Hello, Failure

Of all the enemies of literature, success is the most insidious

Saturday, February 14, 2004

Failure of the Day: It’s Valentine’s Day, the Perfect Time For an Entry on Facial Disfigurement

I recently saw Vanilla Sky, which I liked a great deal more than I expected to. There were a couple of real clunker moments but by and large if it hadn’t had Tom Cruise in it, it probably would have been a real hit among phildickophiles like myself. Of course it did have Tom Cruise in it, so none of us even bothered to see it in the theaters.

I don’t think it’s giving anything away to mention that TC spends a good portion of the movie sporting a very well done facial disfigurement from a car crash. And you know that moment when Jordan Catalano parrots Brian Kracow to Angela and it’s like, the first coherent thing he’s ever said to her? Angela exhales for the first time in the entire season and says OK. Now we can talk! That’s how I felt seeing TC with his face all fucked up. You wanna be taken seriously as an actor? OK. Now we can talk.

Did you know that facial disfigurement is specifically included in the Americans with Disabilities Act? There’s a provision in the law that protects those with what is termed “perceived disabilities.” So even though having a fucked up face doesn’t itself prevent you from accomplishing a major life activity, other people’s reactions to your fucked up face will.

In the movie, TC’s life is ruined when his face is ruined. I myself thought he could have tried a little harder; he was still rich after all, and that girl he lost he never really had, and it’s hard for me to believe that life just isn’t worth shit for people who have to be ugly in their high rise New York penthouses. Seems like plenty of ugly people make do with loads less but whatever. If you’ve always been ugly, it’s different, maybe.

In the end, the movie turned out to be science fiction instead of a psychological thriller, so the really unfortunate message about living with a disability got a little bit buried in the WHOOSH! of shifting realities and the promise of second chances. I could holler about that, but considering that I just admitted to liking TC better with a face of my choosing instead of the one he was born with, and that I was willing to grant him various amounts of slack depending on what his face looked like, it turns out that I don’t have a leg to stand on.


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