I hope I’m feeling well enough tonight to participate in the #FilmDis Twitter discussion. This week’s topic is “Inspiration Porn”. #FilmDis is a weekly real-time discussion about disability on film, led by Dominick Evans … @dominickevans.
Inspiration Porn is definitely a thing, including in film … especially during Oscar Season …especially this Oscar season. Self-consciously uplifting stories of disabled people who overcome their horrible problems to become just as good as everyone else are unoriginal, but reliably effective. Moviegoers who want an emotional catharsis that leaves them feeling better coming out than going in almost always get their money’s worth. I dare say there are lots of disabled moviegoers who lap it up as well. We need encouragement ourselves, sometimes. But for a significant number of us, Inspiration Porn is immediately, instinctively revolting. Why? What’s wrong with us?
The usual answer is that there’s nothing wrong with us at all. “Inspiration Porn” is bad, offensive, harmful. I tend to agree. But I think there’s more to it than that … or perhaps less.
I think that a lot of what we in the disability community call “Inspiration Porn” is actually just sentimentality. I can’t stand sentimentality, and not just when it’s disability themed. I can give all sorts of sociological and literary explanations for why “Inspiration Porn” is vile, but the bottom line is I don’t like weepy movies and cheap, formulaic tears wrung out of me, especially when they are based on what I know to be false and misleading portrayals of a life I actually live. I object to it. More importantly I don’t like it.