12 December, 2009

Quid Pro Quo

--ontdmadmen "Shut the Door, Have a Seat" thread

This quote is actually not related to my post which is about another boy I have a crush on, Nick Stahl!

I am just being lazy and using a picture I already uploaded to Photobucket in July when I was obsessed with Carnivale. Nick Stahl has this facial expression in almost every minute of every episode of that show. But in the movie Quid Pro Quo, which I watched last night, it turns out that he can make other expressions, too.

Quid Pro Quo is a movie about a guy who works for a euphemism for NPR. He wants to do a story about able-bodied people who would prefer to be paralyzed or amputees. (In real life this is called Body Integrity Identity Disorder.) He meets with a woman who claims to know someone who has BIID, but she's really talking about herself, duh. He has paraplegia from a car accident when he was a kid, so the woman kind of has a crush on him and asks him for advice about how to use a wheelchair and stuff. Also he has a crush on her too? And they have sex? And he finds this pair of shoes that un-paralyze him when he puts them on, and he starts walking with braces and then a cane. And the woman is more and more mysterious and depressed and tells him that she wants him to help her become a paraplegic.

Yeah. The very end of this movie has a twist that really annoyed me because I thought it was cheap and just not necessary and unbelievable. I think the thing about the movie is that because it's kind of a genre film--magic realism/noir/ish--the disabilities become thematic elements, if that makes sense.

It's hard to explain what I mean by this but basically, if you have read Fingersmith or Affinity by Sarah Waters, or seen the movies, they're both gothic thrillers centered on lesbian relationships. Because of the genre, and the way that lesbianism has historically been used in that genre, I think the lesbianism comes off as kind of creepy and gothic itself in both stories; it comes off as something that adds to the theme. And I can see how some people would think this is offensive, because you could say that lesbianism is being used as a trope or a symbol. But personally, I really like it, because when lesbianism is being used a genre thing, it means that you get more interesting lesbian stories, and you get lesbian stories that aren't issue stories about coming out or something. Another example of what I'm talking about is Mullholland Drive.

Anyway, in Quid Pro Quo I feel like Isaac fits better as a noir hero because he looks different from other people when he's going down the street, and because he's experienced discrimination. And then later, disability moves around in a dreamlike way--as Isaac becomes physically better, Fiona becomes mentally worse--general art movie stuff, not trying to do a realistic portrayal of bodies and brains, but kind of messing around with bodies and brains to say something about the human condition, or just create a strange story that's aesthetically pleasing. Quid pro quo, this in exchange for that; the idea that there's some kind of cosmic bargain, or some symmetry, where people like Isaac wish they could walk and people like Fiona wish they couldn't, and it's possible to tap into that pattern, somehow. This is how I would like to think of the movie, and although I know some people just 100% wouldn't like the fact that disability is used as an aesthetic thing or a metaphor, and I understand why--well, I think it's a more interesting story about disability than the straight issue movies that usually get made. And also Isaac is just a cool character because he's basically nice and competent without being boring or "inspirational," and he's allowed to complain about ableism without being an "angry" character.

But okay, would you like to hear the end? SPOILER:

Isaac figures out that Fiona is the person who paralyzed him and killed his parents, because she tried to run away from home and was driving her mom's car when she was like ten years old and she crashed into Isaac's family's car. Also, he always remembered seeing her, but he blocked out the memory? Whatever. I'm not sure that this is a realistic reason for someone to develop BIID, but okay, the ridiculous part is: Isaac confronts Fiona and she tells him that he's not actually a paraplegic and he just has a hysterical condition because he felt guilty that his parents died. Isaac gets really mad and tries to jump out of his chair and attack her, and falls down because he's not used to walking, but as he's lying on the ground Fiona sees his legs moving, and the movie ends with Isaac (presumably now ambulatory) on fake-NPR telling the story and saying how he never saw Fiona again.

This bothers me, because I think I can only accept the disability-as-metaphor thing (instead of finding it weird and offensive when Isaac is "cured" by the shoes) if the movie is not supposed to be realistic. If the shoes are actually magic, then I think the story can be a fairy tale or a parable or something. I think it would be cool if the movie ended with Isaac paralyzing Fiona and then being able to walk without a cane. That kind of thing.

But instead, the surprise ending is that it's actually not magic. First of all this just bothers me because it means that in a movie that uses paraplegia as a symbol and a theme, there are no paraplegic main characters. I don't like this because I think that if you're going to use a minority group like lesbians or paraplegics to enhance your genre movie, you should acknowledge that we/they actually exist outside of genre. Does that make sense? I feel like the movie is offensive if Isaac isn't actually paraplegic because it's acting like paraplegia is just a distant theoretical thing.

And also, I just thought it cheapened the story and was a Big Surprise Ending that wasn't really supported by any previous events or by anything we knew about Isaac.

So, in conclusion, there are some reasons to think that this movie is offensive and/or dumb, but I am glad that Nick Stahl is so good-looking because I probably wouldn't have watched it otherwise and I mostly enjoyed it, and thought it was more interesting than most movies about people with disabilities.

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