mainstream media

Disability in Mad Max: Fury Road

By Jorain Ng

When I first saw the movie poster for Mad Max: Fury Road in May, I didn’t have high hopes for the show. I thought it was just going to be another stereotypical movie about a disabled superhero saving the day. I could not be more wrong. Fury Road is one of the best action movies I’ve ever seen!

There are many characters with disabilities in this movie including the female protagonist, the main antagonist, the antagonist’s sons, just to name a few.

Imperator Furiosa holding a shotgun.

Imperator Furiosa holding a shotgun. [ Image taken from http://bulletsareextinct.tumblr.com ]

But my favorite character is the female protagonist called Imperator Furiosa. Furiosa has a physical disability, a left arm defect to be more precise. She wears a steampunk-looking prosthetic (one that actually looks realistic and usable by amputees) to help her perform her daily tasks.

Yet you barely notice her disability. Whether she’s driving a huge truck, reloading her gun or shooting enemies, her prosthetic arm is presented as a natural extension of her body. It’s there, we can see it. And it’s no big deal.

Her disability is also never a plot device. There is no tragic backstory regarding her disability, and her character is not used to inspire or motivate audience. In fact, her disability is never explained. We do not even know how or when she acquired her disability. The movie doesn’t want us to focus on her disability. They treat her disability as just another kind of difference – something I find really refreshing.

There is one particular scene that epitomises everything I love about the movie and the effortless manner it portrays disability. I have shared the movie clip from youtube below.

In this scene, Furiosa and her ally, Max, are fighting off their enemies who are attacking their ride. Furiosa reloads her shotgun and shoots at her enemies. When their ride catches fire, Furiosa quickly lowers the plow at the front of the truck which digs up sand, extinguishing the flames. When Furiosa noticed that more enemies are pursuing them, she opens the flap at the top of the truck and positions herself there to have a better shooting range. Max reloads her shotgun and passes it back to Furiosa who then proceeds to attack her enemies again.

These film sequences are done beautifully and realistically. Her prosthetic arm does not transform into a weapon – as you would expect from a disabled hero in action movies. It is simply portrayed as an assistive device that enables her to do things. And her allies like Max do not see her as a liability or feel sorry for her physical disability. They treat her as an equal.

I have watched many great action movies but this one takes the cake. I doubt the filmmakers ever read the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities or even know about the social model of disability. But they’ve inadvertently done a great job in showing others how to have a more accurate representation of persons with disabilities.

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Integrated system can be win-win for all students

Straits Times Forum, 26 January 2015 (print edition)

THE Disabled People’s Association (DPA) thanks Mrs Padmini Kesavapany for her comments on mainstreaming children with special needs (“Kids with special needs: Modified curriculum not the answer”; last Thursday).

We recognise that there are not enough allied educators, but the current lack of resources does not mean that an integrated national education system cannot work.

As mentioned in our previous letters (“Help kids with special needs fit into mainstream”; Jan 17, and “Special education schools should be part of national system”; Forum Online, Oct 18, 2014), introducing modified curricula will not add more burden to the mainstream teachers’ workload. These modified curricula could be taught at specialised classes by specialised teachers within mainstream schools.

It must also be noted that the DPA is not saying that it is the duty of mainstream teachers to develop a modified curriculum. This is best left to the Ministry of Education and Special Education teachers who have the expertise and knowledge.

At present, two international schools – Dover Court International and Integrated International – are trying out this curriculum strategy for integration and they seem to be working well.

Through their supportive education programmes, students with special needs are integrated as much as possible into the mainstream schools where they learn and play together with their mainstream peers.

And both schools have specialised classes that cater to those with special needs.

The DPA is not advocating an education system that is “one size fits all”. The DPA works with a diverse group of people with different disabilities, and recognises that no one type of learning would suit them all.

The DPA is confident that an integrated education system can work and will benefit all students with and without special needs.

Marissa Lee Medjeral-Mills (Dr)

Executive Director

Disabled People’s Association

Introduce laws to protect rights of disabled people

Straits Times Forum, 16 January 2015 (print edition)

MR ONG Soon Kiat suggested ways to deter illegal parking in spaces reserved for disabled drivers (“Enforce law on handicap parking more strictly”; Dec 29).

The Disabled People’s Association agrees that more needs to be done to ensure that people who need these spaces are able to access them.

These larger parking spaces, which allow more space for disabled people to get in and out of their cars, are only for those who display the SG Enable-issued label.

The abuse of parking spaces reserved for persons with disabilities is just one example of how these people are discriminated against.

We often see the improper use of reserved seats on public transport and toilets for persons with disabilities, to name a few instances of everyday abuse by those who are selfish or simply apathetic.

To stem such inconsiderate behaviour, we call on the authorities to adopt a more holistic and effective approach to ensure that persons with disabilities are afforded the same opportunities as those without disabilities.

Singapore has taken great steps towards becoming more inclusive, yet discriminatory behaviour continues to hinder the ability of those with disabilities to properly integrate and participate in society.

Public education campaigns can only go so far towards changing people’s behaviour, and we call on the Government to implement laws to protect the rights of those with disabilities.

Such laws do not afford persons with disabilities special privileges, instead they are needed to ensure that these people have the same opportunities and protection as everyone else in Singapore.

Nicholas Aw
President
Disabled People’s Association

Report responsibly on persons with disabilities, please

TODAY, 1 July 2013 (print edition)

Mainstream media carry a great responsibility in the way they present their reports about persons with disabilities (PWD).

With Singapore having signed the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities last November and the Government moving towards an inclusive society, we are seeing more news reports on PWD. Recently, it was reported that a charity rebranded itself and changed its name to Cerebral Palsy Alliance Singapore as its former name was considered derogatory.

The Prime Minister, after attending the Welcome to My World 2013 concert presented by Very Special Arts Singapore, posted on Facebook a photo, among others, of Redeafination, a hip-hop group for the Deaf, and the latter was heartened that he had used a capital D.

The group said: “This casting may seem minor to you, but means a lot to our community. Thank you for contributing to public awareness of the correct term!”

The words we use to describe PWD can be interpreted in varying degrees and may mean little to able persons but so much to PWD. That a charity rebranded itself after 56 years illustrates the importance of using politically correct terminology.

If our PM can use proper terminology to describe PWD, surely trained journalists can do the same, if not better. Mainstream media have a duty to ensure that their reporting is respectable and done responsibly.

The International Labour Organization, a United Nations agency, has published media guidelines for the portrayal of disability (see http://www.ilo.org ), and I hope the mainstream media will stop using insensitive and derogatory terms because they have a major role in public awareness.

Nicholas Aw

President
Disabled People’s Association