About "Henrietta Bulkowski"
February 9, 2020 10:03 AM   Subscribe

I saw the short film "Henrietta Bulkowski". It is described by the filmmaker as follows:
A determined young woman, crippled with a severe hunchback, will stop at nothing to fulfill her dream of seeing the world. This is the story of how she finds happiness.
Without discussing my own reaction, my question is: What are people with physical disabilities saying about the film?
posted by the antecedent of that pronoun to Media & Arts (9 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
This user review on IMDb may be indicative. (You have to click on the “Warning: spoilers” text to read it.)
posted by hurdy gurdy girl at 10:26 AM on February 9 [1 favorite]

I haven’t seen the film. But “crippled” isn’t a term abled people should use, and the description suggests it could veer towards inspiration porn. Do you think the storyline goes that route?

If you have a link where I could watch it, I’d happily give a better informed opinion, as a physically disabled woman.
posted by brook horse at 10:35 AM on February 9 [5 favorites]

My go-to person for representations of disability in film is usually Dominick Evans who does a twitter chat #filmdis. I did a quick search on his blog and twitter to see if he had mentioned the film and he doesn't seem to have yet, same for anyone else using this hashtag on Twitter. I know this is sort of a negative result, but I might ping Dominick to see if it's a thing he's talked to other people in the disability community about.
posted by jessamyn at 10:48 AM on February 9 [2 favorites]

brook horse, as far as I know there's not a way to stream the full (short) film. I saw it because it is one of the films in the oscar shorts animated set though it is not actually up for an Oscar, so this might be in an art house theatre near you. Due to the ending, I don't think I would say it is inspiration porn.

[Click for spoiler about the ending]Inside her "severe hunchback" she actually has wings that she can fly with

I did find this information about the filmmaker:
Written and directed by stop-motion animator Rachel Johnson the short is a tale derived from her own experience. Born with one leg shorter than the other Rachel knows first hand what it’s like to live with a disability.

“I spent a lot of time with severely disabled kids. At first I didn’t feel connected to them at all. But as the surgeries progressed and I lost the ability to walk I felt like one of them,” she told the Joy Trip Project in an interview. “Eventually I didn’t want to leave the hospital ward and I just wanted to be with them, because I felt normal and accepted with them. A lot of those kids never left, but I did leave and I did heal. Now you can’t tell that there’s anything wrong with me, but for me, my 13-year-old self there was just this desperate need to beautify what you can’t change, to beautify what people think is ugly.”
posted by the antecedent of that pronoun at 11:21 AM on February 9

I haven't seen it - I'm mostly bedridden because of myalgic encephalomyelitis - but el_lupino, who is my spouse and caregiver, went to see that program of shorts last night. He said of it, "And people were applauding each of the shorts, but I badly wanted to get up and boo that one. Did you know disabled people are *magic*?"
posted by jocelmeow at 11:24 AM on February 9 [10 favorites]

Due to the ending, I don't think I would say it is inspiration porn.

"Disabilities are really superpowers!" is, at best, inspiration-porn-adjacent.
posted by Etrigan at 12:03 PM on February 9 [13 favorites]

“You can’t tell there’s anything wrong with me” is a worrying phrase for someone doing a disability-themed film.
posted by dorothyisunderwood at 4:01 PM on February 9 [10 favorites]

This tweet, from the "Disabled af" @HijaDe2Madre, is about a different Bad Hollywood Disability Take, but I think still applies: The media LOVES to frame Disabled ppl as “overcoming” disability bc that way disablism and inaccessibility aren’t discussed and disabled ppl continue to be inspirational pawns.
posted by Etrigan at 6:11 AM on February 10 [1 favorite]

Wait, I remember a short story with that exact twist ending. Except it centered on a dude who was 100% going to turn into a serial killer (there's a whole /thing/ about the power of guns, and a brief denouement explaining that the evil went out of him into his gun at the end) until she had sex with him.

You know, I knew that was a weird and problematic story, but it wasn't until I had to put that synopsis down that I really appreciated /how/ weird and problematic. I don't have time to track it down right this second, but if someone else knows what I'm talking about it would be nice if you could provide the name.
posted by Zudz at 8:27 AM on February 10

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