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Film Clips, Chapter 13

Part I

They Had Thirteen Children (2009)

NFB, Directed by Anike Lirette, 26:08

Anike Lirette traces the life-course (Albanese, pp.16–17) of her father’s Catholic Acadian family in New Brunswick through the latter half of the twentieth century. Eight of the 13 children were visibly and non-visibly (Owen, p. 250) disabled from a genetic condition and all grew up in poverty (pp. 253–255). The film illustrates the dire lack of social supports for families with disabled children in Canada (pp. 256–259) and the patterns of formal and informal caregiving that developed in response (pp. 260–261). Lirette reveals the strength of her family in accepting their disabled siblings. Her father, aunts, and uncles are candid in discussing what they had to do to cope with the prejudices and courtesy stigmas they grew up with and how to care for their disabled siblings after their parents died (pp. 254–256).

This film provides an excellent illustration of the identity formation that occurs in disabled families discussed by Andrew Solomon in Love, No Matter What.

Critical Thinking Questions

  1. What challenges faced this family in caring for their disabled members, as both children and adults? What challenges faced the disabled siblings as they grew older?
  2. What social supports were evident in this film? What is available in your province for families in such circumstances? How can we do better?
  3. What are the ethical dilemmas posed by this film? How do these compare with those described in the text—for example, in the Tracey Latimer case (pp. 264–266)? How does familism influence how we construct these dilemmas?

Part II

Love, No Matter What: Andrew Solomon (2013)

TEDMED, 23:27

Solomon tells stories of parents’ difficulties, love and development (Owen, pp. 256–259) through raising their “different” children. Their children are not always visibly disabled (p. 250). Difference here includes as deafness, dwarfism, homosexuality, and autism. They learn to “engage with the life [they] have, be who [they] have come to be.” Solomon touches on the ethical questions of how to “cure” disabilities (pp. 251–252) and thereby eliminate difference. This would constitute a loss because “it’s our differences, and our negotiation of difference, that unites us . . . [we] “need the diversity of affection and family to strengthen the ecosphere” of family.

Critical Thinking Questions

  1. How do parents of disabled, or any “different” children, come to acceptance? How is this different from love, according to Solomon? If you watched They Had Thirteen Children, note the difficulties inherent in acceptance and how love influences this.
  2. How do families figure in the development of both “vertical” and “horizontal” identity? How is this developed differently among different children? If you watched They Had Thirteen Children, discuss this development among the siblings of disabled children.
  3. Solomon maintains that we must “accept only additive models of love.” What does this mean? How does it speak to the idea of the social model of disability (pp. 251–252)?

Part III

Toward Intimacy (1992)

NFB film, directed by Debbie McGee, 61:32

Charting the experiences of four visibly and non-visibly (Owen, p. 250) disabled women, Debbie McGee’s 1992 film reveals how they reject the sexism and ableism (p. 249) associated with their disabilities. For most, this involved dealing with the social stigma and overcoming the associated self-abasement that led to undesirable identities. Instead, they insist on the normalcy of their needs for intimacy in its emotional, sexual, and other forms. These women are responding to others’ perceptions that their sexuality and their desires to parent (pp. 259–260) are somehow deviant. They speak of the stereotyping that assumes disabled adults to be sexless, even genderless (p. 252) and that figures in the abuse of some disabled women (pp. 253–256). They illustrate how self-identity and self-esteem is intricately tied to sexuality and should not be dictated by others.

Critical Thinking Questions

  1. This film was made in 1992. Have social circumstances changed for disabled women in Canada since then (pp. 264–266)? Are they still experiencing the sexism shown in this film (pp. 249, 252)? How do we respond to the need for intimacy among disabled women today? Is it any different for disabled men? (To look further into this, the class might be interested in CBC The Passionate Eye’s “Scarlet Road: A Sex Worker’s Journey”.
  2. What challenges do disabled women face that other women are less likely to encounter (pp. 260, 265–266)?
  3. How are the women in Toward Intimacy using the social model of disability, instead of the other models discussed in the text (pp. 251–252)?
  4. The issue of parenting comes up in this film: What social supports do we offer disabled parents here in Canada (pp. 259–262)? Are we doing enough?

Part IV

For those who wish to introduce global issues in the classroom, UNICEF’s State of the World’s Children, 2013 provides a series of 30 short videos focusing on disability issues affecting children around the world.

See http://www.youtube.com/unicef for other issues affecting children in various parts of the world.