking about it and then you’re like, wait, that doesn’t make any sense whatsoever.

Jeff:

Yeah, I think they were leaving the school. I think that’s how she knew that was the school that

sarah:

The daughter went to, and she just shows up with disability information. By the way, in case you’ve only been blind since yesterday, I actually train seeing eye dogs and you can have one. Yeah, I didn’t like it. I didn’t like the setup.

Jeff:

Would you say that Peyton is a crafty capitalist or is she a conniving capitalist?

sarah:

Peyton is garbage, so a capitalist in general from the Marxist,

Peyton definitely coming out in favor of getting more clients for her dog training school, but she’s also spending most of the movie gaslighting the shit out of her boyfriend to think that he’s a terrible boyfriend so that she can break up with him with zero regrets or remorse in order to be with this blind guy that she just met, who I guess she thinks is hot or has a charismatic personality or both of which he actually exhibits neither. So I’m not sure what she’s seeing, but she’s definitely seeing more than what she sees in Chad, and she spends so much of this film and you were with me and I was so mad just telling this guy over and over like, you are no good. I don’t like what you’re doing to me. While he’s trying to be the kind of prototypical supportive boyfriend, they even named him Chad. They did him dirty, but they didn’t even make his villain arc good.

Jeff:

So let’s talk about that. As our story continues to unfold, we discover that Peyton is in a strained relationship with her golf obsessed boyfriend, literally named Chad, who is leaving her for Christmas to go golfing in Florida with his friends and chainsaw. Yes, these are their names. I should clarify here. Chad does not look like the kind of person who would have friends named Thurp and Chainsaw. Chad very much looks like the type of person whose friends would be named like Huston and Beauregard perhaps

sarah:

And Derek.

Jeff:

Yeah, absolutely not. And trades up. No. So as Peyton and Trevor start to work together, sparks begin to fly that even a blind man could see that maybe there is something here. Trevor’s daughter, Annie is now starting to get bullied at school because her dad is blind, but through the miracle potential of Peyton becoming her new mommy, she almost completely ignores a bully. Instead of wandering down the school shooter pathway, Peyton and Trevor continue to get closer with Trevor showing Peyton around the only campus in America where Christmas is clearly winning the war on Christmas. Peyton eventually decides to do a totally normal professional relationship thing and introduces Trevor to her father at a Christmas charity event because Chad has bailed on this commitment in order to golf at the number one golf course in Florida.

sarah:

So one, I think we decided partway through the film that although it seems to be introduced from Peyton’s perspective that Peyton and Chad are in a fairly serious relationship, it starts to kind of erode by the two thirds mark, and it seems to me at least that they’re in a way more casual arrangement than Peyton seems to think from the interactions they’re having. But even then he’s doing stuff like calling her from Florida to check in and ask for permission to stay longer with his friends and stuff, which to me seems like solid boyfriend behavior and she gets off the phone rolling her eyes. I can’t believe he would ask for more time. I can’t believe he’s not coming home to me right away from this trip that has clearly been prearranged for months. I don’t know. I’m back on this.

Jeff:

Sure. I mean, I will say there was the swap out where he implied that he had this big surprise for her and then he brings her outside and the surprise is that he has bought himself golf clubs.

sarah:

Surprise baby. I’m leveling up my golf game.

Jeff:

So I, I think this is the tension that they’re trying to draw out and this is that he keeps on insinuating that something’s coming to her, but it never is. It’s never coming. But I think you’re right in that there does appear to be this clear disconnect between where Chad thinks the relationship is and where Peyton thinks it is, because Peyton thinks it’s like we’re married or we’re about to get married, and Chad is sort of like, I might see you next week maybe

sarah:

Pretty much. Peyton also seems to not respond at all to emotional dialogue cues, which he gives a ton of, and at least among my female friends, we talk a lot about how that’s maybe missing in some relationships. Chad’s got it in spades, even if they’re just casual. He’s got the full social worker routine about how validated does this make you feel, or I’d like to remind you that you’re special to me kind of thing. I don’t think a lot of people have that, and she’s just sitting in the car like, Ugh, insufferable. And I’m like, really? Is it insufferable though?

Jeff:

Meanwhile, we have some really scintillating, some scintillated romance sparking between Peyton and Trevor. I will give this movie credit. They did not do the typical trope of the blind man touching the woman’s face and saying, you are beautiful.

sarah:

I’ve felt sure I was waiting for that.

Jeff:

They did not do that. What they did do instead was have Trevor essentially say, you smell real pretty. There is a scene in which he essentially says, well, I can’t see you, but you smell pretty and then asks if he smells pretty.

sarah:

He actually kind of demands that he complimented.

Jeff:

And I’d like to know how many of your relationships Sarah have started with an exchange of smell description?

sarah:

You know what? I think many of my past relationships have actually started on the seeing description how drop dead gorgeous I am. That is a joke. So maybe the joke is because he can’t see, hey, he’s got to start with smell, but he has taken that way too seriously. It gets a bit weird.

Jeff:

And I also wonder, I mean that the implication is that she has a lovely perfume or something that she’s wearing. I would’ve given this way more credit if she had been eating smart food before they met and she smelled like smart food. That is an appealing smell. I would That’s true. If you smell I smelled like smart food, I might ask to be out on a date. That’s true.

sarah:

If you follow it up with offering that smart food to me, yeah, I’d go places with you no problem if

Jeff:

You’ll share the smart food.

sarah:

Exactly. That’s fair enough. I’m getting right in the car.

Jeff:

That’s actually the surprise maybe that Chad had for the end of the film of family sized bag of smart food, perhaps.

sarah:

Perhaps.

Jeff:

Perhaps. Yeah. So we move forward in our film. We’re finally at the end. Chad has now returned from his golf trip only to discover that his girlfriend is spending literally every moment of her life with this clumsy blind man that she had lured off the street confronting Trevor Chad assures Trevor that Peyton is just not that into him. This is just how she is with all the blind people, so he shouldn’t get the wrong idea. Trevor, of course, has a masculine identity crisis and after being forced to go on leave because the school cannot figure out how to make this construction site accessible despite Max clearly having a guide dog that can navigate it has to go on leave. This is the final straw for Trevor whose big sad boy energy results and giving up on everything going home to sulk and returns the dog that he has been living with for weeks.

This tension is almost immediately resolved when a recording of Chad and Trevor’s conversation is revealed to have been captured on the guide dog business security camp. So Peyton dumps Chad runs to Trevor’s arms and assures him that he is a real man and definitely like a professor, even though he is blind, Trevor’s child now, a young offender after assaulted her bully in the cafeteria with a cupcake, is excited for Christmas and spends the final scene watching her dad make it out with new mommy on Christmas Day, which I think makes this film a prequel to Christmas evil.

sarah:

That was a bit of a wild crossover right at the end.

Jeff:

I did not plan this to be essentially a two part that was beautiful. This is evil, but it worked out perfectly. So there’s two things I want to talk about in this part of the film. So thing number one that I want to address. What are your thoughts about the fact that the university forces Trevor to go on a two-term leave because they cannot make this construction site accessible?

sarah:

I actually thought that this is one of the more realistic moments of this otherwise relentlessly unrealistic film because if you do believe and it flip flops throughout the whole film, but if he is a sessional instructor, he would absolutely lose those terms if somebody else could make their lives easier and replace him. So that is completely believable. And in that instance, if he’s been working term to term as a sessional, he probably would have to return the guide dog. And this is an argument I made to you before because all the upkeep costs associated with the CNIB and dog raising and dog training and paying off the dog as well as just all the costs associated with keeping the dog alive, IE vet bills and food and whatever else, he probably legit can’t afford the dog if he loses his sessional contracts. So that was, I don’t think they meant for it in any way to be that realistic. I think it was just a convenient plot point. But from a labor studies perspective, that was probably the most interesting part of the film.

Jeff:

So I had a similar take, but maybe a little hotter than yours. I think on the one hand, I don’t think he’s a sessional because he does have an enormous office and it has a fireplace. It does. Which his office is actually bigger than his chair who is in a cubicle farm for some reason. He does. So he has an enormous office to himself that has multiple Christmas trees. His boss chair, I would assume maybe a dean is in UNC cubicle somewhere on campus. But on the one hand, it’s obviously completely absurd this notion that the solution to, I mean, there’s been a lot of construction in my life and I’ve never been told, well, you can’t come to work. We don’t know how to make it safe for you. There’s a absurdity to it, but at the same time there is this unintentional kind of nailed it where not even just universities, but I think a lot of organizations, it’s exactly the type of baffling response to inaccessibility that rings actually weirdly true.

sarah:

Right. I was going to challenge you on that. Do you really not believe no one responds

Jeff:

Exactly. No one responds to inaccessible situations in a rational way. The responses tend to be really irrational and bizarre, and so in that way, this is actually maybe a really accurate representation that maybe there is actually a bit of reality to be like, yeah, I actually could see an institution being like, well, I don’t know what to do, so we’ll just pay you to not be here.

sarah:

I thought it was totally realistic. Do you remember what happened a couple years ago at u Guelph where the elevator stopped working? So they emailed all the students in wheelchairs and they were like, yeah, take online classes. We’re not fixing the elevator quickly, don’t come. And all the students were like, that’s completely unreasonable. And they didn’t fix it until they got roasted in the news for it.

Jeff:

Yeah. And so think in that way, it seems absurd, but it actually is maybe not completely out of the world. I will say it does seem like an overreaction given the scale of the problem. All we’ve seen of this construction is it appears they’re replacing sidewalk like pieces. This is not a major construction project by any means, and it feels like just a little bit of fencing is all it would take to make this accessible. But I digress.

sarah:

I would also argue that you are at an institution that has a disability studies department, so perhaps it’s easier for me to believe as being from an institution that actively hates disability, that we would fire those people instead of accommodating for them because we would never get a department like disability studies.

Jeff:

So this is the other question I have because they are really, really vague on their wording on what happens here because the way it’s framed in the film is that he just won’t be teaching for the winter term and the summer term that he’ll be taking two terms off and that decision is made and then five students write a letter to the boss and the boss changes his mind.

sarah:

Yeah, I forgot about that.

Jeff:

And reinstates, and so it doesn’t sound like they were necessarily firing him. It’s like he was going on leave. That’s sort of how they kept framing it, is that he had

sarah:

…and the students have a little solidarity protest about it.

Jeff:

Five of them, yes. I just want to put out only five of his students were willing to write a letter to say, you shouldn’t ban him from campus. Correct. Which seems like a low number, a really low number

sarah:

For an English prof. I don’t know. That also kind of rings accurate to me.

Jeff:

Yeah, I mean when they did do this shots of the students, there did only appear to be eight students in his class. Exactly.

sarah:

So five out of eight is actually great.

Jeff:

I also though don’t imagine many universities would do anything if five students wrote them. I think there’s a lot of universities that wouldn’t respond to a hundred students writing to them necessarily. So yes, there was though obviously that scene also killed me because clearly they were trying to do this whole sort of dead poet society like, oh, captain, my captain kind of thing, where they have the students marching into the office, but they didn’t have the budget to hire a lot of people. And so they’re like, well, we’ll have three people and one of them will hand in multiple letters and that’ll be our big protest maneuver. Then all the viewers will get their uplifting, all the students care about him. I felt really underdeveloped, I would say.

sarah:

I think the whole film felt a little underdeveloped. So in that sense, I’m with you. Fair enough.

Jeff:

Fair enough. So I think what we’re moving toward then is there are some tropes here in this film, some pretty well worn others, maybe not quite, but I thought we should probably talk a little bit about some of these tropes. So the first trope that I wanted to talk about is the requisite scene at the beginning of the film in which Trevor has to explain his disability because you Yeah, you

sarah:

Got to wonder why they went for the medicalization angle for something like blindness, because I think it’s fairly culturally accepted that there are some people who can’t see, and that’s kind of all the explanation you need.

Jeff:

They don’t into a surprising amount of detail.

sarah:

I want to see retina scans. I want to see exactly how much Trevor can’t see.

Jeff:

Give me the exact, why don’t you give us the camera view to show us stats, what he’s not able to see. Yeah. This felt weird and it felt weird in particular because of how much time the movie spends reminding us and showing us. If you cannot see

sarah:

From, he wears these ridiculous glasses just as a visual of, remember Trevor is blind,

Jeff:

Giant blackout, wraparound glasses, awful. Got the walking stick, always rocking the eye dog. Eventually he is surrounded by icons of blindness, and yet there needed to be this moment where he sits down for a very serious conversation to tell Peyton all about his medical history.

sarah:

Yeah, Peyton, somebody he literally just met.

Jeff:

Yes, but she smells good. So she does. She’ll understand

sarah:

Marker of trust.

Jeff:

Yes, yes. I’ve always wondered what would happen in my life if every time I met someone, 10, 15 minutes into the conversation, I started reading them out my medical chart and was like, alright before. And they’re like, this is a Starbucks, just make your order, please. And I’m like, no, you need to know about my formal muscular dystrophy.

sarah:

Pardon? It is

Jeff:

The big one.

sarah:

Exactly. The big one. We’re bringing that back.

Jeff:

Yeah. So I wonder, I feel like people would just tolerate it, but I don’t think it would make friends.

sarah:

No, I think people would uncomfortably wait for you to come to a complete stop and then they’d take a right hand turn.

Jeff:

They would no doubt of the relationship probably pretty quickly.

sarah:

Pretty quickly.

Jeff:

What I would love to see from a Hallmark movie is for them to just apply this as a standard for all characters, whether or not they actually have. So it’s like every character is introduced and then they’re like, you just need to know that I actually have dandruff and have my entire life, and I fought it and I was bullied for it. And it’s a thing that my scalp is so dry, medically dry,

sarah:

I’m the love interest and I have adult onset asthma and I’m going to relay for you the factors which make my life more difficult.

Jeff:

Yeah. I’m not really good at sleeping. My security rhythms are really off. Correct. And so I’m actually often really tired. And it’s a medical condition though.

sarah:

Correct. And the blind guys, are you trying to do an oppression Olympics here? I don’t give a shit.

Jeff:

You can take your C Pap machine and stuff it

sarah:

Chill out, buddy. At least you can see it.

Jeff:

Right. So that actually is a great segue to the second trope that I wanted to talk about. This movie spends a lot of time making puns around the word seeing exhausting and sight constantly. Everyone can see, obviously you can see if only they could see why was this intentional or was this Freudian?

sarah:

It had to have been because sometimes you can almost see the actors looking off screen or looking toward camera one or two. Did you get that?

Jeff:

I really wondered how in it, there were so many of them that at times I feel like this was just how the people wrote the script. This is just how they talk with this sort of idea of site being equivalent to knowledge that you must seem to understand. But then there were other times where they very clearly were leaning into it and trying to make this pun. Yes, but it was overwhelming at times. Yes.

sarah:

The equivocation of blindness and ignorance made this film really uninclusive for me. Not only because of how hard they went on it, but also how hard they went on his visual as his defining character trait is that he is blind. And if you know anything else about him, that’s just a bonus, which feels to me extremely uninclusive for an inclusivity film about, look at Trevor, he’s just like us. He has romance problems like us. He has to walk around traffic and construction like us. It just all rang really hollow when you add in all of those, I don’t know Tropey signals about, but remember he’s blind.

Jeff:

Yeah, absolutely. Yeah. I don’t fully understand why they felt they had to keep reminding us. And it may be because this is a made for TV movie. It’s clearly designed to sit within commercial breaks. So people are kind of coming in and coming out at any moment. And I’ll say, and I don’t know if this is a, I compliment to the film, but you could pretty much start watching this movie at any point in the movie and you would have all the information you need to understand what’s about to happen.

sarah:

It’s like friends, it doesn’t matter where you start.

Jeff:

No. You just jump in wherever and you’re like, okay, well this guy’s clearly blind there. People are mentioning it, obviously they clearly have something going on. Oh, her boyfriend’s name, Chad. So he must be bad. Yeah. Okay. So I think that there may be that element here happening where the form is requiring it, but I think that’s a very generous assumption and I don’t think that that’s probably what’s going on.

sarah:

I think that speaks more to how little plot there was. It was bizarrely simplistic even for a Hallmark film.

Jeff:

Yeah. Well, I think it’s important to remember the writer and the director of this film made by 18 movies this year. So I assume they probably wrote the thing in four days, maybe

sarah:

Four hours,

Jeff:

Maybe.

sarah:

Maybe filmed in four days across Cobourg all the way to St. John’s.

Jeff:

Yeah, yeah,

sarah:

Yeah.

Jeff:

The other trope that I noticed that really stood out to me in this film was the bully. So Trevor’s daughter, Annie is being tormented a boy at school who is constantly doing a pantomime of her father. So he is constantly walking around with his eyes closed, being like, I’m blind, look at me and walking into stuff or touching stuff, and Annie’s getting angrier and angrier. Eventually Annie will decide to smash a cupcake in his face. Annie is then suspended, expelled, punished for suspended, suspended for violence on school campus. Again, I think accurate and brave of Hallmark to stand up on the anti-retaliation things that happened in school. And then eventually she will save the bully because as we learned in Star Wars, there’s always a bigger fish and there’s an even bigger bully who is picking on her bully. But this bully wets the bed, I don’t know how Andy knows this, but this boy who clearly experienced trauma as a child and is now bedwetting as an older child, gets called out embarrassed. He runs off and the blind bully is now your dad’s pretty cool actually, and everything’s resolved. Sarah, why do you think whenever we have a disabled character, there is always a need for a bully to be harassing this person or their family?

sarah:

Okay, so I’ve only been thinking about this for 10 seconds, but this is my conspiracy theory for why there is a hyped up bully character. I think, and this doesn’t work if you do it with Christmas Eve, but I think it’s the exception that proves the rule. I think a lot of these movies, especially as they get worse, like Harley Quinn or Beautiful Mind or Silver Linings Playbook, they put in these really simplistic bully characters to stand in for years and years or maybe even decades of accumulated kind of ableist trauma stems or all of these side comments that people made over the years that you could kind of take generously or maybe they didn’t mean it like that kind of thing. And over time, that starts to become its own kind of subra within you as to how people are being seen you. So if you take that as, or the bully as a stand-in for all of those collective years of trauma that you accumulate from these little microaggressions or maybe major aggressions both, it is a really silly way of representing all of that in one shitty character that takes up way less script time, way less film time to get the same kind of trauma across.

But if you don’t understand how all of those microaggressions can pile up into one big bully, I think that nuance is lost on you. And I think in this case, I don’t know if I would give the hallmark screenwriter credit for that’s what he was doing, but I think it could have been, I think I might come out for an at bat for him trying to represent trauma in a quick and dirty fashion.

Jeff:

Yeah. I struggle with this a lot because to have no bullies would be to imply that there isn’t, that people are all treated great all the time and that we never bring up disability, which is not obviously accurate to say when people get bullied just like anybody else, obviously.

sarah:

Absolutely.

Jeff:

So I don’t think it’s an answer of we should never do this, but I also though struggle with it often feels like there’s this quiet appeal in these characters that the viewer is to learn this lesson, to learn the lesson, to number one, to not be that person. So don’t be the bully, which is probably a good lesson. But then I worry that even more so there’s this story being told around the need to defend disabled people, that the world is hostile toward them and that your job as a strong able-bodied person is to stand up for the weaker in able disabled character who’s going to fall prey to this. Correct.

sarah:

And cannot, cannot possibly defend themselves.

Jeff:

Yeah. Trevor never,

sarah:

Even in the film, Trevor didn’t defend himself. It was his daughter that came out of defense of him, which I think he may have been, that would’ve been an honor fight at that point. But I think even more so there’s a kind of irony to that argument because the film itself, as in the screenplay, spends a ton of time bullying Trevor through all the seeing tons and how he’s walking down the street and he always looks a bit doe-ish and the constant visual similes for blindness and ignorance. The film itself is bullying him in the absolute, and we’re supposed to look at that bully and be like, and that’s why we can never be ableist and it doesn’t work. It rings hollow because the writers themselves are clearly wildly ableist about how blindness operates in society.

Jeff:

Yeah, absolutely. Absolutely. And it’s also that same, how many times have we seen the story that the way to fix a bully is to help a bully? And I’ve always found this really complexing to me. If I think back to my time in elementary school, I genuinely do not think that if I had helped the people that were bullying me, I do not think they would’ve stopped bullying me because that’s not how bullying works. It’s not like a social credit system where, well, I will pay you $10 and now you’ll stop bullying me. It doesn’t work like that because at the root of it, there’s a power thing going on here, but there’s also a whole internal thing going on here with the individual. And so then what I’m watching this scene, and he, number one, she basically PTSD shames this boy who’s wetted his bed even though he’s much too old to wet his bed, which is pretty obviously, I would say aside that he probably has experienced in things in his life. So she bullies an older guy, and I wonder the type of dude who’s going to pantomime blindness to mock a girl whose father is blind. I don’t think that he is going to react with thanks to her intervention. I feel like

sarah:

I learned my lesson. Yeah.

Jeff:

I feel like he’s going to be, the worst thing that could happen to him is that he’s being saved by the person that he is ridiculing constantly. I don’t think that’s how you overturn that power dynamic. So it seems like such a weird liberal dream that, well, if we just help each other, we can all build forms of community and that’s the high road. Which isn’t to say that you should also slam cupcakes in people’s faces either. I also don’t think that that’s how you resolve bullying, but

sarah:

I feel like we can almost picture the writer’s room conversation, and I think you hit the nail on the head with calling it liberal fantasy writing where they’re in the room and they go, okay, how do we humanize this bully to show that problems are relative and everybody has their own shit they’re going through and somebody calls out, what if we give him some very obvious trauma symptoms like late stage bedwetting. So now you’re introducing this whole subplot that you can choose to take interest in who is abusing this 12 or 15-year-old boy and why isn’t anyone reporting this? So instead you just get the daughter like, Hey man, that’s really not cool, and I’m going to mock your trauma coping systems because you make really shitty blind jokes in the lunchroom, and if you take it at face value, sure. You get the relativism argument of even people who are mean have their own shit going on.

And it’s possible that everybody is suffering in many of the same ways you are, even if you’re not visibly disabled. But now you’re introducing kind of layers of trauma and deity or long-term illness through this bully character that the movie doesn’t have a hope of framing correctly. They can’t even frame simpler disorders correctly. So this bully character becomes really problematic in a film theory sense because you don’t get his story rectified. Nobody attempts to actually help him because they’ve already deemed him an antagonist character and we get no resolution as to what happens to him. So it’s disappointing.

Jeff:

We’re almost supposed to laugh at the big bully who pees the bed, who also I guess could be defined as disabled, like leafy body disabled anyways by unable to control bodily function. So it’s like, ha, that guy suffered a trauma. Let’s laugh and mock him. But also we are not to be mocking the blind character that is off limits.

sarah:

Correct.

Jeff:

Yeah. Now we’re such an interesting example, unintentionally I think of the way that disabled population, the disabled community is segmented off from itself. And so you have people talking about, well, we need to do better by blind people in this movie. And then they’re like, but also we’re going to just throw under the bus this other type of disability that somebody’s experiencing.

sarah:

Well, it kind of reflects the ongoing conversation even within CDS of disclosed and undisclosed disabilities because disclosed are the ones, if I’m being incredibly reductive, getting all the love right now, everybody wants to include the disclosed disabilities, the more obvious ones, the ones where there’s no moral argument that they did it to themselves or et cetera. Not as willing to include people with terminal illness, mental illness, kind of long-term, undisclosed disabilities or disabilities, we can’t quite as readily understand as blindness. And that can maybe be typified through the bully character who has some obvious traumas and isn’t accepted the same way as the guy with the easily recognizable, easy to diagnose relatively unthreatening disclosed disability.

Jeff:

Yeah, definitely. Now the last trope that I want to talk about comes to us toward the end of the film. So this is after sort of the major breakdown. Trevor is having this masculine identity crisis. He doesn’t think he’s a real man, he doesn’t think he’s a real professor. And we get this very bizarro scene in which Trevor goes and stands behind the lectern and asks Peyton if he looks like a professor. And he discloses that ever since he became blind, he does not think that people will see him as a professor anymore. Again, seeing him as a professor and that he will not look like a professor. Unfortunately, he does have an app that will tell him the color of his suit, but the app, if he puts it on himself,

Will not say professor, unfortunately. And this also ultimately culminates at the end of the film in which Peyton goes and gives an impassioned speech, which convinces Trevor that despite his disability, he is a real man and he is a real professor, and this is sort of what he overcomes his insecurities and will take back his job and will create presumably a mass murderer in his daughter as he starts to make out with Peyton in front of her. So we have this trope often in film in which it is the role of the non-disabled character to come in and to convince the disabled character that they’re not that disabled after all. That may be the only disability and life as a bad attitude. And this movie leaned into it heavily.

sarah:

So I have continuing my completely unrealistic film analysis of this piece of shit film. I think there’s a really interesting connection here, and you can take it in multiple directions, especially if you’re a better scholar than me between, and I’m doing this on the spot, so correct me if I’m wrong, masculine hyper ability. So him at the lectern being this amazing prodigal totally deserving professor character who can do no wrong, all the tropes that we established with cis white male academics who historically have been put up on these Greek like pedestals with the rampant academic notion that we just cannot seem to erase. And it actually goes back to what we were saying about the film bullying him itself, all of that, his narrative of masculine hyper ability and how he doesn’t believe that he could do that. Well, blind relies on the audience presumption that you thought until this moment that blindness equals ignorance.

Like you entered the film this way and nothing we have done so far persuades you otherwise. So then the end of the film when what’s her face, Peyton is correcting him. Like, no, I think that more people than just cis white males could succeed in the academy. And it’s possible that academics don’t just look like that he does really even seem to believe it. Then it’s a really stilted kind of, oh, well, maybe agreement that speaks more to the masculine ability narrative continuing to ring true, and he can be able, despite his disability. And the word despite is coming from this ignorance narrative that you assume everyone in the room has, which anyone in Disability Gang would be immediately offended by. Why are you taking it as a given that that’s what I think that’s my five seconds of film theory about the end of that film.

Jeff:

No. So you’ve totally tapped into something that I really have wanted to talk about with this film. Yeah. Because to add another log onto the Beautiful fire, or maybe it’s a fire that you’ve built here. Excellent. Is that the movie also? It absolutely draws your eyes to the fact that his blindness is a recent development. The implication being he was not blind when he became this hyper-masculine failure of strength and knowledge that the blindness came after, and that it is now a threat to

His current standing, despite the fact that we do get a scene of him listening to, I believe it was a Christmas Carol and might’ve been, or was it one of Dick Dick’s novel? He’s listening to an audio book of a Dickens novel while he’s holding the book, and they ask him, why are you holding the book? You’re listening to it. And he is like, oh, how it feels. Okay, chill out, bro. Anyways, oh, and so anyway, it’s interesting that the movie is both trying to say, of course you’re still a professor even though you’re blind. But the movie itself had to backfill this story and say, oh, but he was a prophet before he became blind. So he did it before disability hit.

sarah:

Yeah. So you’re saying it kind of negates the narrative that he could have even become a professor if he wasn’t blind or if he was blind, he wouldn’t have made it.

Jeff:

Who knows? Maybe it’s like, did they need to put that in there because they felt that the audience wouldn’t believe it, that a blind man could be this professor? So they had to add that in, and I don’t know which is worse. Did they need it to be this lost narrative? He lost his wife, he lost his sight. They were allegedly not connected, but that he’s experienced these tremendous losses that Peyton and to a lesser extent, max, the dog will now fill that there’s this void that needs to be filled. And one of those voids is his relationship with his daughter, which is strange since the end of the marriage. And the other void is his masculinity. He’s lost his masculinity because he lost his wife and he lost his sight. He’s been castrated and that only a woman being reeded to his life. Can he regain that? And once he’s regained it, what does he get back his job? He’s now allowed to be a pro again because the students and the girl have come together, and now he’s a whole man again, even though he’s still has flaws,

sarah:

Count on Jeff to do a psychoanalytic reading of literally any film he has given.

Jeff:

I’m just saying maybe the walking stick is a penis.

sarah:

Do you thank Deleuze and Guattari directly for that, or does that go in the work cited?

Jeff:

I think that was a Lacan. I think that was more of a Lacanian take.

sarah:

Yeah, I think that’s sort of a Lacan. Well shut out, Jacques Lacan.

Jeff:

I think that Lahan hated this film because,

sarah:

Well, according to your reading, he would’ve loved it.

Jeff:

I’m not saying he wouldn’t have been titillated by it. Oh yeah. I just don’t think he would’ve liked it.

sarah:

Jacques Lacan on masculine hyper ability seen through the body.

Jeff:

Yes,

Mvll Crimes:

Exactly.

Jeff:

So as always, invalid culture is of course a completely rigorous and scientific endeavor, and we have developed a completely scientific way of measuring the quality of films. It is of course our invalid culture rating scale.

sarah:

Correct.

Jeff:

We are going to go through our questions here and see where this film lands on the invalid culture scale. As always, we are playing by golf rules, which means the lower the score the better. So let’s get this started. On a scale of one to five, with five being the least, how accurate does this film portray disability?

sarah:

Are we talking about just whether or not the protagonist was accurately blind one? Yeah.

Jeff:

Did it do a good job of presenting blindness or was it way out in the stratosphere about what blindness is?

sarah:

Well, I think you said the actor was actually blind. Right. So what…

Jeff:

Actor was, but that doesn’t necessarily mean they did a good job of it.

sarah:

No, I think the film was actively mocking him, but in terms of the portrayal of the protagonist being blind, I have to give that a one.

Jeff:

Yeah. I am going to give this a 2.5 is my view on it. I understand that he was fairly new to his blindness, but it also just felt really odd to me that he didn’t seem to understand how to be blind, nor was he actually actively trying to find ways to be blind. I found it odd that all of the solutions to his problems were externally generated, but also he was never animating the finding of solutions. He was always just kind of standing there being like, wow, I’m just going to have to keep running into posts. The beginning of the movie starts with him giving this sort of human rights rant about the legal code against the construction site and being like, there’s not obstructional ball. And you’re like, oh, okay. He’s like an advocate, but then routinely throughout the movie, he just gets completely blown over by everybody and everything, and so I’m like, I don’t know. Yeah, he’s new to it, but that felt a little bit, yeah. So I’m going to revise it. I’m going to give it a two, two out of five.

sarah:

Yeah, I feel you. I think that’s a good consideration to keep in mind.

Jeff:

On a scale of one to five, with five being the hardest, how hard was it to get through this film?

sarah:

Oh, wow. Four. The pacing kills this. This could have been a short film, like 25, 30 minutes, and you would’ve lost nothing.

Jeff:

Yeah, I gave this a five. I feel like this was one of the harder ones to get through. It had both so much and so little like all at once. There were lots of little side plots, the bully side plot, the construction side plot, that learning how to train a guide dog side plot, whether or not he would have a dog. His divorce, the Chad side plot, there was so much going on, but yet it also felt like nothing happened in this film. And that’s, I think never a good sign.

sarah:

What if it was the Banality of Day-to-Day life and how we choose to invest or divest in different parts of ourselves, and he went full hundred percent investment in Peyton and Blindness at the expense of literally everything.

Jeff:

His job. That’s actually why they let him go. Had nothing to do with the construction. They were just like, he is obsessed with his dog trainer. We think there’s a lawsuit coming. We have to get this guy off campus.

sarah:

You haven’t been to work in a week. That’s why we’re letting you go. It’s not the blind thing, and he walks away. It was definitely the blind thing.

Jeff:

Definitely the blind thing. On a scale of one to five, with five being the maximum, how often did you laugh at things that were not intended to be funny?

sarah:

Not as much as Christmas Evil, unfortunately. I would say 2.5. There were some funny moments, but a lot of it was just so dull.

Jeff:

Yeah, I would say I gave this a three. There were a few times where I was chuckling. I mean, I was laughing a lot at just the sheer volume of Christmas. I understand that this is Hallmark, and this is their method. Every scene will be the vomit of Christmas. But there is something legitimately hilarious about seeing a professor’s office in a university in America that is covered in Christmas. Trees is funny. That is funny. And also the dean or chair had literal wrapped gifts on his table. Love that. Literally, what a flex. Bring

sarah:

Back the spirit of Christmas.

Jeff:

Yeah, love it. So I leave it a three, but I agree with you largely this was not as entertaining as I would’ve enjoyed.

sarah:

Amen.

Jeff:

So then last but certainly not least, on a scale of one to five, with five being the most, how many steps back has this film put Disabled people?

sarah:

I think in terms of disclosed disability or disabilities that you can see and readily apprehend and interact with and are fairly obvious to the casual viewer, it does a pretty okay job with OSHA violations and some standard troubles that come with heart of sight. I think in retrospect, only because of the conversation we had today, this film really does undisclosed disability dirty. So for every point that I can award it for being super woke to an extent about some of the hardships of blindness, it felt like it was being reported to me by a 12-year-old girl who had recently read the A ODA, which I’m not saying there’s a problem with, but if the screenplay writer is above the age of 12 years old, I am expecting a little bit more depth. Right. You said golf score.

Jeff:

Yeah. High is bad. One is good. That’s a lot of steps back.

sarah:

That’s a lot. That’s quite a few steps back.

Jeff:

Quite a few steps back. I was more generous on this film. I gave it a two in the sense that I think, as you said, I don’t think they did a ton of harm per se. There was nothing that really sort of stood out. I do take rock off, I think for this repetitive masculine disability wrap up, this insistence that if you’re male and disabled, that you inevitably are going to have these weird hangups about your power proficiency, sexuality, whatever. But I also don’t think that that’s the most egregious of sins, so I’m going to give it a 2.5.

sarah:

It felt kind of tokenism plus not just blindness, but male blindness and what your hangups are going to be as a result.

Jeff:

Yes. Okay, so tabulated our scores together

sarah:

With

Jeff:

The score of 24. My Christmas guide are: Regrets, I have a few.

sarah:

That’s like the second tier, right? That’s not bad.

Jeff:

That’s pretty good.

sarah:

You know what? Not bad.

Jeff:

It didn’t blow it Hallmark. Congratulations.

sarah:

Not on this one. Anyway,

Jeff:

It’s not art. And perhaps because it was so shallow it couldn’t do more harm.

sarah:

That’s true. Yeah. If the dialogue had a little more depth to it, it might’ve actually done more overall damage.

Jeff:

And this concludes another episode of Invalid Culture. Thank you for joining us. I hope you enjoyed it or not. Do you have a film you would like for us to cover on the pod, or even better? Do you want to be a victim on invalid culture? Head to word to our website, invalid culture.com and submit. We would love to hear from you. That’s it for this episode. Catch you next month and until then, stay invalid.

Mvll Crimes [musical interlude]:

I’m arguing with strangers on the Internet // Everyone is wrong. I just haven’t told them yet.

 

DVD cover of the Christmas Evil, featuring Santa Claus with a bloody axe and "Merry Christmas" crossed out

Nothing says the holiday’s like stabbing someone with a toy.

Joined by special guest Sarah Currie, this Christmas season we turn our attention to cult classic holiday slasher film, Christmas Evil. But will this typical “mentally ill people are dangerous” romp exceed expectations? Probably not, but at least we got the present we all wanted this year — an answer to the age old question of what happens when a son sees mommy kissing Santa Claus. 

Listen at…

 

Grading the Film

As always, this film is reviewed with scores recorded in four main categories, with 1 being the best and 5 being the worst. Like the game of golf, the lower the score the better.

How accurate is the representation?

Jeff – 4 / 5

Erika – 2.5 / 5

Sarah – 4 / 5

Total – 10.5 / 15

How difficult was it to watch the movie?

Erika – 4 / 5

Jeff – 1 / 5

Sarah – 3 / 5

Total – 8 / 15

How often were things unintentionally funny?

Erika – 5 / 5

Jeff – 3 / 5

Sarah – 5 / 5

Total – 13 / 15

How far back has it put disabled people?

Jeff – 4 / 5

Erika – 4 / 5

Sarah – 2.5 / 5

Total – 10.5 / 15

The Verdict

Crimes Have Been Committed *

Podcast Transcript

Erika:

Welcome to Invalid Culture, a podcast dedicated to excavating the strangest and most baffling representations of disability in popular culture. Unlike other podcasts that review of films you’ve probably heard of, Invalid Culture is all about the abyss of pop culture-adjacent media that just never quite broke through because, well, they’re just awful. I’m your host, Erika.

Jeff:

And I’m your other host, Jeff, and it’s time now for us to think about some culture that might just be invalid.

[Theme song plays, “Arguing with Strangers on the Internet” by Mvll Crimes]

Erika:

Welcome back to another episode of Invalid Culture. It’s that time of year y’all, Chrismukkah is upon us, and that means it’s time for our festive holiday special. Jeff, how you doing?

Jeff:

So hype, very excite. I’m really looking forward… Not that last year’s Christmas episode was any slouch, it’s not every day you get to interview a literal movie star on your podcast. But, no shade to Hallmark, this was a much more heartwarming Christmas tale in my opinion.

Erika:

Huh.

Jeff:

A silence, complete silence.

Erika:

Heartwarming is not how I would’ve described this film, unless you are maybe making a reference to the torch mob?

Jeff:

Yeah, we’re different people, Erika, I think that should be very clear.

Erika:

I do forget that sometimes.

Jeff:

We’re not just different people, we also, as always, this season, have a different person with us. Today we are joined by our guest victim, Sarah. Sarah, can you give an introduction for our fair listeners?

Sarah:

Sure. My name is Sarah, and I professionally do nothing for a living. I am finishing up my doctorate in disability, and I teach classes, and I watch a lot of movies and pretend that that’s an important service to society.

Jeff:

As a media scholar, I can confirm it is.

Sarah:

Naturally.

Erika:

It sounds like you are in the right place.

Sarah:

Yeah. There is no bias here whatsoever as to the veracity of my job.

Jeff:

What would some of our listeners know you from, published work, or studies, or anything? Movies?

Sarah:

Movies! The long list of films that I have appeared in!

Jeff:

Yeah.

Sarah:

You may know me from rants that sound slightly detached from reality on Twitter, or sharing resources online, or publications about UDL in such fantastic venues as criticism, literature, Journal of Multimodal Rhetorics, Mosaic.

Jeff:

That’s it. But no feature films.

Sarah:

But no feature films, no. I actually turned down the Deadpool movie that’s coming out next year, because I’d really like to do my dissertation defense.

Jeff:

Right. Priorities, right?

Sarah:

Yeah.

Jeff:

All right, so Erika, I think you need to tell us what monstrosity did we have to endure this year?

Erika:

This year, the gift that just keeps on giving is Christmas Evil. Christmas Evil brings us the vivid tale of the life of Harry Stadling, a man traumatized as a child by the sight of his mother getting frisky with St. Nick. Making Freud proud, this traumatic event leads to a lifelong obsession with Santa Claus and all things Christmas, until, 30 years after the trauma, the lines between Harry and Santa begin to blur. Troubles at the toy factory he works at, and the negative body hygiene of local bad boy Moss Garcia, eventually push Harry over the edge. Those who stand against the Christmas will die. Dressed as Santa, Harry goes on a part donating toys to disabled kids, part murder rampage to punish those who don’t want to hear the, quote, “tune he’s trying to play”, end quote. Whatever that means. Eventually, he confronts his financially successful repo man brother Philip, for denying his traumatic observations, and after tussling for a bit and eventually punching Philip, Harry loads up into his Santa van, flying off into the cold night to escape the torch-wielding mob that is hunting for him.

Sarah:

That’s actually a better summation than actually subjecting yourself to the film. That did a lot of work, rhetorically, to save people a lot of time and trauma.

Jeff:

That’s about a hundred minutes condensed into a tight paragraph.

Sarah:

I’d like to draw attention to the fact that the first 45 minutes of this film was actually expository content to a plot line that basically didn’t exist.

Jeff:

Right, yes, a hundred percent. A hundred percent.

Erika:

It was like, “We’re just putting in the time before we can start killing people.”

Sarah:

Yeah. It took a really Tolkienesque approach to what was a film that was fairly devoid of any context whatsoever. It took me 20 minutes into the film to figure out that his Peeping Tom house was his brother’s house, because there were so many balding, middle-aged, brunette males in the film, I had trouble keeping track. Every single male cast fit that description, and it made it really hard.

Jeff:

Is this why I like the film so much? Am I drawn to the balding, brunette male demographic?

Sarah:

Which character did you relate the most to?

Jeff:

Obviously Moss Garcia.

Sarah:

Moss Garcia.

Jeff:

Moss!

Erika:

That’s the child that asked for a subscription to Penthouse or Playboy?

Sarah:

Penthouse magazine.

Jeff:

Yeah, yep. Now, we are already cutting into this and joking around, but our opinions don’t matter, because there are legitimate scholars who have weighed in on the quality of this film, and we think it’s important for us to give fair shake to that critical response to this film. There wasn’t a lot of critical response, because it’s actually kind of hard to get your hands on this film back in the 1980s. However, one Tom Huddleston, wrote on Time Out, gave the film a four out of five, and most importantly gave us this great quote. So Tom Huddleston says, quote, “In contrast to most slasher flicks, this isn’t about anything as simple as revenge. Jackson’s concerns are bigger; social responsibility, personal morality, and the gaping gulf between society’s stated aims at Christmastime: charity, hope, goodwill to all men; and the plight of those left on the outside: the children, the mentally ill, the ones who don’t fit in. Bizarre, fascinating, thoughtful, and well worth a look.” These are the words of Tom Huddleston. Of those adjectives, Sarah, how many of them were accurate to you?

Sarah:

There were four, I guess. I would go oh for four. The closest he gets is maybe “well worth a look”, but it kind of has the same ethos as rubber necking for me, where you look at the car accident and you know shouldn’t be looking, but you also can’t look away because now you’ve already seen it, so you feel invested. That was my relationship to Christmas Evil.

Jeff:

Yeah. What about you, Erika?

Erika:

I guess I was watching it and there’s, we’ll get there, but there’s a strong kind of anti-capitalist vibe in the film that I think just turned me a little more compassionate towards it. I was like, “Okay, you’re kind of speaking my language here. Tell me more. This is weird, but I’ll keep listening.” And so maybe Tom was coming from a similar place.

Jeff:

Right, yeah. I came for the disability narrative, I stayed for the strong union rhetoric.

Erika:

Yes.

Sarah:

It’s true. The unionization undertone that outplayed the entire film was actually more resonant than the core storyline, which I’m not sure is what they were going for, but that’s what they got.

Jeff:

Tom wasn’t the only one though who enjoyed this film. In fact, there are some pretty famous people, like John Waters, who have stated that this is maybe the best Christmas movie he has ever seen…

Sarah:

What?

Jeff:

Which is a nuclear hot take. But people on Amazon also have some affinity for this film. Specifically, we have our user Earl Awesome, pretty sure that’s his real name, gave this a five star, with the title Best Christmas movie ever, period, ever, all caps. Two evers. This is what Earl had to say about the film. “I was hesitant to order this, but when I read a statement from John Waters, if you don’t know him, you should, saying it was the best Christmas movie ever. He was right. What’s more, is that this movie is where the idea for,” quote, “Joker came from. Everything in Hollywood is copied. You watch the protagonist descend into madness as the holiday season approaches. It’s an all too real comment on the way holidays can play with the mental health of some. Great acting, great story, great movie, five stars.”

So, I just want to contest, right off the bat, that the Joker existed decades before this film was ever made, so this is definitely not where the idea for the Joker comes from, in any way. I think there’s probably a few other movies like Taxi Driver that also would like to have a word on that. But the question I have for you, Sarah, would you say that this movie was a comment on the way that holidays can play with the mental health of some?

Sarah:

I know where he’s coming from with this, because while I was watching this, and this is kind of a reductive comment, but Harry, our protagonist, our possibly actually real Santa Claus, depending on how you read the ending, is kind of a confusing potpourri of mental illnesses and symptoms that don’t ever really congeal into one credible diagnosis, and I thought the reference to the Joker was really good because at least Christopher Nolan’s version… That is also a character that’s kind of a confusing mass of symptomology that doesn’t actually cohere with anyone’s real, lived experience of psychosis. So I appreciated that somebody had read a comic book at some point and identified like, “Okay, here are some core mental illness symptoms.” They just didn’t care too much for the cohesion of those symptoms into something resembling a diagnostic disorder. And you can argue about whether somebody needs to meet the criteria of a diagnostic disorder to be a credible mentally ill protagonist.

But all that to say, I don’t know if it actually even takes on mental health problems at Christmas, because it just kind of takes on the problem of being completely unable to identify how mental health interacts with a person in general. So if you can’t even get into the person’s psyche, I don’t know how you’re going to then translate it to the level of your psyche’s interaction with a holiday. Right? Does that make sense?

Erika:

That’s actually a surprisingly reasonable segue into our next review, which-

Sarah:

Thank you.

Erika:

… comes-

Sarah:

I thought you were going to say a surprisingly reasonable answer, and I’d be like, “Thank you. I’m here to defy expectations.”

Erika:

“Glad you set the bar so low.” Yeah, so megalon, maybe also dealing with some low standards, gave this a five-star review, titled Fantastic, in which they wrote, “Quite possibly the greatest movie about a man obsessed with Christmas ever made. The depiction of psychosis is frighteningly real, and yet there are moments of hilarity and shocking violence. Highly recommend,” three exclamation points.

Sarah:

Okay.

Erika:

My first question is what about Elf?

Sarah:

That is actually, arguably, a better depiction of psychosis than Christmas Evil.

Erika:

Yeah, that was going for a man obsessed with Christmas, but totally. And what about this depiction of psychosis was…

Jeff:

Frighteningly real.

Erika:

Real or frightening?

Sarah:

If we again return to the metaphor of somebody read a comic book that lightly referenced a villain with mental illness, and then they modeled their character with psychosis after that? Yes, that would be frighteningly realistic, and incredibly expository as to the hyperbolic mentally ill villain who cannot be understood, and every action he takes is both confusing and incredibly tragic. Is that the lived experience of psychosis, in my mind and my community’s mind? I think it would be an emphatic no from everyone in the room.

Jeff:

Our last review comes from, again, I’m pretty sure this is their real name, Davy Dissonance. Davy gave this a two-star, with the title, “The picture quality is watchable and audio is good. Movie Review”. Yeah, I’m going to try my absolute best to not laugh during this, so I’m going to try and do Davy justice here. Davy did not love the film. Okay. Davy says, “As everyone else pointed out, it’s not a slasher movie. It is a demented Christmas movie, pretty much. There are moments when Santa kills, but it’s one home invasion and mass slaughter. That’s it. Anything else is Santa having a period about the fact that no one gives a shit about Christmas or whatever. I didn’t hate this movie. I don’t regret ever watching this, but it’s not my thing. It’s innovative and different, but for some reason I do not give one F about it. I found the movie boring. So up yours.”

Erika:

Wow.

Jeff:

Is Davy Dissonance Harry?

Sarah:

Is Harry Santa Claus?

Jeff:

Well, okay, so that’s maybe a better place for us to start. Number one, does Davy not realize that there is a difference between Harry and Santa?

Sarah:

I don’t know if I understand whether there is a difference between Harry and Santa Claus. The last 45 seconds of that film? I was up for an extra hour last night just laying there, thinking about it. Does that mean…

Jeff:

[inaudible 00:16:42] give me more?

Sarah:

Was he Santa the whole time? Is the joke on the viewer? That we were making fun of this guy, but that guy has actually been the real Santa for the entirety of this film? And all that context building for the first 45 minutes is actually irrelevant?

Jeff:

Yeah, that’s an important question.

Erika:

I have another important question. Is Davy, I haven’t heard this phrasing before, but when Davy asks, “Is Santa having a period?” About the fact that no one gives a shit, is “having a period” slang for being crazy or having an episode?

Jeff:

So I had this question as well, as someone who did not get sex education, I don’t also understand how periods work. And so I also was curious about this. Do you just have a period? Do you bring it on? Is it triggered by things?

Sarah:

That is a mid-millennial slang for PMSing about something.

Erika:

Are we early millennials? Is that what happened here?

Sarah:

I’m not saying that that’s what happened, but I might be strongly implying that that’s what happened.

Jeff:

But still a confusing one to me, given my limited knowledge of how female anatomy works.

Sarah:

A hundred percent. I think that Davy Dissonance can be accused of some anti-feminist rhetoric if we subscribe to third or fourth-wave feminism, and Amazon did not do a good enough job curating that review for use of language that could be offensive to 50% of the population.

Erika:

How did they miss “up yours”?

Jeff:

From now on, I’m just going to put this out there though, every time I now write a review about a movie, and possibly academic books, I’m ending it with, “So up yours.”

Sarah:

If you don’t agree with this, up yours.

Erika:

I might argue that academic writing is just very, very fancy and creative ways of saying “up yours” without saying it.

Sarah:

It’s true. Davy went the extra step of saying the quiet part out loud, and I appreciate him for it.

Erika:

Props for that.

All right, so we’ve heard what the critics had to say, but let’s just take a step back. General impressions of this film. What did you guys think?

Sarah:

I had a lot of trouble with the light pedophilia vibe that permeated this entire film. It made me deeply uncomfortable, and it really does nothing to address it. It normalizes it to such an extent that you would find it weird if this film was your only context for ’80s New York men, if they weren’t into little girls and had pictures of them on their nightstands and shit. Which I thought, for a number of reasons, was just weird.

I did really like how much content there was on the Willowy Springs Hospital for mentally retarded children, and that was the words they used, not the words I’m using. I wrote down, this is my headcanon, the real villain in this movie is intense social anxiety. This is really about Harry’s journey with not wanting to be in spaces with other people or talking to others, and everything else is just a byproduct.

Jeff:

Would you say that this was a frighteningly real portrayal of social anxiety?

Sarah:

I think especially the scene where he goes, this is about halfway through the movie, where he goes to the Christmas party and they drag him in against his will, and then he’s standing and everyone’s staring at him and he starts assuming that they’re going to start shit-talking him. I was like, “That’s actually a pretty good depiction of how social anxiety works in real life.” And I do not think they were going for that at all, but it ended up being a fairly accurate depiction of a kind of medically treatable variant of anxiety. That was laudable in this film.

Erika:

So that actually dovetails really well with my read on the film. For me, this quickly just morphed into a trauma narrative. It’s obviously set up to be that, but it kind of set me off on this contemplation about trauma, and generational trauma, and the role of trauma in mental health. That was really what I spent, I think, the greater part of this movie thinking about. The pedophilia question came up for me too, so we’re going to have to spend a little time with that. It was indeed difficult, very difficult to get through this film. I’m not a horror film… That’s not my genre, but yeah. The Willowbrook bit too, really, that kind of threw me. I guess that pulled me in too, because it was like, “Wait a sec, why? Whoa, whoa.” What in the creation of this film led to that becoming part of the story? To the point that they found a Geraldo lookalike to be the newscaster. That was curious to me.

Sarah:

Yeah.

Jeff:

Yeah. When we picked this film originally, we hadn’t seen it yet, and I think going into it, I thought we were going to get this sort of typical, kind of schlocky like, “Ooh, crazy man goes on a rampage.” And I’m not saying we didn’t get that, but we also got a lot of other confusing things as well that I was not expecting. And I now, in my head, just constantly hear, “Moss… Moss…”

Sarah:

“Moss Garcia!”

Jeff:

“Moss Garcia!” In my head, and I’m going to put that in the positive category. I also want to see Moss Garcia get what’s coming to him as the original bad boy, the original bad boy of New York. And that young Moss Garcia would eventually become Rudy Giuliani.

Sarah:

But in this timeline, Harry is actually older, and Harry might be the original original bad boy, A, if he’s Santa, because that means he’s immortal. So that puts his age as ageless. But B, because the characterization of him is ostensibly a middle-aged man with a burn book and a Santa kink.

Jeff:

Right, basically, yes.

Sarah:

That’s pretty bad!

Jeff:

Yeah. Yeah. Anti-hero, some might say

Sarah:

“It’s me, I’m the problem, it’s me.”

Jeff:

Okay, so we’ve talked a little bit about the high-level stuff, but, I’m sorry, can we please talk about the inciting incident? This movie begins with a scene in which two young boys are witnessing Santa come down, wash his hands in a hand-washing station, as, apparently, you’re supposed to do for Santa. I did not do that in our household. He then butters himself some bread, which I also think is pretty off-myth. He drinks some milk, and everything’s great. But unfortunately, young Harry comes down and watches Santa moan very suggestively to his mother while taking off her garter belt, and then presumably consummated the relationship. Presumably. Harry then goes upstairs, he drops his snow globe, and cuts his hand on it.

Sarah:

I really thought they were going to do more, and I’m not condoning this, but I thought they were going to do more with the self-harm narrative as the inciting incident for violence. I thought it was going to be a kind of The Machinist thing, where wherever he sees blood, or the instantiation of food or eating, he goes into this kind of inarticulate psychosis and begins murdering people. They did that once, and then dropped that whole concept from the rest of the film, which I thought was kind of unfortunate because it was a somewhat interesting way to do it, but still problematic. It’s worth pointing out that that’s not how psychosis works in real life. There are such things as triggers, but if they have a self-harm trigger, it does not compel psychotic individuals to activate incredible violence upon the viewing of blood, or any such alternate instantiation. And I think that’s worth pointing out.

Erika:

I’m just remembering him now. The fact that Santa’s costume was perpetually covered in blood, I hadn’t really thought about that, the blood. Yeah, that wasn’t what stuck with me. First of all, I just was very confused. So, the boys think it’s Dad being Santa?

Jeff:

[inaudible 00:26:51] Philip does, Philip believes it’s the father, and Harry believes it’s actually Santa.

Sarah:

That’s actually their core, that’s what drives the ethos of the film, this disagreement that separates two brothers, but also, apparently, completely separates mental states between the two brothers.

Erika:

But I remain confused.

Sarah:

Yes.

Erika:

Was it his dad? Was it their dad? I don’t know.

Jeff:

According to the box, it was his father. The description of the film says he witnessed his father dressed as Santa. Now, I’m not a psychologist or a psychiatrist, but I want to dig into this Oedipal complex a little bit more. So, he has this desire for his mother, and Santa, I guess, gets his mother. And so then he becomes obsessed with Christmas 33 years later? Because when we see him next as an adult, his house is like Santa’s workshop. It is decked out. He has a chalkboard counting down the days to Christmas, he has every toy, everything. And then of course his proximity to Santa becomes more and more evident as it goes on. But I’m just curious about what Freud would think about this. He sees his mom, and then is like, “I will become Santa.”

Sarah:

I hate Freud. That’s my bias. I think his theories are fucking useless. I think a better reading than Freud would give, but maybe Freud would be sympathetic too, would be something like Harry is enlivened by the sexual potentiality of specifically Christmas, and begins to associate any kind of sexual action with the prospect of Christmas Eve, without really taking too much time to think it’s possible his parents have also done these actions at other points of the year, and becomes so sexually fascinated by the relationship between Christmas Eve and the lewd acts performed, that he’s just caught in this continuous loop of Christmas, sex, mother, sexiness, Santa, in this recurring spiral of illness?

Jeff:

Which admittedly sounds like a nightmare, if I put myself into that situation of 33 years of weird sexual Christmas tension.

Sarah:

Yes.

Jeff:

Nightmare.

Sarah:

Absolutely.

Jeff:

Yeah, yeah. I also wonder though, why has no one said anything about this to him?

Sarah:

There’s kind of the implication at the end of the movie that this is a somewhat regular argument between the brothers, Phil and Harry, when they’re having their kind of penultimate argument before the punching scene. And he’s like, “You’ve ruined my life. We can’t keep doing this kind of thing.” And calling back to all these occasions where they’ve argued over whether Santa’s their dad, and that inciting incident in the ’30s. And because of this incident, I think instead of causing Harry to question his drawn relationship between repressed sexuality and Christmas Eve or Christmas, it reinforced it for him, right? Kind of the same way if you tell a child you can’t have the Kit Kat bar, they become obsessed with wanting the Kit Kat bar. You don’t even have to like Kit Kat; if I tell you you can’t have it? That’s all you want at this point, even if just to spite me. And that’s a very Freudian reading of our desires, and how desire mechanics work in a psyche. But he seems to be enacting that in his relationship to smut and Christmastime.

Erika:

Yeah, I don’t know if it’s necessarily like… Definitely the film communicates the Oedipal vibe is there, but I think another read of it is not necessarily sexual in that way. That he’s so upset at seeing Santa do what Santa… Santa’s supposed to be innocent, and I think he goes on this life mission of recuperating Santa’s innocence. That, “Santa did it wrong, I’m going to fix this. I’m the real Santa, I’m going to fix this. I’m going to…” And that also kind of wraps in the… He’s obviously upset about the Moss… Moss’s sexuality.

Sarah:

Moss Garcia!

Jeff:

Moss Garcia!

Sarah:

You can’t just say it normally, you have to say it like he says it. Moss Garcia!

Erika:

It’s just like sex isn’t part of Christmas, sex is bad, it is not part of Christmas. And so this kind of brings up that pedophilia question, because I think pedophilia is one read of it, but the other read of it is there’s something paternal, and there’s also something infantile about his relationship, or he’s grasping onto this kind of childhood innocence.

Sarah:

Which is, notably, a trait that many people associate with mental illness.

Erika:

Yes.

Sarah:

Often erroneously. I think he was intentionally written to be childlike, and almost kind of nymphlike, and you laugh at his attempts at interacting with adult society because he’s just so infantile and innocent.

Erika:

But the fact that the pedophilia comes out, it’s almost like they didn’t commit to that. They didn’t commit to us feeling innocence about his sexual conversation with children.

Sarah:

So if he thinks Santa did it wrong, is Santa doing it right for Harry doing it with much younger girls?

Jeff:

An interesting query.

Sarah:

That’s a big yikes from me for Harry.

Jeff:

Fair enough.

Sarah:

The first thing he says to one of the girls in the alley when he meets up with them, he says some inane comment to Moss Garcia, but then to the girl in the group, he goes, “You’re very beautiful.” And I was visibly cringing at that line when he says it.

Jeff:

Yeah. Well, he does the same when h