DVD Cover of Different Drummers, featuring Lyle putting maximum effort into pushing David's manual wheelchair

What if ADHD was a movie?

An autobiography written and scored by Lyle Hatcher, this 2013 film was almost doomed to the bargain bin of Dollar Stores across the nation when a miracle happened: streaming services like Amazon Prime and Tubi decided they did not care what quality of film was included in their libraries. Join Jeff & Erika as they explore this bio-pic about the trials and tribulations of two young disabled boys growing up in Spokane, Washington. Oh and also it’s about using plastic tubes to pee.

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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 – 3 / 5

Erika – 4 / 5

Total – 7 / 10

How difficult was it to watch the movie?

Erika – 4 / 5

Jeff – 4 / 5

Total – 8 / 10

How often were things unintentionally funny?

Erika – 5 / 5

Jeff – 5 / 5

Total – 10 / 10

How far back has it put disabled people?

Jeff – 3 / 5

Erika – 4 / 5

Total – 7 / 10

The Verdict

Jerry Lewis Seal of Approval

Podcast Transcript

Jeff: Growing up in Spokane, Washington can be tough. But you know what’s tougher? Growing up in Spokane, WA in the 1960s while also being a prophet of death. Follow the childhood hijinks of Lyle Hatcher, a young boy chronically afflicted with “the feeling”, as he forms a friendship with David Duffy. But David isn’t like the other kids. No, it’s not because he has muscular dystrophy. David is different because God tells him when people are going to die. But don’t worry. This movie isn’t really about that. It is really about the joys of childhood friendship and learning to accept difference. Follow David as they form an unbreakable bond, mourn the untimely death of their teacher, attempt to seduce one’s first girlfriend, put together a school science project, debate the usefulness of ADHD medication, attempt to teach Dave to walk (because God said so) and eventually forget all of that other stuff and instead host a fundraiser to find a cure. If you’re a person who likes countless obscure plotlines that are never fully resolved, that might make you a different drummer 


[Theme Music] Hip hop beat from “Hard Out Here For a Gimp” by Wheelchair Sports Camp 


Erika: Welcome to invalid culture a podcast dedicated to excavating the strangest, most baffling and worst representations of disability in popular culture. Unlike other podcasts that review films you’ve probably heard of Invalid Culture is all about looking into the abyss of pop culture adjacent representations that just never quite broke through because, well, they’re just awful. I’m joined today by my co-host Jeff Preston. Jeff, how are you? 


Jeff: Back at it. Ready for another fun day. So, I’m Jeff Preston. I am an assistant professor of disability studies. My research focuses on representations of disability in pop culture. So I am also joined here by my co-host today, Dr. Erika Katzman. How are you Dr. Katzman? 


Erika: Oh, I am thrilled to be back at this again. We’ve got a great conversation ahead of us. I’m losing my track of thought on how to introduce myself today. I am also an assistant professor and disability studies and my research doesn’t really focus on so much on the media side of things but I’m just generally interested in understanding how people think about disability, what kind of stories people are inclined to tell about disability. 


Jeff: Now, before we get started today I think it’s important that we start every episode with that mental health check in. Erika, are you regretting doing this yet? 


Erika: Of all the things in my life that I regret this is pretty low on the list. 


Jeff: Wow, that’s great. I’m going to hold that. I will replay this clip at episode 50 when you wonder why, why you allowed me to talk to you into this. 


Erika: And you? Are you are you feeling OK about this decision? 


Jeff: you, know I really do question a lot of decisions I’ve made in my life. This one’s actually pretty high, I think. I don’t know that that regret is the right word but it’s going to be very interesting to see how our brains are ruined by these films. I think just sadness and rage would be the outcome. 


Erika: if we ever need to rebrand “sadness and rage” might be the name. 


Jeff: So, today we have another just stupendous example of invalid culture. We are going to be watching a film which touches the heart, I guess? This is a horse movie that you can find on almost every streaming platform as well as vast majorities of it can be found on YouTube. We are of course talking about the film Different Drummers. So, what is Different Drummers? How does Different Drummers describe itself? Erika, take it away. 


Erika: From the box: based on an inspiring true story Different Drummers follows the heartwarming yet unlikely friendship of two boys growing up in Washington in the 1960s. When David, who is bound to a wheelchair and growing weaker for muscular dystrophy, accurately foretells the death of his fourth-grade teacher, a doubtful Lyle, who has an increasingly high energy level decides to test the existence of God by attempting to get David to run again. A pact is made and Lyle soon begins to twist the rules in a desperate attempt to give his friend some of his own excess energy. Along the way, the two boys come face to face with life’s most painful truths and Lyle’s question is ultimately answered in a way he never could have imagined. 


Jeff: I think this is a phenomenal place for us to start because if you were listening to that and have no idea what the beginning, middle, end of this film is, I think the back of this box captured the viewing experience of Different Drummers. 


Erika: It captures a lot more than I would have imagined. I mean, I don’t want to launch into our themes quite yet but I’m amazed to see them surfacing here. 


Jeff: it’s almost as though they understood what they were doing. Maybe. 


Erika: you know, I think that’s a good way of characterizing this particular film. Like, this is one where it actually, perhaps more than with others, feels like they might have understood what they were doing. 


Jeff: They certainly seemed to have some technical abilities. There was some technical things that were, like, I think it was well lit. The audio was fine. There was actually some passable CGI in this film. Like there was actually some production value. While at the same time just being ,very confusing and very all over the place throughout. I think one of my first questions to you is what question was Lyle trying to get answered? 


Erika: I think the questions were out there. I don’t know if they were answered. I mean, they’re claiming that the question was answered, but I mean, when we get to talking about that very blunt answer, I’m not sure which question it is meant to answer, to be honest. 


Jeff: My other question I had for you on this is, was their friendship unlikely? Like, because it’s a wheelchair boy in walkie? They’re two young boys, who you, know appear to be of similar ethnic background, class, same age. So, there’s a whole lot of similarities going on that would lead me to believe this is very likely friendship. 


Jeff: Yeah, I mean, this isn’t like a bear becoming friends with a rabbit by any means. 


Erika: No, it strikes me as a highly likely friendship. 


Jeff: [laughing] Right, completely plausible friendship. I guess that doesn’t have the same ring. 


Erika: This is where it is important to note, to remember that this is Lyle’s story.  


Jeff: Yes. 


Erika: So, if we’re being told that this was an unlikely friendship, is this is this Lyle telling us that it was an unlikely friendship? That it caught him off guard? 


Jeff: Interesting. I would say that Lyle was perhaps not the only person caught off guard in this film. I think, actually, a lot of the reviewers of this film were also caught a little off guard. Now, we have two interesting popular press reviews that we have pulled, one which is really interesting and the other which is quite harsh. So, we have officially reached our first milestone on this podcast in which we found somebody who did not like a film featuring a child with a disability. They persevered and they were like, we’re going to write bad on it. And that was, shout out to you Josh Terry, the Deseret News. Here’s what he had to say: “poor writing, acting and execution leaves Different Drummers impossible to justify. If the weak actors aren’t monotoning their standard lines of dialogue, the reasonable actors are stumbling their way through the muddled ones and myriad cheesy and distracting music passages persistently undermine the whole lot. A simple problem for Different Drummers is that it is playing out of its league. As a direct-to- video release, it would be passed over as a harmless, low budget tribute to a boy who lived with muscular dystrophy 50 years ago. But, as a major Multiplex, at nearly $10 a ticket, the film feels painfully out of place.”  


Erika: That’s harsh!  


Jeff: George Terry does not care anymore he is just going to eviscerate anyone in this film. 


Erika: Like, I guess this is the point at which it becomes very clear that I am no film critic. I did not think it was that bad. I truly did not notice poor acting, muddled delivery. Did you? 


Jeff: I think this is what happens when you and I don’t have it direct financial claim against this film. As people who have paid for prime video and are using it for a myriad of other wonderful films, I think Josh Terry here is just feeling really burned for that $10 they had to spend. Also, why is the Deseret News not paying for their reviewers to watch these films? 

Erika: I think he was on about the music. I did, the music was something. 

Jeff: The music felt like the early days of YouTube when people were first getting copyright striked and then you had all of these like, royalty free or copyleft music that were just like, just adjacent to good that YouTube users started piling on, where you’re like, right, this is a classic generic rock song that’s completely nondescript and just like a little off.  


Erika: So, musically that’s where it was, but lyrically it was very much tailored. Like, do we know? The soundtrack must have been custom to this film. 


Jeff: I have absolutely no doubt that Lyle and Don wrote the music for this film. I have no doubt and if I’m wrong I don’t want to know because in my world they were in the studio cutting these things up. This is all you need, it’s not every emotion you could want to feel through song. It’s got it all. Now, Josh Terry’s wasn’t the only review we were able to find. We also found this very interesting review by Tim or Tom Krogh? How do we say that last name do you think?  


Erika: Keogh?  


Jeff: Sure. TK, as he is known by his friends, presumably. From the Seattle Times, he had this to say: “There’s a sense of unstructured play about Different Drummers. A kind of ambling from one whimsical activity to the next without much traditionally story telling”. TK then goes on to give this film a three out of four. 75 %. 


Erika: So, he was not bothered, he’s really more remarking on the unstructured play then critiquing it. 


Jeff: Yes, it was an observation. It’s like, ‘so I watched born on the 4th of July and there was a man in a wheelchair in it. Three out of four stars.’ 


Erika: Now, this was actually something that you had remarked on yourself watching the film, was it not? 


Jeff: yeah, 100%. I felt like the first time I watched this film — and yes, that is a confirmation that I have watched this film more than once — the first time I watched it I remember feeling like all the movie did was introduced new plotlines and I don’t really remember in the first viewing many of those plotlines being resolved. Now, on a second sober viewing I’ve discovered that, much like the Canadian Senate, you can understand things better when given time to evaluate things. And, in fact, there was some resolution. But, by my count, there are approximately 7 plotlines that informed this film. So, you know, the movie starts out with this plot line around Lyle having a crush on a girl at school and he want to dance with her and then we get our first extremely long musical interlude. Things then change up and move on to, I think, our second plot, which is a science project to disprove or prove – I think probably prove is what they were thinking, to prove God’s existence, using science to prove God. And then there’s sort of this like subplot, I think, under there, around David is going to teach – sorry, Lyle is going to teach David how to run. And then we wonder the bug collection. They decide they want to collect all of the bugs. That then shifts very quickly into raising money to cure muscular dystrophy, which I guess is maybe a continuation of the teaching to run subplot, but I don’t think it is, because that of course culminates in this, like, variety show fundraiser, which is kind of its own thing. We then, about halfway through the movie, maybe a little more than halfway through the movie, we get this very serious plot around ADHD and medication and this huge debate as to whether or not Lyle should be medicated. Lyle then get threatened by a bully in a school bus and there’s this like, ominous “you’re gonna get what’s coming to you, Lyle.” He doesn’t. It’s never addressed. And then we have the final act, which I think is about this question around death and dying. People die, and will people die or won’t they, dying and death is everywhere, we can escape it. By my count that’s about 7 plotlines. How many of those seven would you say were resolved? 


Erika: [laughing]. OK I’m pretty sure we forgot about, the romantic things dropped, that was never carried. The bug collection came and went. 


Jeff: that’s true, they did find — they sort of resolved it in that it got eaten by a mouse? 


Erika: [laughing] the bully dropped off, that didn’t happen. So, I think we mostly ended up focusing on this, I mean the ADHD medication and medicate versus segregate situation, kind of, that was pretty forefront. Did we prove God’s existence? 


Jeff: I’m gonna argue yes, because of the final scene when he runs with David.  


Erika: And I guess money was raised. 


Jeff: Yeah, the fundraiser happened. OK, so they’re batting like 80%. 


Erika: Yeah, you know, I’m kind of with Tom here. TK? I think it may have broken some rules of traditional storytelling but I don’t think it was unsuccessful in doing so. 


Jeff: yeah, I think you’re right. It was untidy, but I think there was like, a story was told. I feel like we were given a slice of life of these two boys. Like, a year of their time together.  


Erika: yeah. I have a hard time following multi plots and multi characters. I’ve never been able to make it through Snatch. I’ve tried several times. I didn’t have any trouble following what was going on here. 


Jeff: Yeah, no. I think it was it wasn’t bad. There were also a surprisingly number of actors in this. Yeah, usually like the key to those low budget films is there’s like four people involved. There were entire classrooms of people involved in this film. 


Erika: Oh yeah, I had the sense that we were genuinely in a school.  


Jeff: There was a presence, there was a reality to it. Even if all of the characters seemed to have this like, retrospective sheen about them, right? Like, the cop is just like, a little too like, 1950s police officer at the café, you know, sitting on the barstool. Like, it was a little too American Gothic in some character development. 


Erika: Yeah and like the janitor, similarly, he’s a little overdone. He’s great, but a little overdone. 


Jeff: He’s a stud and I’m in love with him and I would 100% marry man if it was Mr Merrick. Yeah, both of those characters seemed to have an underlying, this may have been a porno shoot that was happening at the same time. 


Erika: 100%. 


Jeff: And they were just like, alright, so we will take the clean bits for Different Drummers and then the hardcore bits we’ll put over for our janitor porn and our cop porn. There was a bit of a porny vibe to both these characters. 


Erika: The cop especially, he was having a hard time getting out of character when he dropped back into the kids movie. 


Jeff: yeah, 100%. He looked like he was a moment away from putting someone under arrest for being too sexy. Now, if you are a film connoisseur you will know that the real reviews are not to be found in the newspapers but rather they are found in the Amazon review section.  


Erika: And do we ever have some goodies today. 


Jeff: We have curated some phenomenal examples. There were a lot of phenomenal reviews for this film. Erika, why don’t you start us off. 


Erika: I will happily start us off. So, Robin S, one of many five out of five stars. A review titled “a very meaningful story”: bought this for my 89.5 year old dad. He loved it and really enjoyed the two boys. This is not one of the ‘happily ever after’ stories that I normally try to pick out for him, but he still gave it a thumbs up. 


Jeff: Robin’s got a lot of detail. A natural storyteller. 


Erika: A keen eye for detail.  


Jeff: Her father is not 90 years old. 


Erika: 89.5. 


Jeff: I’m glad that he liked the two boys. That’s good. I also like the idea that Robin is like, trapping her father at home and just feeding him these happily ever after stories as some sort of like, mental health treatment maybe or like just trying to keep him optimistic about the world and this one kind of like, snuck in. 


Erika: I’m just also very curious that like, this was bought? 


Jeff: [Laughing] right? 


Erika: When and where was this purchased? 
Jeff: That is actually a great question. Presumably off Amazon, I suppose. I suppose she purchased this from Amazon, which then also begs the question: how did Robin S find this film?  


Erika: Oh, well naturally while looking for happily ever after stories. 


Jeff: right. 


Erika: If there’s a wheelchair on the cover you know it’s a happy ending. 


Jeff: it’s going to uplift you. You’re gonna feel uplifted. 


Erika: so, this is what actually, this is what I love about this review is that Robin deems this is not one of those happily ever after stories. I mean, ah, OK. I guess we do end with death. 


Jeff: but arguably it is a sanitized death. Like it is positioned as like, a freedom that is bestowed upon this child. He is liberated from his impairment. 


Erika: Yeah, again that’s why this one caught me, because, and maybe this is a strange thing to admit but when I read this review I forgot that he died. And I thought — because the death was not the sort of the pinnacle moment of this film. 


Jeff: It was definitely the moment when I almost peed myself in this film, I will say. It is the most brazen movie ending I think I’ve ever seen. It takes a real tone shift in that last 10 minutes. 


Erika: So much so that Robin’s dad still gave it a thumbs up. 


Jeff: Yeah, he liked it. He was there for the ride. 


Erika: Despite the death of one of those two boys, he really enjoyed it. 


Jeff: This is markedly different than the review by Joshua Matthew Manibo Samarita, who, also five out of five stars, however, “quite disappointed” was the title of this review. “I will give this movie a five star but I’m kind of disappointed. It feels like expectation versus reality. My expectation is there though it is not enough. I thought this movie make me cry but it was not. I still recommend this movie. It quite nice. 


Erika: [laughing] 


Jeff: [laughing] Joshua, you are a beautiful human. A beautiful soul. You wanted to cry, you didn’t get it, but you’re still going to pump the tires. 


Erika: interesting, right? Robin and Joshua both had significant expectations of this film going in. 


Jeff: High expectations. 


Erika: Robin, I guess so like, Robin was expecting happily ever after. Josh was expecting to cry. 


Jeff: He wanted to feel terrible. 


Erika: but I can only assume, oh, I was assuming it was like, I’m gonna have a good cry but then I’m still gonna get my happily ever after. Like, I think maybe Joshua was just misidentifying what happened here. Joshua was actually quite disappointed because it was not quite the happily ever after that they were after.  


Jeff: That’s an interesting read. “I thought this movie made me cry, but it was not.” I think that might be the new slogan of this of this podcast. “I thought this movie made me cry, but it was not.” That’s my feeling about all of the movies we watch for this so far. 


Erika: [laughing]. For something completely different, Melissa Lindsay, another five out of five, title of the review: “donation”. Review content, and I quote: “a donation for rainy day bingo basket.” 


Jeff: [laughing]. Perfect. 


Erika: May I posit this is where Robin S bought the video. 


Jeff: or received. 


Erika: [laughing]. 


Jeff: she received this one day playing bingo. 


Erika: Is a rainy day bingo basket a thing? Like, is she saying that there’s the lottery, like you just pick up those discount DVDs at Walmart and chuck em in the rainy day bingo basket and then when it’s a rainy day you just draw one out and give her a go? 


Jeff: I think so. So my suspicion on this, this is my hot take, I could be totally wrong. Melissa Lindsay, contact us if we’re wrong on this, if I’m mischaracterizing you. I suspect that Melissa Lindsay is an educator. I think that she may be a teacher, whether that be public school or possibly a Sunday school situation and I’m guessing that what she’s doing is she’s buying cheap things, like little trinkets and prizes and then when the kids can’t go out ’cause it’s raining they play bingo and she gives or they can choose something out of the basket. That’s my theory, that’s my fan theory of Melissa Lindsay. 


Erika: I like it, I like it a lot.  


Jeff: if you were a child and you received this DVD for winning bingo, would that drive you to violence? 


Erika: I don’t know if I would get this film as a child. I don’t think this is a kids film. 


Jeff: no. I don’t know that this is an anyone film. Can we just put that on the table right off the bat? The question of who this is for, I think this is for Lyle Hatcher. That is who this is for. 


Erika: oh, 100 %. 


Jeff: This is an audience of 1. I think I would probably turn this DVD into a weapon and try to stab someone if this was the prize I won. As a child, I would not understand why there were no real drummers in this film until the absolute end. So, a more nuanced analysis comes to us from Frances, four to five stars, titled “well acted, layered message, very worth seeing.” And that title is actually her review, the review also reads “well acted, layered message, very worth seeing.” Would you say the message was layered in this film, Erika? 


Erika: I mean, if you think about all those plotlines like lasagna layers, there was a lot going on/ 


Jeff: that is true, it was very tiered. I think tiered is maybe what she means. The other one that I thoroughly enjoyed was by user “caddy”. 5/5 stars, the review reads, in all caps: CHILDREN’S MINISTRY. CHILDREN ENJOYED THE DVD. 


Erika: [clears throat]. We did just a salad but this is not a children’s movie, right? 


Jeff: I believe so. I would love to know whether or not the children actually said that. I would really wonder. I also like that, I respect the fact that she felt the needed to explain where she screened it. 


Erika: I mean, there is a fair bit of God. 


Jeff: yeah, God adjacent.  


Erika: mhm. 


Jeff: Yeah, I like the fact that this movie does not really lock down its religious, like it is sort of monotheist religion but, you know, it’s not really pushing any particular brand of religion provided it’s like a monotheist. So you know, any of those sort of old testament could fit under this rubric. And I think, Erika, you my other favorite. 


Erika: ooh, if we have time for one more, please may I? 


Jeff: I think so, ’cause it’s so good. 


Erika: PewDiePie, untitled but three out of five stars: “it was OK. I didn’t like the ending.” Yeah. 


Jeff: It was OK, I didn’t like the ending. 


Erika: There’s a chance that I’m PewDiePie.  


Jeff: This is actually the exact same review I left on Titanic. 


Erika: [laughing]. 


Jeff: it was OK. I didn’t like the ending. 


Erika: I actually, you know, this captures my feelings about this film. 


Jeff: do you think that that Lyle and Don have read these reviews and are like, if we had just made a better ending this would have blown up. 


Erika: see, I think where they erred is like, I think they essentially have two endings. 


Jeff: why did they not end it at the end of the telethon celebration? 


Erika: had he run through the woods yet at that point? Because… 


Jeff: no. 


Erika: yeah. 


Jeff: [laughing] and they needed to kill him off in order for that scene to happen, I suppose. 


Erika: I just feel like maybe they could have, instead of killing him, just had him run through the woods, as a like, euphemistic or more ambiguous… 


Jeff: Right, like maybe they did cure muscular dystrophy in this universe. 


Erika: exactly. Like, we didn’t need to know for sure whether he died to enjoy him running through the woods. 


Jeff: I would argue that whether or not David died in real life he was going to die in this film. 


Erika: ooh. 


Jeff: it was destined to happen. Cause death lurks around every corner. So, we’ve heard what the experts have to say, let’s hear what the dunces have to say. Erika, where are you on this? 


Erika: Like I said, I’m with PewDiePie. I didn’t like the ending, but it was OK. 


Jeff: I’m going way off the board on this one, I’m giving this sucker 4.5 out of five stars. 


Erika: woah! 


Jeff: I think this movie was almost perfect in that it gave me everything I wanted. Which was, a horrible film that was just baffing in most of the time and I’m not even joking, I literally almost peed myself at the end of the film. It was very close. Very close. I almost burst with fluids because I was laughing so hard. 


Erika: can I just say, I hope that while bursting with fluids you had your piss tube too handy. 


Jeff: [laughing] 


[musical interlude] Rock n’ roll piano progression from “Dead Letter and the Infinite Yes” by Wintersleep 


Erika: this is the point at which we start to get into the nitty gritty and talk a little bit more about what happened here. What worked, what didn’t. But, where we always like to get started is unpacking a bit how this film, which was certainly a film about disability, how was disability portrayed in this film? 


Jeff: a question it’s a little bit hard to answer in some ways. This film shows, unlike a lot of the other films, I think it approached the story of disability not from the like, the really hard biomedical perspective, there were no doctors really in this film, there wasn’t like, long descriptions of biological results of impairment. They really did try to like capture this through the lens of two children trying to understand each other in some ways, with two main characters that do have very different disabilities. So, I would say that with muscular dystrophy there’s this constant story about how David, who has muscular dystrophy, presumably Duchenne’s muscular dystrophy, is degenerating. He’s gotten weaker, there’s all these other comments about how he’s not able to do things, how he remembers how he used to be able to walk and run, now he can’t. One of my favorite scenes is when Lyle and David are comparing their thighs in the pool and their legs in general. It was this bizarrely corporeal moment which is also, though, like, I could see young boys doing this. Like, it was essentially a phallic measuring moment in which we find out that David has enormous legs and feet and Lyle does not. We’ll let the Freudians unpacked that however they wish to. But disability is really, I would say, marked add as being a lack. The individual is lacking in quite a few ways even if they are, David is marked as being quite smart. He’s supposed to be a bit of a brainiac. 


Erika: And then in contrast we have Lyle. I had not heard of this diagnosis before, minimal brain dysfunction. I was puzzled to piece together that this was an ADHD. So, we learn that Lyle is at times overtaken by “the feeling”. 


Jeff: “the feeling”. 


Erika: This ominous, possession almost, that, it causes him to run. This is a little foggy for me too. The feeling I think suggests something more emotional, needing it needing to run it off suggest something more emotional, and so the ADHD label that we come to realize it is was it, just felt like a slight mismatch. But, having said that, our research reveals that this film is essentially Lyle’s story. This is Lyle telling his own story, his take on himself and his relationship with David and so understanding that this is Lyle’s self narrative, I mean, I’m inclined to accept it for whatever discrepancies there are, whatever I’m perhaps missing, I think it is Lyle’s expression of himself and his experiences, so I’m open to it and I, yeah. I’m kind of here for that. 


Jeff: yeah the way that, and maybe it’s just the actor, the way he delivers the first line when he’s like “the feeling”. When I first watched this, I thought this is going to be like a psychosis. 


Clip from the film:  


Lyle: see, I got this thing, my brother calls it “the feeling”. It’s kind of a problem. 

David: OK. Well, I was wondering about it. I mean what’s it like?  

Lyle: You know those little drummers, the kind you gotta wind up? 

David: yeah. 

Lyle: you know when you wind them up and wind them up and wind them up and they go like this [rapid footsteps]. 

David: are you kidding me? That’s what running is like? 

Lyle: running? I thought we were talking about the feeling.  


Jeff: And I guess that what he’s sort of talking about is like the energy, this like electric kind of feeling, I guess, is where it’s coming from. But despite having the feeling, there was this weird, interesting dynamic with his family and feelings [emphasized “s”]. What was that all about? 


Erika: yeah, what was that all about? It did not feel organic to the film, it felt kind of forced that it was being written into dialogue that emotions are not allowed. And it was, interestingly, it was coming from this mother. So there’s a scene where the boys are playing and they get shot? 


Jeff: Yeah, Lyle gets—there’s a gang bang drive pellet gunning. 


Erika: [laughing] yes. 


Jeff: Where did these kids grow up? 


Erika: right? Another scene that just came out of left field. 


Jeff: He ran through private property and then when he was running through the private property there were these, I’m going to say, antifa, probably, warriors, on the private property squatting, who had two rifles, who then proceeded to pellet and bludgeon Lyle to the ground from cutting through this private property. 


Erika: and so, as Lyle is back at home and his mom is, I think, tweezing the pellets out of his leg, she reminds him that he’s not cry. 


Jeff: no crying. 


Erika: there are no emotions allowed in this family. 


Jeff: yeah. Lyle has just experienced an attempted assassination and his mother tells him no crying. 


Erika: This is interesting, ’cause this almost, I feel like with Lyle’s ADHD, like, there’s this portrayal of him as almost too much. You know, if David is lack, Lyle is excess. He’s just oozing with energy. He’s running, he’s climbing, he’s loud. You know, he’s just kind of bouncy and so this, the no emotions narrative is almost like a reaffirmation that he is excessive and needs to reign it in. 


Jeff: And I feel like that’s where I struggle with that definition that they are an unlikely friend grouping, because I feel like this is a really common thing in film right where they’re like, this is like the opposites attract, the odd couple. We’ve seen this story so often, right, where it’s like, one of them is super energetic and running around and very physical all the time and high energy and the other is quiet and slow and more thoughtful and he’s sort of like the brain and Lyle is like, the action. This is like that movie The Mighty (which might be another film we should probably watch for this). 


Erika: hmm. 


Jeff: there like, this is actually a really common trope in stories about disability, where they are like, well if one of you is lacking something then we need to give the other one like, this excessiveness. And then we put you together and together you almost form like, one person. It’s like you have enough when you’re put together. 


Erika: yeah, I mean. it’s kind of a natural recipe for chemistry, like for harmony, some kind of balance. 


Jeff: right, yeah. Like there’s kind of this yin/yang thing going on.  


Erika: What can, what can these opposites offer each other. 


Jeff: right and there is like completely this transactional kind of narrative around his relationship too, right? That Lyle has the physicality, David has the thought, the ideas. He’s the ideas man. 


Erika: does it play out such that David kind of brings Lyle up academically? Because they’re working through the science fair and they’re doing all of these cool science things and then on the flipside Lyle and all of his energy is sort of like working on David’s physicality, like getting him more active. 

Jeff: I think absolutely that’s what’s going on here. That they are balancing each other out. Lyle has a purpose through David and it’s the first time that he ever really like commits to anything as we’ve been told in the film. 


Erika: I guess this is kind of reflecting the overall fact that this is Lyle’s story, but we see this play out in a few ways in the film. So Lyle takes on this sort of mixed quest to, I guess, maybe it’s not that mixed. Lyle’s quest is essentially to cure David. 


Jeff: Yeah. 


Erika: He wants to make him walk and he wants to raise money for him. 


Jeff: To get him to run again. 


Erika: yeah, by curing. I think, I’m pretty sure he specifically says in the movie that he wants to raise money for researchers. 


Jeff: yep, this is a bit of like a, this like a nature versus, or a science versus religion, I think, in some ways, right? And it is once they lean into science that David is smited. They have a fundraiser to get a cure and David is killed almost immediately after.  


Erika: really God wins this science-religion … what is the word? 


Jeff: Debate? 


Erika: Duel? 


Jeff: [laughing]. Schism? 


Erika: ooh. You made it all fancy [laughing].  


Jeff: maybe? I don’t know. Now, religion was a big part of this film and its tied directly, I think, to disability. Specifically, through these very strange inserted moments of Lyle’s mother and often Lyle himself watching televangelists Jack Lalane and specifically the phrase, “the great physician above”. 


Move clip: 


Lyle: I don’t want you to get discouraged or anything to get your way. At first you’ll think it’s things impossible, but believe me,  if you just asked a good position above for guidance and to give you the willpower to do the right thing then I don’t care what you do next. 

David: wait a minute, what did you just say? 

Lyle: uhh. 

David: what did you say right then, about the good physician above? 

Lyle: oh, oh. What I said was, if you just ask the good physician above for guidance and to give it the will power to do the right thing that I don’t care… 

David: wait a second. Wait just a dog gone second. Jack Lalane  said that on TV this morning. This whole thing is Jack Lalane. 


Jeff: the physician then becomes this apt metaphor for a higher power that has the power of life and death in their hands and like, although it’s a little clunky, it’s not and perhaps the best execution of it but there are several moments where Lyle seems to be asking for David to give himself over to a higher power. He literally uses that kind of phrasing but it’s not quite as like, obvious as it would be I think in other religious films where there’s this very like, you must give yourself to God in order to get the, whatever, and that might be because this film seems to play into another common trope, which is the connection between disabled children and God himself. That’s right, David is in commune with God. He speaks to God, God tells him things, he actually prophesizes things in the movie. He prophesizes the death of their teacher. So David is talking to not already, but Lyle is going to become this like, spiritual leader to train him how to walk again. Tied always right with the question of God though is this question of death and dying, which I think is another big trope that comes up a lot with disability. That proximity to death. Like, we’re primed like right off the bat — David is going to die. Now, there is a bit of a playfulness ’cause it appears as though he’s going to die in a wheelchair accident at the very beginning of the film, is how it’s sort of primed. Oh, I should mention there’s a flash forward in this film. If you want if you weren’t sure about how many balls are in the air, the movie begins with a, ‘here’s something you’re going to see in about an hour and a half later’. Maybe an hour later, when they’re going to run down the down the road on the wheelchair and nearly die. But death is sort of constantly surrounding him, but it’s also kind of also surrounding Lyle as well. We got all this sort of talk about Lyle having these sort of episodes that are perpetually putting people at risk and particularly this belief that Lyle is going to be the death of David. That Lyle’s excess is just going to eviscerate the fragile body of David. 


Erika: so, yeah, there’s an interesting play with Lyle being all about this excess, being so big and so much for people to handle but he’s also lacking. For reasons unknown it is mentioned that he’s colorblind very briefly, he’s bad at school, of course, because you know he’s having trouble sitting still and focusing, staying engaged and we also see that he’s kind of unsuccessful with love. Interesting that he has some romantic exchanges at all because we definitely notice that David doesn’t have any of those. 


Jeff: none. 


Erika: but a couple of times we see Lyle flirting with a young woman or professing his strong feelings for one of his classmates but he’s not successful in love ultimately and so we do see him we do see him portrayed as lacking in a couple of different ways. 


Jeff: He seems to be positioned as really disliked within the school. Lyle does not appear to have friends until he meets up with David, which I think it means that it’s time for us to talk about perhaps what went wrong in this film. Some of the oddities, the strange things that we noticed, the questions that are left unanswered and the first question that I have for you Erika professionally, as an occupational therapist: these two characters meet in the bathroom. They are sent to the bathroom together which, maybe that was a thing in the 60s I don’t know, and it is here we are introduced to the way that David uses the toilet. Now I myself, as a man with a physical disability, have never thought of or been instructed to use a PVC pipe to pee down and into a toilet. And, to mount this urine tube like a rocket launcher on the side of my wheelchair for ready access to my piss tube whenever I need it. My question to you Erika, as an OT, how many piss tubes have you prescribed in your professional career? 


Erika: to date, um, yeah none. 


Jeff: [laughing] 


Erika: That’s not a thing. I mean I have seen piss in tubes, but never a PVC pipe with a chest strap attached is something that I could only describe as a poster holder? Yeah, that’s not a thing. 


Jeff: yeah. The piss rocket immediately got my attention. 


Erika: oh, Jeff. I will not forget the day that you texted me, long before we had even discussed the podcast. 


Jeff: the first time I saw this movie in the midst of the movie I immediately picked up my phone and texted Erika and asked her if, in her experience, she has ever seen someone using a piss rocket. A shoulder mounted piss rocket. I have gone in and looked and I could not find any examples of this in the world. Like, portable urinals,  the jug urinal things, existed well before this movie and well before the 1960s. I am baffled by this. 


Erika: oh, it’s entirely impractical. Just like everything about it. If you’re gonna take a pipe like why would it be straight, right? 


Jeff: Right. 


Erika: Why wouldn’t it be curved? 


Jeff: Right! 


Erika: it’s like an arm length tube.  


Jeff: it’s like 6 feet! 


Erika: how are you gonna wash it? How are you going to keep it, this is just, nothing about this makes any practical sense.  


Jeff: You would have to be very far from the toilet, extremely far. I actually would argue this may only work in a urinal ’cause I don’t know if you would have the right gravity. I don’t know that the wheelchair sitter would be high enough for the urine to run down the tube and into the toilet.  


Erika: without it being dipped right into the toilet water. 


Jeff: right, yes and whether or not your seat is actually higher. Like, I’m not always higher than the toilet. They have those really tall toilets right, for transfers, where I think you’d be like peeing across like a plane. You wouldn’t get the gravity flow down and in fact it might actually roll back on you this piss tube would also smell just terrible. 


Erika: oh yeah. 


Jeff: and it’s right beside his head the entire movie. 


Erika: yeah, I mean this thing is, it’s just ridiculous in so many ways. I have maybe 2 theories about the piss tube. One is like, it must have existed in real life.  


Jeff: how could it not? There’s no way someone would make this up. 


Erika: so that’s running theory one, is that this was real and who knows why. Maybe in their, I mean, weren’t they in Washington? 


Jeff: Spokane, WA yeah. 


Erika: yeah, so it’s not like they were in like a small isolated place where maybe they didn’t have the same access to medical equipment like a urinal. The only other theory is that for some reason, and again, calling on our psychoanalysts, they just really wanted a very visible reminder of David’s urine. 

Jeff: I wonder if this was about the gag. Like that this was like, they added this in because they thought it would be funny. When they first me, Lyle would have like a moment, would have a “condition”,  where he would grab the pipe, start swinging it around, and then use it like a trumpet. 


Erika: which happened. 


Jeff: which happens, 100% that is what happens and that’s how they like, bond. They bond over Lyle essentially putting his mouth on David’s penis. Or at least putting it somewhere David’s penis has been. And it’s played as this is sort of like, ha ha ha that’s so gross. And I think it’s like a boys will be gross thing maybe? I don’t know. Or maybe this is, as you said, about the fluids and about how Lyle is — their friendship is locked in because Lyle doesn’t run away at the contamination of the urine. 


Erika: yeah, his reaction is mild for having just realized that he just put his mouth on someone’s urine stick.  


Jeff: He is like that was inconvenient. 


Erika: [laughing] 


Jeff: I probably shouldn’t have done that. Will I do it again? Maybe. I think it’s also germane to the conversation that there are several real photos of David on the Internet in some documentaries and none of those photos include a shoulder mounted piss rocket. 


Erika: [laughing] 


Jeff: I don’t know if they just take it off for photos maybe, or this is completely made up which leads to a big question: does Lyle understand how David uses the bathroom? Or was this an assumption that Lyle has made over the years.  


Erika: I wonder if David had some other kind of device that he actually hung on his chair that Lyle just always fantastically presumed was a piss tube. 


Jeff: This wasn’t the only thing though that was a little weird about disability in the film. 


Erika: this was the weirdest though and this one I think like, this one was weird in a way that the others were not. This one was uniquely weird, weird and unique to this film. The other like, doing disability weirdly things were more like stereotypes. 


Jeff: Oh yeah. 


Erika: obviously while David needs someone to go to the bathroom with him. There was a good ol head pat at least once in the film. 


Jeff: there was that, and I think the other thing that was very common about this film was David’s asexuality. David is really the only character that doesn’t seem to have any sort of interest or active engagement in the world of sexual relations. Lyle has like a weird little obsession, David teases him about that obsession, David is friends with the girls. He has no problem talking to them, but shows no interest otherwise in any of the women. We even meet David’s brother’s girlfriend. We meet everyone else’s interested, but David is not sexual. He has no interest in the opposite sex aside from friendship. I think it’s bound up in like, physical disability therefore not sexually active. 


Erika: do you think there’s any connection with like, his closeness with God and his presumed imminent death? Do those layer in there? 


Jeff: mm. like a piety thing perhaps. That’s an interesting take. 


Erika: so carrying on with the aspects of the film that we are not celebrating, shall we say? There was definitely that disability as requiring treatment or cure, so we had this pursuit to cure muscular dystrophy. Interesting, well I guess we were– so we have these two disabilities kind of running side by side in the film, we’ve got the muscular dystrophy and ADHD. And clearly like, a lot of emphasis on curing MD. I wouldn’t say that it’s curing ADHD that we’re after but there’s this whole conversation about medication, medicating Lyle in order to contain him. 


Jeff: yeah, I would say that is this interesting politics around the desire to cure David. There seems to be a desire for Lyle, Lyle is being let down and it’s more about the structural challenges that he faces. The school just isn’t set up right for him, presumably. 


Erika: I want to come back to this when we talk about what went right in the film, because I do think that there were some — this is kind of a strength of the film, is the fact that we have, you know, given that this is Lyle’s perspective, everything around ADHD is first person perspective, but I think that the flip side of that was that, and this is part of where the film goes a bit wrong, is that Lyle’s telling David story, making it all about this cure and overcoming. 


Jeff: This is a part that I think is really difficult when it comes to media studies and representations of disability, because in this unique instance we have a character with a terminal disability. At this time, children with Duchenne’s probably weren’t making it much past age 13, 14. They would have been dying quite young. That age expectancy is obviously a lot higher now, closer to 30 years old now, but it is still a terminal disease and so on the one hand it’s, there’s this desire to eradicate the disability but on the other hand Lyle is trying to save his friend. The death is the biggest issue, but at the same time that’s not how the film positions it. Because the real positioning is David needs to run again. David needs the freedom from the chair. Not so much that David’s going to die from this. And he does die from it eventually, but that is sort of seen as like, maybe part of God’s plan? And so really it was the walking that needed to be cured. And I think that’s what really separates this film, you know. If it’s a movie about somebody with a terminal disease and they’re trying to survive I think that’s a completely rational, understandable, and that makes a lot of sense to me. But the weird focus on the running here, that it’s not just about saving his life, it really is about giving him a corporeal experience that he has lost and that’s thought to be somehow meaningful. That has like, a value that is urgently necessary for him.  


Erika: Well, OK. So I just I want to jump back to Jack. His stick was physical wellness as salvation and like, we see this repeatedly on mom’s television, so this is obviously something that was like, Lyle grew up hearing — that sitting is going to kill you. You need to get physically active. 


Jeff: Right. 


Erika: so I don’t know, maybe it’s a little bit of a time capsule. 


Jeff: that’s fascinating. 


Erika: yeah. And that’s not the only, I think we could speculate, TV influence that has shaped the plotlines of this film because we know for a while that Lyle wants to raise money and then we learn that there’s going to be talent show at school and I think, as we were first presented to it I thought like, oh OK we’re just setting up one more thing that David, for whatever reason, isn’t going to be able to participate in. But then we realize that Lyle has decided that specifically he’s going to walk on his hands for, what is it, like 100 yards or something? To raise money. And then all of a sudden as it starts to come together, we suddenly have essentially a telethon on our hands. 


Jeff: right! That is another one of my favorite parts of this movie. 


Erika: oh, hands down. 


Jeff: Is that this is a movie set in the 1960s and as our beloved listeners know, I’m sure, the Jerry Lewis telethon on starts in 1964. So this is happening right, essentially, at the start of the telethon. This film ends with essentially a variety show in which the children get up and do a bunch of talents and then culminates with a fundraiser. I think this is a telethon. 


Erika: oh, I think you missed the detail where firefighters are standing by, waiting collect donations. 


Jeff: Right, absolutely. And of course, firefighters are, most firefighter charities are giving money to muscular dystrophy, that’s their disability of choice. I believe that actually wasn’t a thing yet in 1960. But correct me if I’m wrong. 


Erika: more forecasting. 


Jeff: yeah, I think this is that revisionist history that’s happening with Lyle, where he’s reflecting back on things and I’m wondering how much of this story is like, this is how it happened, you know, hand to God gospel truth versus this is the way in which after a lifetime Lyle is now reflecting back on his life and he’s seeing the ways in which pop culture aligns weirdly with his experiences, or he’s kind of bent and mutated the happenings could fit within this narrative. And maybe that was because of film — I find it odd that they would have a talent show and science fair at the exact same time in the gym, that seems, I don’t think I’ve never seen that personally. Maybe that’s common? I don’t know. And so it’s like, they had this whole narrative of the science project, that’s how they really are — that’s the bug story and possibly the proving god’s existence story, and they were like, well, but we also need to have him do this like, feat. This physical feat for his friend. This show of strength for his friend who’s so weak. So, I think there’s also that dichotomy happening here too, that they like, needed it to happen. And so, I’m wondering if it’s like, he’s thinking back and he’s like, Oh yeah, the Jerry Lewis has these, you know, these sort of musical acts and carnival acts and then it’s all brought together under this, to raise money, essentially for MD. 


Erika: now, chronologically, so David is going to have an accident that’s going to ultimately culminate in his death. Had that happened yet? Like, was David sick already at the point of this show happening? 


Jeff: I believe the implication here is they have the fundraiser and then immediately afterwards David drowns. 


Erika: okay, speaking of revisionist, though. That scene was so much like the scene in The Sandlot. Like, I’m pretty sure it was based on that scene. 


Jeff: yeah, absolutely. Part of the reason why I think that laughed so hard is because it is so out of nowhere. Like, they have this great triumph and you’re assuming that this is like the denouement. Your assuming that this is going to be, like, they’re going to wrap this thing up. You know, they have a happy life or you know, maybe there’ll be a black screen and it’ll be like, David died a year later or whatever. I assumed this was going to end after the charity fundraiser. It’s a bit success, they raise all this money. He proves that evil principle wrong. But no, they’re like, David has to die and we’re going to watch it. And we now get this additional, I think it’s about 15 minutes, in which David drowns. We watch him drown and then he dies moments later from complications resulting. That’s true, according to David’s mother. David did in fact have a drowning in his family pool and it wasn’t long after that he passed away. Now, where that happens in terms of the actual timeline of events – unclear. But, according to the movie, it appears to be fundraiser, dead six months later. 


Erika: This is definitely a weird point of transition into talking about what went right. But, I think that what you just described, a potentially rapid descent from being pretty healthy to death, like it can happen. That captures something that can be very real. Obviously, the historical inaccuracies or, you know, the fantasies that are kind of interwoven with the retelling. You know, it’s a natural part of retelling a story but if I could kick-off our “what went right” or “what did this movie do well”. I want to come back to that point that this is Lyle’s story and I think I felt watching the movie that the whole theme around ADHD was actually treated quite well. We end up, it’s not intended to be the focal point of the story I don’t think.  


Jeff: mhmm. 


Erika: maybe it is. I mean, if you think about the fact that this is, you know, it’s called different drummers. It’s sort of implying that we have, I think, those who marched to the beat of their own drum are oddities, they’re different people, and you know, it’s not different drummer. It’s not a story about David. 


Jeff: yes. 


Erika: it’s a story about these two different drummers, these two oddballs that for whatever, they’re odd in their own ways but they’ve united. It’s a story about friendship, but the telling and again this goes back to that review that was pretty generous with the film despite remarking that it was kind of all over the place. Like I almost feel like there was also in the narrative structure sort of a portrayal of Lyle’s somewhat scattered, bouncy mind. So we, you know, I think that’s a reality of life for someone who has struggled holding attention. That there are a lot of stories that are all very pressing and they all need to be told and they might not fit neatly together but that’s how my brain works. So, that’s the story you’re getting. Really a sharp contrast, because I saw a lot of those sort of typical narratives about David that were sort of this other perspective on disability, which I think is just always a trap that you’re going to fall into when you have the person without lived experience telling the story, but the flip side of that, and something really unique about this film then, was Lyle telling his own story and this sort of nuanced conversation that came up around whether to medicate or segregate, and sort of the politics around medicating Lyle for this condition or for the symptoms that were really less bothering him and more bothering other people. 


Jeff: absolutely. I don’t think we’ve ever been more aligned on something. I love the fact that this film, the portrayal of ADHD is predominantly not comic in nature. Lyle is presented as kind of a funny and goofy little guy but he’s not your typical like, bouncing off the walls like wild person by any means. I think as you said, I think this storyline actually represents that in a really interesting way. In a way that has way more nuance than your typical understandings of ADHD and I honestly loved the actual complexity that was given to this medication story, right, about whether or not to medicate Lyle, and the pros and cons, the financial impact, the pressure from the school. I feel like that story line probably rings very true to a lot of people with ADHD, whether or not it was in the 1960s or in the 2010s. 


Erika: That was a solid strength for me. 


Jeff: I liked the fact that the principle eventually becomes the only real villain in this film. I think that Lyle is extremely gentle and really uplifting towards his teachers and obviously the janitor especially. He sees in all of these people friends of his and in is parents he sees friends and allies is supporters. In David’s family he finds friends and allies and supporters. At the end of the day it is only the principle who is a monster and hates Lyle more than anything. Even the police seem to love this little guy. And I actually thought it was interesting how it’s like, you can see the like creative process and Lyle as he’s presumably writing this being like, alright but I did, I kinda like my teacher in grade four and the janitor was kind of nice but I need someone mean. Well, I didn’t like the principle. The principle was the worst. So, we’ll make her the villain. But I want to know, so at the end of the film Lyle proceeds with his plan, which the principle has been against the entire time. The principle then goes into the bathroom and cries. What did that scene mean? 


Erika: it was baffling scene for all involved. If you remember, I think she was in conversation with the cop? 


Jeff: she was. 


Erika: and the cop is baffled, everyone is baffled. Nobody really understands. Although, you know, the fact that you brought it up, I kinda suspect that you have to take on this. 


Jeff: I don’t. I am still baffled to this time, after several watches, I do not understand why the principle goes to the bathroom and bawls. 


Erika: I don’t know, maybe the irony of it is that she seems to be having a bit of a breakdown. She’s doing that kind of like, sobbing, laughing, crying, and she’s hiding and so, I don’t know, maybe there’s something around like, she’s trying to medicate this child for not being able to contain his excesses and now she’s hiding out in the bathroom so that nobody else can witness her excesses. 


Jeff: mm. maybe it’s a moment of allyship. 


Erika: self-realization, or not self-realization, but like introspection. 


Jeff: Right, she realizes that she’s a bad person maybe. How did you feel about the near death experience? 


Erika: honestly, I loved it. I think characterizing it as a near death experience makes me sound kind of sadistic for saying that, but let me see, how to explain why I loved it. I loved it because it was so normal. There was no there was no stereotype, there was nothing. It was so organic. It’s a scene in which these two mischievous boys decide like, hey man, you wheel. This is a big hill. 


Jeff: Let’s rip. 


Erika: let’s run up this hill and fly down together. Yeahhh. Right? So this is the whole like, Lyle’s going to kill David. 


Jeff: [laughing] right, yes. 


Erika: but like it’s not even, you know? They’re fully in it together. It was totally that like, yeah. Let’s do this. And like, so much joy, totally normalizing the chair, like, hop on bud, riding on the chair and they’re flying down and it’s like oh God what’s going to happen? Is this when he’s going to die? What’s going to happen? There’s a lot of emotion, but the beauty of this scene to me is just all of that. It’s so, it just feels so normal. I don’t know, maybe you can speak to whether this is real because like, did you do this as a kid? 


Jeff: Absolutely when I was kid. Both my manual and electric wheelchair there was so much play. What I found interesting about this scene, and I think because in some ways this scene is a microcosm of all of the technical things that are wrong with this film, when you think about this room like a film production analysis, whatever. So, this film is set up as the climax at the very start of the film. This is not the climate of the film. This is like the midway point of the film. So I don’t know why it teases it at the very beginning and then we arrive at it, it happens and yeah. It’s a part of the plot but it’s certainly not the climax. You assume it would be. It’s not. And as it’s happening, as a viewer, you’re sitting there and you’re like I have no idea where this is going to go. Are they gonna wipe out die? Maybe. Are they gonna get run down by a car and die? Maybe. Are they going to arrive at the bottom and nothing bad will happen? Maybe. 


Erika: [laughing] 


Jeff: all of these things could have happened at the end of that scene and it fundamentally would not have changed the film. There is a sort of like subplot that as a result of it maybe Lyle and David shouldn’t be friends anymore, but you could have just taken that entire subplot out essentially and the movie is still pretty much the same. It doesn’t really necessarily change the film. So I’m like, you are forecasting a scene that doesn’t actually have a ton to do with the film even if it does give a good representation of their relationship, and then the scene happens and some things happen and it moves the plot forward I suppose, but it’s still kind of a strange scene that’s just like, shoehorned in. I also am very impressed that the two actors got as far down the hill as they did in this clearly rickety wheelchair. 


Erika: Oh yeah, that was the other possibility that didn’t mention was that like a wheel was gonna pop up off— 


Jeff: yeah the thing just, they like full send down the hill and the chair just literally rips itself apart and that, not even as a scripted part of the film, that just happened. 


Erika: [laughing] 


Jeff: a really sketchy metal wheelchair are they using. But I think you’re right. I think the fact that the wheelchair becomes a part of their play is actually pretty representative and I would not doubt for a moment that this happened and that both David and Lyle were equal conspirators in the plan to go down the hill. 


Erika: And just, when do you see that? Like you don’t. That’s never, I feel like, that’s the joy, that’s the cool stuff and nobody ever tells that story.  


Jeff: So of course we’ve talked about David’s death, but David’s death is not actually the end of the movie. It keeps going after this for just a very stereotypical and unintentionally hilarious ending. Erika, take us through the end of this film. 


Erika: ugh, the cringe factor is so big.  


Jeff: [laughing] 


Erika: So, the movie was supposed to end after the romp down the hill. It didn’t. Then the character died, briefly, came back to life and then he died again. So, after David dies for the second time, Lyle finds out and as Lyle is prone to, he’s overcome with “the feeling”— 


Jeff: The feeling. 


Erika: and he takes off running. And he runs through the woods, he heads back to, you know,  the places that he and David have spent time together and who should appear next to him but David. Running, in death achieving the goal that Lyle had for David’s life. 


Jeff: and then a freeze frame. 


Erika: so that you will always remember etched in your consciousness, David running. 


Jeff: these films seem to desire, the character must escape the chair by the end. By some way, by anyway. And maybe that way is death, but we see the exact same thing at the end of Theory of Everything, where it’s like, you could not end the story of Stephen Hawking without walking, and he wasn’t dead yet, so instead they have to like, construct this scene where Eddie Redmayne gets up out of the wheelchair and picks up a pen for an attractive woman. Freudian! It’s similar in this film, it’s like there’s this desire, like David has to run. I thought it was going to end when Lyle puts David on his back and then sort of piggybacks him and runs around. I thought, OK so they’ve wrapped that story line up — but no, they had to have this post – no, not post partum. What is that, postmortem? 


Erika: [laughing] post mortem. 


Jeff: they have to have this post mortem, although maybe actually postpartum might describe much of this film because it was a sadness after it was born. There’s this desire, this post mortem that has to happen, where he has to be seen running and he has to overcome. He has to get out of the wheelchair. It’s the payoff that we have been promised by this film and this is where I say this is a film clearly trying to sort of end on an inspirational note. It’s like they thought, well, it’s too big of a bummer to end with David dying, so we’ll end with maybe they did get to run, once, in the sun, in the forest where they used to play. 


[Music interlude] Summery groove with deep bass notes from “Passionfruit” by Drake 


Erika: alrighty, so. We have gone through the critical reception of this masterpiece. We’ve run through our hot takes, but this isn’t just a fictional story. This is very much one that is maybe not even inspired by reality, this is a true story. This is based on real life. So, we have some good possible facts, some hot trivia to uncover. I think we need to start by asking the obvious question here, Jeff, which is: why does David wear your wardrobe? Were you involved in the creation of this film? 


Jeff: [laughing] so, I think that they may have broken into my house because David wears definitely more than one cardigan that I’m 90% sure I own, and several other great little combos of pants and sweaters. David does not seem to have my shoe taste. He is not a sneakerhead. I don’t know if that means that David was very fashion forward or if I dress like a 1960s child.  


Erika: [laughing] 


Jeff: It’s unclear. 


Erika: Maybe this is a both/and. Has anyone ever mistaking you for David? 


Jeff: for David? That is not happened yet. In fact, if that becomes a thing, I would actually be thrilled. If people were like, oh aren’t you that guy from Different Drummers? It would be a phenomenal turn events in my life. 


Erika: I think you just need to start promoting the film a little harder. So we’ve talked about chairs before. Is this, the chair in this film, is this one that you have also had at some point in your life? 


Jeff: This was a frustration for me. I have been trying to track down what this wheelchair is, who made it, what type of wheelchair it is. It appears to have a relatively generic frame, however there are some oddities, particularly around the footrests that I have been trying to track it down. I do not know what type of wheelchair this is. I am not able to identify it. If one of our lovely listeners knows what kind of wheelchair this is, please let us know because we’re going to keeping track of all of the brands that get shout outs in these films, whether it be through usage or possibly direct product placement. 


Erika: I read that the actor who played Lyle was, there was a good amount of effort that went into casting Lyle. They really shot for a kid that looked like him, and not just look like him but was like him. Recruited from a Christian school, 7th grader, just like Lyle in a lot of ways. And he said not only did he himself, I don’t know if he described himself as having ADHD, but definitely as a hyper and everywhere kind of all over the place kid, but also had mentioned that he had a disabled sister who used a wheelchair, which I think is fascinating because another one of those opportunities in the film to probably approximate reality in the representation a little bit better. Like, I think the more people that have lived experience on the set involved in the film you’re probably going to get a better outcome, a more accurate outcome. 


Jeff: yeah, and that actually might speak to why their relationship felt kind of authentic in some ways, because this was, this this actor Bradon, was able to kind of tap into things that himself — he probably has also ridden down a hill on his sisters wheelchair at some point. 


Erika: [laughing] 


Jeff: I think that’s really fascinating. They actually do look kind of similar ,photos of young Lyle comparatively is fascinating, but there does seem to be this interesting connection with disability kind of throughout the film, which is something that we didn’t really expect when we started this project.  


Erika: mhm 


Jeff: We presumed it was going to be a lot of nondisabled people talking about the disabled and that’s not the case for this film. 


Erika: yeah I mean, I think when you’re looking at, when you’re looking at when you know that the end of the film is this kid who can’t walk regains the ability to walk you have pretty low expectations for the rest of the film. 


Jeff: right, yeah. The bar is already quite low. 


Erika: And although it doesn’t say that on the box, it’s very, very early in the film pretty clear that that is where this is going. 


Jeff: Oh yeah, yeah. Like, David is going to die or walk and bless these creators we got both. 


Erika: [laughing] do you have any hot trivia to bring to this? 


Jeff: I have a few things. So there’s two things that I have been really thinking about. So num, ber one, there is a lot of content about this film that has been made, presumably by Lyle Hatcher and Don Keran, the other cowriter and director. They have a YouTube channel, they made documentaries about this film. They have all sorts of content. They have like, on the DVD there is all this like, teaching tools and other materials. They really wrapped this movie up into a real package and as a result we actually get some really interesting stories about where this film came from. So, it is confirmed by David’s real mom in one of the documentaries that David did in fact have a “series of prophecies” that were shared to him by God. David apparently predicted the birth of a daughter, a family friend I believe was they didn’t know was pregnant. He predicted that she was not only pregnant but had a daughter, that happened. And he did in fact predict the death of his teacher. What is not shared in the film exactly, it’s kind of hinted at, the teacher was apparently chronically ill. So I don’t know if this is exactly a prophecy so much as kind of an inevitable conclusion. But I think this notion of David as prophet I think explains this film in some ways, because I would argue that Different Drummers, as much as it is about telling Lyle’s story, what I think this movie is really about is about canonizing David. I wonder if this is about trying to get David like, a sainthood status, to show these miracles that David produced. And there is this amazing quote from Lyle Hatcher, the real Lyle Hatcher, in one of documentaries where he’s talking about why he made it and, let’s roll that clip: 


The real Lyle: over the last 40 years I kept going back to the places that David and I, where we had our adventures, our friendship. All the fun places and the fun things we did together. The open fields, the hills the river, the school. There was something that constantly kept pushing me back in that direction. Every single time I would go back I would remember something different, something unique and maybe something that gave me comfort, and to some degree strength. Something that I was missing that I left behind. The memories of David and I have been haunting me. I need to know why. Why would something like this stay with me for 45 years? 


Jeff: Lyle is haunted by David’s presence. Quite literally haunted by it. It stuck with him. And he goes on to tell the story about how he went on a hike, up a mountain, and a thunderstorm happened, and he took that as a sign that “David and our friendship should be a movie.” He then proceeds to work for 8 and a half years to write, fund, produce and eventually film this movie with the help of a local film studio guy named Don Karan. It went from like, a five-page script into a full-fledged feature film which was put out in theatres and people went and saw it. It made just under $20,000 I believe in box office, which I also believe is well below the budget of this film. I think they spent a ton of money on this movie and I don’t believe they made it back. But, that might be wrong and if I’m wrong, good for you. That’s great. But I think that the way that Lyle talks about the film really reveals that this isn’t just about his own personal narrative, which we both actually thought would have been better perhaps, as being the focus of this, but really I think this is about the light the mystical religious relationship between disabled people and God, higher power, whatever it might be. This idea that it, just as in Miracle in Lane 2, God doesn’t make mistakes. That David’s disability provides him this deeper connection to a higher power, which I think we’re going to hear a lot in many of these films. 


Erika: This is fascinating. It really, it is fascinating that that this is a story that gets told and retold, that people feel so profoundly touched by their brushes with disability. 


Jeff: that it literally haunted him and he had to tell this story, he had to — maybe this is an act of remembrance, maybe it’s an act of revealing a life that is otherwise not talked about or not shared, not honored, perhaps. But I think I’m with you. I think these are actually stories that are continually honored, continually shared, to the point that it’s the only story that we start to hear is about this disabled people who are troubled, they have a hard life, but that this connection with God, which maybe makes it worth it or implies that there’s a rational reason for it to happen, that sanitizes it in some ways, and then allows them to be, to stand as these sort of religious objects. So Lyle then is able to show his compassion through his ability to care for David, to support David, and to love David. 


Erika: I think we are making a very natural slide out of trivia and into final thoughts here. 


Jeff: so, Erika, final thoughts on Different Drummers 


Erika: My final thoughts on Different Drummers are that I am once again surprised. I came in pretty ready to tear this apart and for all of its problematic tropes and representations, I am pleasantly surprised to find through deeper analysis some merit. I once again hesitate to give this film too much praise, but you know, we’re not really here to judge the film itself. We’re really here to talk about how did it treat disability, and I think it treated disability in some decently realistic ways and it, through the stories that it told, it has certainly made for some thought provoking conversation. 


Jeff: when I think about Different Drummers and I think about this broader project of Invalid Culture, I’m struck by this question about whether or not it is possible to both make a good movie and a progressive movie at the same time. Because it appears as though like, objectively Different Drummers is a bad movie. It is poorly made, it is it is all over the place, I think all of the critiques of this film are completely accurate from like a film perspective. I do not recommend this film to anybody. And so then, we have to ask ourselves, is the general audience, is the truth of disability an aesthetic that actually lends itself to movies that we perceive as powerful, evocative, interesting, artistic or good? Can we actually make a good movie on both sides of that equation. A technically good and also disability good? I wanna say yes, I want to believe that that’s possible, but I wonder how many of these movies that make good points are getting bogged down by the ways that they don’t reflect what is presumed to be examples of good disability art. So this movie doesn’t break through because it’s not Rain Man and people are left looking at it as a bingo bargain, bargain bin purchase, as opposed to some sort of legitimate artistic interrogation of childhood with various disabilities. But at the same time, it’s a bad movie. 


Erika: well, and I think, like, we are definitely being generous with it but I think one of the traps that we see here and that we’re likely to see time and again is that these are “other” narratives. These are not people telling their own story, these are people telling someone else’s story and so I think that we are always, they sort of, these films lack the technical success to bring these stereotypical tropes which people love. Our Amazon reviews confirm. 


Jeff: absolutely. 


Erika: they lack the technical quality to bring these lovable, mainstream lovable stories to success, but they lack the storytelling power of a narrative that’s grounded in lived experience. And again, that’s that was that was what made this film for me, was that it had that aspect. So, I think we carry on in our quest to find some first-person narratives that are like, people who set out to tell their own story. 


Jeff: my hot take for tonight’s episode, our closing thought, we’re not gonna see any self representation on this podcast because I don’t think that those films will reach our high low bar for trashy, trashy content.  


[Outro music] Hip hop beat from “Hard Out Here For a Gimp” by Wheelchair Sports Camp 


Jeff: And so concludes another episode of Invalid Culture. Did you enjoy the episode? Have a good time? Why don’t you tell a friend about it. Tell em right now. Send a message, email them or message them on tik tok wherever it is you’re socializing. Tell them to check out this podcast. Do you have a film that you think it would be great for us to cover? Do you want to torture us with a terrible movie you once watched? Awesome. Go onto our website invalidculture.com and send us your worst films. Who knows, maybe you will get to hear an episode in which we cover it. So thank you again for tuning in and until next time, take care and we’ll talk to you soon.