Gal Gadot’s Stephen Hawking tweet, and the unsentimental handling of disability in ‘Rust and Bone’

Posted on March 26, 2018


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Ableist (i.e. someone who discriminates against people with disabilities). That’s a new word I learnt after the passing of Stephen Hawking, when Gal ‘Wonder Woman’ Gadot put out this tweet: “Rest in peace Dr. Hawking. Now you’re free of any physical constraints. Your brilliance and wisdom will be cherished forever.” Several tweets took Gadot to task. Here’s a sample: “For the love of dog and all things holy, please don’t describe Stephen Hawking as having overcome his disability, or his disability as inability, or any number of boring, ableist tropes that take away from what an utter bada— he was and how the world was better for him in it.”

On the other hand, there were defenders: “Why the criticism? I doubt that Stephen Hawking was happy about having ALS [Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis]. He had physical constraints. That much is obvious. Yet he led a brilliant life anyway. That’s all I see here.” I wonder what the Twitterati would have said about Marion Cotillard’s statement when she was promoting her film, Rust and Bone (2012), directed by Jacques Audiard. (This was his follow-up to the widely acclaimed A Prophet). A Chicago Tribune reporter asked Cotillard (whose character, Stéphanie, wakes up after an accident and discovers her legs have been amputated) if it’s more difficult to lose arms or legs. The answer: “Oh my God, I don’t know. It’s hard to compare. It’s really hard to lose a part of your body. No, I’d rather not lose anything. [Laughs]”

The film is the love story between Stéphanie and a boxer named Ali (Matthias Schoenaerts), who is not an “ableist,” but not for politically correct reasons. The conceit is that he is “crippled” in a way, too. He isn’t emotionally expressive, and thus, unlike the others who meet Stéphanie. Ali’s sister feels tense around Stéphanie. (When they first meet, she mutters, “Poor thing.”) And at a nightclub, when a man who hits on Stéphanie finds out about her condition, he says, “I’m sorry…” Stéphanie asks, “Sorry for what?” He says, “I couldn’t know.” Stéphanie is hell-bent on making him articulate what his discomfort is about. She asks, in the same vein, “Know what?” He says, “I couldn’t know you had a… Didn’t have…” She asks, “Have what?”

Continued at the link above.

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