Susan's Blog

Sunday, December 11, 2005

Grab Onto “The Ringer”

The Farrelly Brothers are coming out with a new movie, The Ringer, about a man who decides to rig the Special Olympics — he pretends to have a developmental disability so that he can win. But what happens is that he gets to know the other teammates as people, and makes connections with them. It is not corny, however; in Farrelly style, the whole thing is done with over-the-top humor.

In fact what I think is the best thing about this movie, though I have only seen the trailer and read this New York Times article (thanks to the ARC of the US), is that the Farrellys used a lot of people with developmental disabilities (mental retardation, Down Syndrome, autism, etc.) who come across as real people, not two-dimensional souls you merely feel sorry for or look away from. This movie gets you to look disability right in the face and get to know it, without either of you being destroyed, degraded, disgusted, or manipulated. There is no Message here; it is a comedy that happens to use all kinds of people.

To give you further evidence of the sincerity of this movie, Special Olympics Chairman Tim Shriver is the executive producer, a good guy if there ever was one.

The fact of the matter is, developmental disability is hard to look at if you are unfamiliar with it. I remember my secret prayers when I was pregnant with my children: “Make them okay. Make them normal.” Mental retardation is dreaded by pregnant women. There is prenatal testing for it, research about how to avoid giving birth to a child with DD. All this implies the truth: we don’t want our children to have to face obstacles to happiness. We don’t want to have obstacles to our own happiness, either.

But what I have learned from Nat is that you never know what your happiness is going to look like until you open that box. Happiness might come in the shape of a Down Syndrome baby, but you won’t know until you get to know him. Happiness might come from watching a struggling child learn to swim and get the gold at Special Olympics. Happiness is not always giving birth to the Harvard-bound baby, although that may look like the more obvious path to happiness.

We think we know what the brass ring looks like, but the truth is, sometimes it’s not brass, and sometimes it’s not even a ring. The trick is to keep trying to recognize yours, and grab onto it when you can.

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