DISABILITY in media Victims and Victors: Representation of Physical Disability on the Silver Screen Rhonda S. Black University of Hawai’i at Manoa Lori

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DISABILITY in media Victims and Victors: Representation
of Physical Disability on the Silver Screen

Rhonda S. Black
University of Hawai’i at Manoa

Lori Pretes
Golden Gate Regional Center

The portrayal of individuals with physical disabilities
in feature films contributes to society’s overall perception
of disability (Nelson, 1994; Susman, 1994). Therefore, the
purpose of this study was to analyze 18 films, produced
between 1975 and 2004, that had a main character with a
physical disability. Our analysis included specific themes
and stereotypes identified by the research literature. The
themes examined were (a) overall personality, (b) com-
munity integration, and (c) interpersonal relationships.
The stereotypes examined were (a) pitiable and pathetic;
(b) supercrip; (c) sinister, evil, and criminal; (d) better-off
dead; (e) maladjustedYown worst enemy; (f) burden to
family/society; and (g) unable to live a successful life
(Biklen & Bogdan, 1977; Nelson, 1994). Most of the films
developed the personality of the character with a disabil-
ity. Healthy interpersonal relationships were portrayed in
some of the films; however, on-going intimate relation-
ships were rarely portrayed. Many of the movies por-
trayed integrated community life, but integrated education
and employment opportunities were noticeably lacking.
The most common stereotype portrayed in the films was
maladjustedYown worst enemy; the two least common
stereotypes were pitiable and pathetic, and sinister, evil
and criminal. In some areas, filmmakers have made prog-
ress in dispelling myths and stereotypes described in the
literature (e.g., dangerous monster, pitiable victim). In
other areas, filmmakers continue to perpetuate damaging
images (e.g., asexual beings, incapable of competitive em-
ployment or postsecondary education, who as a result of
their inability to cope with the disability engage in self-
destructive behaviors).

DESCRIPTORS: physical disability, disabilities, films,
attitudes toward disabilities, stereotypes

We are constantly exposed to the mass media. Whether
from newspapers, magazines, television, or films, the
mass media are a major source of information for a wide
range of people. One such form of information and en-
tertainment is feature films. With feature films becoming
more accessible to the public through television and large

video rental companies, motion pictures may influence
societal attitudes toward many issues and may have
Ba substantial impact on public attitudes toward individ-
uals with disabilities[ (Safran, 1998b, p. 467). Movies
offer people a way to explore the unfamiliar in a safe
environment. Therefore, if someone has not had direct
experience with individuals with various disabilities,
film depictions may be his or her primary source of in-
formation. BWhile movies entertain, they simultaneously
provide viewers with information about disabilities, and,
through the filmmaker’s lens, they project representa-
tions of how individuals fit into a nation’s social and po-
litical landscape[ (Safran, 2001, p. 223).
Accurate portrayals are not always the focus of film-

makers (Norden, 1994), who may promote positive or
negative images of individuals with disabilities (Safran,
1998a, 1998b). Yet, the lasting images that films create for
millions of viewers ultimately shape public perceptions.
Many individuals, especially children, assimilate as real
the images that appear on film (Lawson & Fouts, 2004).
BMedia portrayals reflect, define, or perpetuate ways of
thinking about disabled persons[ (Susman, 1994, p. 18).
If movies portray individuals with disabilities as depen-

dent victims or sullen objects of pity, then classmates, co-
workers, and community members may be more likely to
Bsee[ individuals with disabilities through this lens. More-
over, these images influence the perceptions individuals
with disabilities have of themselves (Norden, 1994).

Portrayals of Individuals With Disabilities
in Feature Films

Numerous studies have investigated the portrayal of
individuals with disabilities in feature films. Safran (1998a)
found that the percentage of Academy Award winning
films with disability themes rose from 16.7% in the 1970s
to 43% in the 1990s. Byrd and Pipes (1981) found that
8.7% of 287 films they sampled included a character with
a disability; and psychiatric disabilities were the most
frequently portrayed. In a similar study, Byrd and Elliot
(1985) reviewed 1,051 films and found that 11.4% (n =
120) of the films included 154 characters with a disabilityY
most frequently, a psychiatric disability. In 1988, Byrd
and Elliot further examined how frequently characters
with disabilities were included in feature films. A total
of 136 films portrayed 177 characters with disabilities.

Address all correspondence and reprint requests to Rhonda S.
Black, Department of Special Education, 1776 University Ave-
nue, Wist 127, Honolulu, HI 96822. E-mail: rblack@hawaii.edu

Research & Practice for Persons with Severe Disabilities
2007, Vol. 32, No. 1, 66–83

copyright 2007 by
TASH

66

Again, psychiatric disabilities appeared most frequently
(42%), followed by sensory disabilities (14%), neuromus-
cular disorders and cardiopulmonary and chronic illness
(10%), and mental retardation (3%). Safran (1998a)
similarly found that psychiatric disabilities were the most
frequently portrayed disability in Academy Award win-
ning films.
Byrd (1989) studied specific characteristics of char-

acters with disabilities in film. Variables such as major
versus minor role, gender, normalcy of personality, at-
tractiveness, victim or hero status, institutionalization,
family membership, social relations, social class, employ-
ment status, age category, and type of disability were ex-
amined. Sixty-seven characters were portrayed as having
a disability in 53 of 302 films. Byrd concluded that Bthe
typical portrayal of disability was by a major character
who was male and chemically dependent, who had an
abnormal personality and was victimized in some fashion,
but was socially related to another character in the film,
was not institutionalized, had no occupation, came from a
middle class background, and was middle aged[ (p. 43).
Across studies then, a pattern of stereotypes present in
feature films has emerged.

Stereotypes in Feature Films
Ableism which is defined as Bdiscrimination or pre-

judice against people with disabilities, especially phys-
ical disabilities[ (American Heritage Dictionary, 2000)
has many similarities to racism and sexism and other
isms associated with discriminatory practices. Often-
times, the film industry presents people with disabil-
ities in a variety of stereotypical ways, thus perpetuating
ableist stereotypes.
Several stereotypes of people with disabilities have

barraged the public throughout the years. Nelson (1994)
discussed seven common stereotypes largely based on
the work of Biklen and Bogdan (1977). These stereo-
types were (a) pitiable and pathetic, (b) supercrip, (c)
sinister, evil, and criminal, (d) better-off dead, (e) mal-
adjusted, his or her own worst enemy, (f) a burden, and
(g) unable to live a successful life.
The first stereotype, pitiable and pathetic, is evident

in telethons which portray individuals with disabilities
as childlike, incompetent, and in need of care or a
cure from nondisabled people (Nelson, 1994). In other
words, disability is a tragedy which calls for sympathy
and charity (Shapiro, 1994).
The second stereotype, Bsupercrip,[ portrays the in-

dividual with a disability as exhibiting great courage,
stamina, and determination to overcome his or her dis-
ability. This individual then serves as a motivational
role model for others but may lead individuals with
disabilities into feeling like failures if they have not
accomplished something extraordinary (Nelson, 1994).
BWhile prodigious achievement is praiseworthy in any-
one, disabled or not, it does not reflect the day-to-day
reality of most disabled people[ (Shapiro, 1994, p. 17).

The third stereotype, sinister, evil, and criminal
(Longmore, 1985), implies that individuals with disabil-
ities are somehow less than human (Nelson, 1994). Ad-
ditionally, by giving disabilities to villainous characters,
three common prejudices are reinforced: (a) disability is
a punishment for evil; (b) people with disabilities are
embittered by their Bfate,[ and (c) people with disabilities
resent the nondisabled and would, if possible, destroy
them (Longmore, 1985). Bogdan, Biklen, Shapiro, and
Spelkoman (1982) suggested that the associated imagery
of disability with violence or ugliness may be a result of
deep-rooted fears which remind healthy people of their
own imperfections. By reinforcing such stereotypes in
the media, society’s prejudices are preserved, resulting
in fear of people with disabilities and consequently their
systematic intentional exclusion from society (Bogdan
et al., 1982).
The fourth stereotype, better-off dead, presents the

individual with a disability as having a life that is clearly
not worth living and suggests that suicide could serve
as a release from his or her catastrophic condition
(Longmore, 1985). This stereotype promotes the idea
that disability means total physical dependence, misery,
and deprivation of autonomy and self-determination.
Because death becomes a preferred alternative, so-
ciety is no longer responsible for dealing with long-term
needs and rights of people with disabilities (Nelson,
1994). This stereotype fails to take into account reha-
bilitation or the use of assistive technology to improve
quality of life or, more importantly, the right to be dis-
abled (Kunc, n.d.).
The fifth stereotype, maladjusted and his or her own

worst enemy, promotes the idea that people with dis-
abilities need insight about themselves and the world
from those without disabilities. This stems from the idea
that disability is primarily a problem of emotional coping
and personal acceptance, and that with the proper at-
titude anyone can cope with and overcome any situation
or condition. This stereotype ignores societal stigma and
discrimination (Longmore, 1985) and creates the notion
that accomplishment or defeat ultimately depends on
one’s attitude toward oneself and toward life.
The sixth stereotype, a burden, is perpetuated by

showing the great weight on families/caregivers of indi-
viduals with disabilities. It shifts the focus away from the
individual with a disability and bestows near sainthood
upon the caring adults in his or her life. BThis stereo-
type is often used on the screen as a device to show
the nobility and generosity of those who furnish care,
making the disabled person little more than a prop
rather than a human being capable of interacting with
others to the profit of both[ (Nelson, 1994, p. 9).
The final stereotype (Biklen & Bogdan, 1977; Nelson,

1994), unable to live a successful life, is perpetuated by
lamenting loss of personally fulfilling roles, occupations,
or leisure interests and by defining characters by their
disabilities rather than by their personal characteristics.

67Themes and Stereotypes

Until recently, popular films have not featured people
with disabilities leading happy lives or participating ac-
tively as members of the community. In addition, popu-
lar films have not featured people with disabilities as
workers, family members, lovers, or in any of the roles
that films typically assigned to actors playing people
without disabilities.
With the passage of landmark educational and civil

rights laws [e.g., Individuals with Disabilities Education
Act (IDEA), and the Americans with Disabilities Act
(ADA)], there has been movement toward educational
and community integration of individuals with disabil-
ities. It would be expected that as this trend toward
inclusion continues, there would be a breakdown of edu-
cational, architectural, and attitudinal barriers which
would be reflected in the images we see in feature films.

Purpose of the Study
The purpose of this study was to analyze how indi-

viduals with physical disabilities are portrayed in fea-
ture films. The number of feature films that included
one or more portrayals of characters with disabilities
has been steadily increasing since the 1970s (Safran,
1998a). However, key questions remain. To what extent
do feature films portray these characters in a positive
light? To what extent do these films depict, and thereby
promote, the progressive inclusion of individuals with
disabilities into American society? We designed this
study to examine portrayals according to three themes
strongly suggested by Byrd (1989)Ypersonality, commu-
nity integration, and interpersonal relationshipsYand
the presence or absence of seven stereotypes previously
noted in the research literature (Nelson, 1994).

Method

Film Selection
We chose to select films involving characters with

physical disabilities for several reasons. First, many films
portray characters with mental illness, mild intellectual
disabilities, or physical disfigurement. These disabilities,
however, do not meet the U.S. Census Bureau guide-
lines of severe disabilities which states Bpeople age 15
and over were identified as having a severe disability if
they were unable to perform one or more functional
activities; needed personal assistance with an [activity
of daily living] or [instrumental activity of daily living];
used a wheelchair; were a long-term user of a cane,
crutches, or a walkerI[ (McNeil, 1997, p. 1). Second,
physical disabilities are visible disabilities and are less
subject to scrutiny regarding whether one actually has
a disability. Physical disabilities are in the public eye;
thus, we can examine public reaction based on the dis-
ability and not some hidden or unknown characteristic
of the person/character. Third, anyone could become
part of the oppressed minority of those with physical
disabilities at any time (as opposed to mental retarda-
tion or autism which are developmental disabilities),

as highlighted by the slogan Btemporarily able-bodied[
used by some disability rights activists (Shapiro, 1994).
Therefore, it is important to examine public perceptions
and portrayals of such disabilities.
Finally, there are a large number of films focusing on

disability in general. Several authors have approached
the task of reviewing disability films quantitatively by
stating the number of movies or the number of charac-
ters that appeared within in feature films within a certain
period (Byrd, 1989; Byrd & Elliot, 1985; Byrd & Pipes,
1981; Safran, 1998a). Others have qualitatively explored
a few films in great depth (Carter-Long, 2005; Darke,
1999). We chose the middle ground by narrowing the
focus to one disability type and by providing some com-
parative analysis between films based on prior research
literature.
We located films for review by searching the world-

wide Web and several databases (e.g., University of
California at Berkeley Library, www.disabilitystudies.
com, www.disabilityfilms.co.uk). We used various com-
binations of search terms such as Bdisability,[ Bphysi-
cal disability,[ Bmovies,[ and Bfilms.[ We also located
movies mentioned in the research literature, contem-
porary magazines and books on the topic.
Six criteria were used to select films. We selected films

that were produced between 1975 (the year PL 94-142,
The Education for All Handicapped Children Act was
passed) and 2004. Second, the films were feature length
and produced by a major studio for profit and wide-
spread distribution (e.g., we excluded documentaries
and films of limited distribution). We defined Bwide-
spread distribution[ as films available for home viewing
through mainstream rental companies such as Block-
buster, Netflix, etc., and not limited to small private,
specialty rental companies, university libraries, or Broad-
way archives. We also used box office revenue to deter-
mine widespread distribution (www.boxofficemojo.com/
genres/chart/?id=disability-paraplegic.htm). Third, the
films had a main character with a permanent physical
disability. We separated the disabilities into three catego-
ries: (a) acquired through accident, (b) acquired through
a degenerative disease, or (c) present from birth. Fourth,
the character’s disability substantially limited one or more
major life activities (Americans with Disabilities Act,
1990) and required assistance from another person in a
paid or unpaid position. Fifth, the disability affected the
character’s mobility. Finally, we excluded films in which
the character had a sensory disability (auditory or visual)
or included a physical disfiguration, unless the film met all
of the aforementioned qualifying criteria. Table 1 provides
a brief summary of each movie.

Evaluation Tool
After reviewing the professional literature regard-

ing portrayal of disability in film, we developed two
rubrics to evaluate each film. We developed the first ru-
bric based on three categories: personality, community

68 Black and Pretes

http://www.disabilitystudies.com,www.disabilityfilms.co.uk

http://www.disabilitystudies.com,www.disabilityfilms.co.uk

http://www.disabilitystudies.com,www.disabilityfilms.co.uk

http://www.disabilityfilms.co.uk

http://www.boxofficemojo.com/genres/chart/?id=disability-paraplegic.htm

http://www.boxofficemojo.com/genres/chart/?id=disability-paraplegic.htm

Table 1
Brief Synopses of Films Reviewed by Source of Disability and Chronology

Film title (year produced,
director) actors Synopses (awards)

Acquired disability from accident (spinal cord injury–paraplegia and quadriplegia)
Coming Home (1978,
Hal, Ashby)
Jon Voight and
Jane Fonda

Luke Martin, who served as a Marine in Vietnam returns paralyzed from the waist down.
Highlighting the difficulties of war-wounded returned veterans, the film had a strong
anti-war message. Notably, Luke was portrayed as a sexual being in a relationship with
a married woman who volunteered at the rehabilitation center where Luke was placed
upon his return stateside. The film showed Luke’s initial stages of anger changing to
acceptance as he reintegrates into the community and starts helping other veterans. The
film shows an adapted car and installing ramps for residential access (1979 Academy
Award winnerYbest actor, actress and screenplay).

Whose Life Is It Anyway?
(1981, John Badham)
Richard Dreyfuss
and John Cassavetes

Ken Harrison was injured in an automobile accident and paralyzed from the neck down.
The audience sees Ken’s adjustment to the reality that he will no longer be able to sculpt,
which had been his passion. Although it meant death, Ken fought for release from the
hospital. The movie focused on his right to refuse treatment, and whether he was competent
to make such a decision. Eventually, a judge decided Ken was not clinically depressed
and that he had the right to be discharged from the hospital. The hospital then agreed to
discontinue life support, while allowing him to die in his hospital bed framed by his own
sculptural interpretation of the forearm and hand of God from Michelangelo’s Creation
of Man (Tony award winning play, film did not win Academy Awards).

Born on the Fourth of Julya

(1987, Oliver Stone)
Tom Cruise and
Kyra Sedgwick

The biographical story of Ron Kovic, a Vietnam veteran who was paralyzed from the waist
down, focuses on Ron’s difficulties upon returning to the United States and the horrible
conditions of the rehabilitation center. Ron returned to his family home but continued to
experience difficulties adapting to his new situation. He moved through stages of anger,
grief, and self-pity; to self-destruction with alcohol, drugs, and prostitutes; and finally to
empowerment and advocacy as he became an anti-war activist and spokesperson. This
film also showed installing ramps and widening doorways for residential access (1989
Academy Award winnerYbest director and best editing, nominated for 6 awards).

Monkey Shines: An
Experiment in Terror
(1988, George Romero)
Jason Beghe, John Pankow,
and Kate McNeil

Allen becomes quadriplegic after being hit by a truck while jogging. With some assistance
Allen lives independently. He is fully equipped with a mouth-operated wheelchair,
voice-command operated music, light and other household items, and Ella, a helping
monkey. Ella, however, has been genetically altered and telepathically Bsees[ and enacts
Allan’s darkest wishes. Allan’s rage increases as Ella gets more into his thoughts and her
actions become more deadly. The Helping Hands Program at Boston University trains
Capuchin helping monkeys. Monkeys in this movie used techniques from that program.
This was the only science fiction horror movie reviewed (Catalonian International Film
FestivalYbest actress, best director, best screenplay).

The Waterdance (1992,
Neil Jimenez and
Michael Steinburg)
Eric Stolz, Helen Hunt,
Wesley Snipes, and
William Forsyth

A young novelist, Joel Garcia, was paralyzed from the waist down due to a spinal cord injury
acquired in a hiking accident. The film took place in a rehabilitation center and focused
on physical and psychological issues faced by individuals who experience these types of
injuries as they adapt to their new living situations. The film only showed a brief period
during their stay at a rehabilitation hospital. The movie focused on Joel’s relationships
with his girlfriend and other patients at the center, especially two men (an African-American
ladies’ man and a racist biker) who had also recently become paralyzed. Writer and director,
Jiminez, Bwho personally lives with the same condition, gives us an insider’s point-of-view
on the first terrible days, weeks, and months of adjusting to paralysis, and its effect upon
relationships, work, and sex[ (Keough, n.d.) (Independent Spirit and Sundance Film
Festival awards).

Passion Fish (1992,
John Sayles)
Mary McDonnell
and Alfre Woodard

A successful soap opera star acquires a spinal cord injury in a car accident. She returns to
her family home in Louisiana and starts drinking heavily. Her acerbic interpersonal
interactions alienate several nurses. Her Blast chance[ nurse, who is coming out of drug
rehabilitation, has her own issues including proving to her father that she is worthy of
reuniting with her child. The movie focuses on how these two women become friends.
While the film deals with issues relating to acquired disability (e.g., paraplegia), it focuses
more on recovery from substance abuse (1993 Academy Awards two nominationsYbest
actress, best screenplay).

Breaking The Waves
(1996, Lars von Trier)
Emily Watson and
Stellan Skarsgaard

In a deeply religious community in northern Scotland, a young naive and sexually
inexperienced woman, Bess, meets and falls in love with an off-shore oil rig worker, Jan.
Bess prays to God that Jan will return and never have to leave her again. When an
accident sends him home paralyzed, Bess is filled with guilt. Under the assumption that
they can no longer enjoy a sexual relationship, Jan urges Bess to take other lovers and
tell him the details. She is convinced this will aid in his recovery and becomes more and
more deviant in her sexual behavior. Her increasingly risky acts lead to several incidents
of battering and eventually her death. Ironically, Jan is able to walk with the aid of a cane
at the time of her funeral (1997 Academy Award nomination for best actress, 40 wins
and 13 nominations at various film festivalsYbest foreign film, actress, and director).

69Themes and Stereotypes

Film title (year produced,
director) actors Synopses (awards)

Gattaca (1997,
Andrew Niccol)
Ethan Hawke,
Uma Thurman,
Jude Law, and
Gore Vidal

A futuristic film about Vincent who was one of the last Bnatural[ babies born into a
genetically enhanced world. Because he was born with a heart condition, Vincent’s
lifelong dream of being a navigator on a space mission was an impossibility until he
assumed the identity of Jerome. Jerome was a genetically engineered man of similar
age and physical features (he had been an athlete) who had been in an accident which
immobilized his legs. Jerome and Vincent go through elaborate procedures to ensure
that Vincent passed daily gene tests taken from hair, skin, blood, and urine samples.
Jerome was willing to relinquish his identity because he felt unable to live a fulfilling
life because of his disability. The film examined ethical issues such as genetic
discrimination, the fallibility of genetic engineering due to accidents, and the value
and quality of life for individuals with disabilities in a society where physical perfection
is not only expected, but manufactured. Those who were genetically engineered were
called Bvalids[ and those who were natural born with human faults were Binvalids.[
Ironically, the man with a physical disability was a Bvalid[ while his able-bodied
counterpart was the Binvalid[ (1998 Academy Award nomination for best art/set direction).

The Bone Collector
(1999, Phillip Noyce)
Denzel Washington,
Angelina Jolie, and
Queen Latifa

Based on a Jeffery Deaver novel, Lincoln Rhyme, a NYPD forensics expert, is able only to
move his head and one finger following a workplace accident. Through impressive assistive
technology and the help of a loving nurse he is able to live in his own apartment and
manipulate his environment. Rhymes had made arrangements for an assisted suicide until
a serial killer captures his interest and gives him a reason to live. He mentors a young
police officer who becomes his on-site person for crime scenes. They develop a close
relationship and in the last scene (long after the crimes have been solved) the two are
apparently married. This was the only murder mystery reviewed (Nomination for best
supporting actressYBlack Reel and Image Awards; Nomination for best actressYBlockbuster
Entertainment Awards).

The Sea Insidea (2004,
Alejandro Amenabar)
Javier Bardem,
Belen Rueda, and
Lola DueDas

The Sea Inside is based on the true story of Ramon Sampedro who was paralyzed (quadriplegia)
in a diving accident. For nearly 30 years he has made the most of it through writing and
developing close relationships with his family, who all help to care for him. But, he has come
to see his life as pointless and enlists the help of a BRight to Die[ organization. The film
explores his love for two women Julia, a lawyer who supports his cause and who also has
a degenerative physical disability, and Rosa, a local woman who wants to convince him that
life is worth living. At the center is the conflict between those who are helping to persuade
the courts to let him end his own life and those who want him to want to live (2005 Academy
Award winner for best foreign language film; European Film Awards, best actor and director
for 2004; National Board of Review of Motion Pictures, top five foreign films for 2004).

Million Dollar Baby
(2004, Clint Eastwood)
Hillary Swank,
Morgan Freeman,
Clint Eastwood

Maggie (Hillary Swank) wants to enter to world of professional boxing. Frankie (Clint Eastwood)
begrudgingly agrees to train her. The story focuses on Maggie’s tremendous will and
determination. She deeply desires someone to believe in her and finally finds that in Frankie.
When Maggie is paralyzed (quadriplegia) from a sucker punch in the world championship
match, her life changes as does Frankie’s. Averse to being kept alive by machines to help
her breathe, she tries to kill herself. After much soul-searching Frankie helps her (2005
Academy Awards winner best picture, director, actress, and supporting actor; National
Board of Review of Motion Pictures, top 10 films for 2004).

Acquired disability from degenerative disease–multiple sclerosis, Lou Gehrig’s disease (ALS)
Go Now (1995,

Michael Winterbottom)
Robert Carlyle and
Juliet Aubrey

Go Now is the story of Nick, a British soccer player and construction worker who was
diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. The film takes the viewer through Nick’s struggle with
accepting changes that were occurring in his body, and how as his condition progressed
it affected his relationships with others. Because the viewer gets to know a bit about
Nick’s life before the onset of his disability, it is possible to determine how the disability
itself affected many aspects of his daily living and community integration (1996 three
prestigious European awards).

Theory of Flight (1998,
Paul Greengrass)
Helena Bonham Carter
and Kenneth Branagh

The main character in Theory of Flight, Jane, played by Helena Bonham Carter, is a young
woman with Lou Gehrig’s disease (ALS). While the disease had taken its toll on Jane’s
physical body, her brain was as sharp as ever. A frustrated artist, Richard, sentenced to
community service for destroying property was assigned to provide respite care for Jane.
She was, at first, quite resentful and very critical of Richard’s choice of recreational
outings. She revealed to him that she wanted to do more age-appropriate activities. More
specifically, she wanted to lose her virginity and she wanted him to arrange for that to
happen. The remainder of the film focused on trying to find Jane a sexual partner through
a series of hair-brained schemes. Meanwhile, Richard puts together an airplane out of
paintings and junk because he always dreamed of flying. This movie showed Jane’s desire
for intimacy, connection, and romance (1999 winner of the Brussels International film festival,
best European Feature film).

Table 1
(continued)

70 Black and Pretes

Film title (year produced,
director) actors Synopses (awards)

Freak City (1999,
Lynne Littman)
Samantha Mathis,
Peter Sarsgaard,
Natalie Cole, and
Jonathan Silverman

Freak City is a film about a Ruth, a young woman with multiple sclerosis, …

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