Public Perception of Persons with Disability
A Comparison of Two Movies:
Rain Man (1988) and Of Mice and Men (1981)
Stereotypes constantly accompany different groups of people. This is true of mentally handicapped people as well. Labels such as “slow”, “stupid”, “ignorant”, and even “dangerous” are some stereotypical values that are disrespectfully bestowed on mentally challenged people. (Lewis, 2006) The public is now able to view mentally handicapped conditions through the media. Ideas gained from viewing various forms of media coverage of handicapped persons can prove to be both positive and negative.
I have chosen to do a comparison of two well-known movies about persons with disabilities. The two movies are set in two different eras, therefore showing how the public’s perception of mentally challenged people has changed, as well as stayed the same thanks to technology. Summary of Of Mice and Men (Prism, 1981)
Of Mice and Men, a drama starring Robert Blake as George Milton and Randy Quaid as Lennie Small, was based on the novel written by John Steinbeck. It was produced in 1981 and again in 1992. (Sparknotes, 2007) This film was set during the Great Depression era when times were difficult for everyone, not just mentally and physically challenged. (Sparknotes, 2007)
George Milton and his mentally challenged companion, Lennie Small, travel in search of work. They are often run off from their jobs due to Lennie’s unfortunate mistakes. They get work on a farm where it is grain harvest time. Lennie, being an extremely strong person, doesn’t realize his own strength, often petting or squeezing small animals to death.
The two friends have big dreams of owning land. Eventually two other hands join them in their quests to be on their own. As they dream and prepare, a piece of land is located. Their dream seemed so close until Lennie makes the biggest mistake of his life, killing a woman. He runs to the designated meeting place along the river to wait for George to come for him. George had told him where to go in the event he got into trouble. The movie ends tragically as George ends their troubles by shooting Lennie in the back of the head. Along with the death of Lennie was the death of the men’s’ dreams. (Sparknotes, 2007) Summary of Rain Man (Levinson, 1988)
Rain Man, a comedy-drama starring Dustin Hoffman as Raymond Babbit, a.k.a. “Rain Man”, and Tom Cruise as Charlie Babbit, proved to be a successful movie about autism and those with savantism. It was produced in 1988 and was based on a characterization of Kim Peek, a real-life savant, and Bill Sackter, a good friend of Barry Morrow, the author of the story. (Peek, 1996)
Charlie Babbit, a young yuppie car salesman in Los Angeles discovers his estranged father has died and left his multi-million dollar estate to another son. Charlie learns he has an autistic brother. When he hears the news of a brother, he asks the question, “Why didn’t somebody tell me I had a brother?” (Levinson, 1988) Charlie showed no concern for the fact that his brother’s address was in a mental institution.
Charlie starts after his claims to his father’s money by taking his brother on a cross-country trip. The trek allows the brothers to get to know one another. (Wikipedia, 2010) The duo continues across America enjoying many experiences that open not only Charlie’s eyes, but viewers as well to autism and savants syndrome. Comparison of the Two Movies
Rain Man and Of Mice and Men obviously focus on mentally challenged adults and their dependency on someone else. One very interesting similarity is that their caretakers, or guardians, are both young males. These two young men are often accused of exploiting their disabled companions by the people they encounter. In Rain Man, Charlie at one point did in fact use Raymond in Las Vegas because of his exquisite ability to count cards. The casino accused the two of cheating when actually...
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