Archive for the ‘Miscellaneous’ Category

The Fault In Our Stars and My Own History with a Disability

Wednesday, June 25th, 2014

Based on a book of the same title, The Fault In Our Stars follows Hazel (Shailene Woodley), a 16-year old girl suffering from stage 4 thyroid cancer growing in her lungs. The story is crafted in a way that shows the life of a cancer patient through the cancer patient’s eyesight. What I mean by that is Hazel’s character doesn’t come across as suffering in the way some people — those who don’t suffer from a disability — might think she should be.

This is Hazel’s story displaying Hazel’s feelings, and it’s refreshing because so much of what we’re shown in the media pertaining to cancer or other disabilities is the struggle, the fight, the pain and suffering. What’s never ever spotlighted is the sub-par attitude of the sufferer, probably because “angst” isn’t a fantastic call to action.

One definition of angst, found on Urban Dictionary:

Angst is about downtrodden teenagers thinking they’re the only bloody people in the world who have it tough, and thinks that gives them an excuse to wallow in their own self-pity instead of actually doing something about their situation

I love that above definition because it expresses how we feel like we’re the arbiters of the happiness of others, even if we can’t empathize with them. But what does that have to do with The Fault In Our Stars?

Some of the criticism I’ve seen for this movie complains about how the ugly side of cancer isn’t shown, that an accurate portrayal would show the physical degradation to the sufferer and the pain it inflicts to those close to her. It doesn’t showcase all the nasty stuff that makes us emotionally attached to the idea of eradicating cancer. That teenage angst à la Bella Swan from Twilight doesn’t have a place in a movie about something as viscous as cancer. I might be overstepping, but those are views of people who don’t suffer from an illness or disability, but rather, suffer other people suffering.

The trick is to see things from a cancer patient’s point of view.

Hazel is in almost every scene of the movie, and so instead of seeing the widespread pain that cancer causes, we’re given a glimpse into the potential feelings of a person suffering from cancer. Scene after scene, what’s shown is what Hazel sees. We see Hazel have to lug an oxygen tank around, we see her repeatedly asked if she’s okay climbing stairs, we see her told she can’t leave the house yet because she has to eat. The only time we see Hazel happy is when she’s with her boyfriend (Ansel Elgort), a cancer survivor with a prosthetic leg, who makes her feel like the 16 year old girl she deserves to feel like.

Unfortunately some people have a problem with that, and maybe what’s perceived as angst (I hate that word) from the main character could be considered a response to ignorance from the supporting characters. Hazel’s attitude seemed real — to me — and I tremendously appreciated it.

I have a disability of my own, it’s called epilepsy — if it means anything to you, I’m diagnosed with tonic clonic seizures located in the temporal lobe. So while I don’t have cancer I’m acutely aware of what it’s like to have a disability, and my point of view is radically different than the people close to me who have felt pain when I had seizures.

If a movie was made about me before I accidentally became seizure free (the wonders of a fruitarian diet!), and it was told from my perspective, it would look similar to The Fault In Our Stars, just minus the romance. What would be shown would be my family and friends yelling at me for doing things like not sleeping, telling me what I can and can’t do as a person with epilepsy. You’d see me shrug off all of their nonsense and eventually grow into a bitter person, who often thinks of healthy people what Magneto thinks of humans. You’d see an angsty Montana!

I know for a fact that if a movie about my life was made, but not from my viewpoint, you’d see the damage that has been done to me physically and socially, you’d see the emotional trauma that the people close to me have gone through when I had seizures, you’d see a disability that deserves more research funding. If what you’re shown is an unappreciative, generally depressed-yet-self centered kid, you probably wouldn’t care, and you might feel that the filmmakers weren’t accurately portraying my disability.

One thing I’ve observed over time, is that the feelings of disabled people aren’t really valued. You can be in agonizing pain with no end in sight, and you will be called selfish for wanting to die. If people are emotionally invested in you, what happens to you affects the emotional investors, and they think they have a say in your being — much like investors in a business own that business.

If you have epilepsy, depending on what you think it means to feel normal, other people’s happiness might require your misery. I’ve had plenty of seizures by exercising typical college student bad behaviors, but they were worth it because those bad behaviors made me feel normal. Talk to my family and friends, and they’d wish I religiously followed some seizure-repellant lifestyle. Waking up in the hospital sucks, but for me it’s just boring, and it might’ve happened after a night of getting sloshed, or not sleeping to binge watch TV shows, or both. While my hospitalizations might’ve been merely boring to me, they have emotionally hurt my family.

A long time ago I made a decision to make my epilepsy mean nothing, and I’ve since followed the recommended seizure-controlling rules (below) only when they don’t get in the way of what I want to do. For example, if I want to stay awake for more than two days participating in a 50 Hour Tweetathon to raise money for a film, I’m going to do it. In the past — before I became seizure-free — my attitude did result in seizures, some bigger than others. I’ve been told by everybody from family to friends to teachers to classmates to my neurologist that those seizures weren’t worth ignoring the rules. The rules (for my particular brand of epilepsy) don’t actually veer too far from the average person’s health tips:

  • Have a consistent sleep schedule and get at least 8 hours of sleep every night.
  • Eat at least moderately healthy and don’t starve yourself.
  • Exercise.
  • Take prescription medication at the same time every day.

While for the most part those are guidelines people tend to follow, there’s a difference between guidelines and rules (as Pirates Of The Caribbean has taught us). People can deviate from them and expect to not have a seizure, unlike me when I was seizure prone. So while it might not seem like a big deal to get sleep and take pills at the right times, imagine that you wouldn’t ever be able to deviate from your routine, and that your life will always be managed in the context of your disability.

While it’s possible to be healthy and live well — my lifestyle since becoming fruitarian proves that — it’s also possible that living healthy requires sacrificing happiness. For some people, a life lived short but happy is better than a life lived long but unhappy.

I can’t speak too confidently for Hazel’s character in The Fault In Our Stars, but I’d wager that she’s in a similar situation with her cancer as I am with my epilepsy. She wants to do things that might have consequences with her condition, but will make her happy. Hazel’s family wants her to mind her condition and not risk expediting death. In other words, for Hazel to be happy the people around her have to be distraught. For the people around her to be content, Hazel must be miserable. What we see in the movie is the conflict between the two sides, from Hazel’s perspective.

The Fault In Our Stars touched me because I felt, for maybe the first time, like I saw my own attitude on screen. That what has been probably unanimously misunderstood by people in my life was understood by the people involved in this film. It’s very possible that I’m reading too much into it and I’m seeing what I want to see, but I’d wager that the people who cite this film’s problem as not accurately portraying cancer, are wrong. As a person who’s grown up disabled, I know that not everyone’s opinion about disabilities are equally valid. Suffering from a disability is very different from suffering because someone close to you suffers from a disability.

Catch The Fault In Our Stars if you get the opportunity, it’s not a bad movie, and even ignoring everything above it stands alone as a good romance flick. Also click here to check out my buddy Jeff Nelson’s review of the movie, he’s a good critic and he generously contributed his time in editing this article.

Video of the Week: Bill O’Reilly F**K IT Remix

Saturday, June 7th, 2014

This is one of YouTube’s “oldies but goodies”. Enjoy!

Video of the Week: Go BWAH! Remix

Wednesday, May 28th, 2014

Thanks to the fine people at Smosh, I came across a hilarious video of a little girl falling flat on her face.

Fortunately someone took it further and remixed the girl falling flat on her face to be pummelled over and over, Sparta-style. Enjoy.

Happy Monkey Fist Day 2013!

Wednesday, March 20th, 2013

As you might be aware, my first entry on this site’s rebirth was a review of the cartoon show Kim Possible. The character Lord Monty Fiske — AKA “Monkey Fist” — is my favorite villain (voiced by Tom Kane) on the show, and, leave it to the Internet to dedicate a day to him.

So here’s to Monkey Fist, the best magic-wielding human/monkey mutant ninja around. May he continue to live forever in memory.

Picture This! Has Moved Back!

Thursday, February 14th, 2013

Well, basically.

Assuming that you’re a new reader, this post has a bit of history that you might be interested in.

Somewhere over 1.5 years ago I announced that Picture This! was “moving” from Blogger to WordPress.com under a new name, (slightly) unkommon. In reality it was less of a move than a new beginning, which was sparked because Picture This! Reviews — a movie review blog — had become a hybrid film/tech blog, and its name no longer fit. I dropped the “Reviews” part from the name, but it still didn’t work in my eyes.

ptrevs.net was kept around as an archive, and unkommon.net was born. It would stay that way more than 1.5 years, as I explored a flurry of ideas on (slightly) unkommon with a flurry of successes and not-successes.

And so we turn to today.

As of this post, Picture This! on Blogger ceases to exist. Picture This! Reviews is and will remain on WordPress.org for the foreseeable future. It will feature movie reviews/news by me (or a guest occasionally) every Tuesday and Thursday, at least initially while I craft a new schedule.

For the uninitiated: WordPress.com is different than WordPress.org — WordPress.com is a free blogging service which grants limited controls, while WordPress.org gives me complete freedom to do as I wish, although I have to pay for my own server.

Going forward Picture This! Reviews and (slightly) unkommon will be active side-by-side. Instead of having one blog which has multiple directions, I now have two focused (and in some ways, niche) blogs. In addition, I also have Seizure Prone (my webcomic which I’m soon taking off of hiatus), other blogs I’m a contributor to, other work, and school. I’m officially a pretty busy guy.

But I’m confident that this busyness will work out for the best in the end.

As an aside, this transition was painful. You’d think that, in 2013, transitioning from one blogging platform to another and one server to another would be easy. You’ve got a 24 hour wait here, a 48 hour wait there, GoDaddy being irritating, and other issues. I don’t recommend going through this, although if it’s something you’re thinking about, talk to me and I’ll help you navigate.

P.S. You’ll find that probably the first half of my entries here open links in new windows. I don’t do that anymore, no worries.

Relevant Links

My other blog & webcomic:
(slightly) unkommon
Seizure Prone

Other blogs I’m signed onto:
Unity Bond
Screen Invasion

Random stuff:
Processing (generative design coding language I’m learning)
The Saylor Foundation (the “college” I’m attending)

Credit where credit is due:
Azeem Azeez (the genius behind the template that I’m using for Picture This! Reviews and (slightly) unkommon)