Friday, October 05, 2012

Forest Gump

This one is out of left field, but I had an odd moment today and it bears a bit of reflection.  I first saw Forest Gump in theaters.  It came out in 1994 so I was about 7.  To me this was the story of a weird dumb guy who did a lot of interesting things.  I didn't realize until today that it was the story of a mentally retarded guy who did a lot of interesting things.  I think that when I first saw it I didn't know about mental retardation.

I can't decide if this perspective is more or less offensive than if I had just known.  Theres a bit of the whole 'innocence of the child' and 'I don't really see people that way' thing that fits the idea that the viewpoint was more tolerant or simply more politically correct.  But in the absence of the ability to say "Oh, he has a developmental disability" I instead decided that he was weird and stupid.  Is that better? 

I think about this now in part because I now work with a developmentally disabled gentleman.  After enough time looking at the way it affects him the best phrase for it in my mind is "not neurotypical."  It's not a matter of intelligence, it's not even his fault, his brain just isn't normal and it has radical effects on his behavior.  In a weird way "he's retarded" is a lot less condemning than "he's stupid."  It's equivalent to saying "he's sick" instead of "he's lazy." 

Perhaps there's no point to this except to remark on the experience of being able to look back and  remember what life was like before a whole concept made it into my head.  Something to consider though.


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