Beeswax, part 2
I, too, am in love with Andrew Bujalski’s film Beeswax. I watched it for the first time about a month ago and immediately told everyone I knew about it, because it just meant so much to me.
I’ve read a lot (including an excellent post on this very blog) about the importance of seeing media representations of yourself, but the emotional impact of that had never really hit home for me until I saw this movie. Seeing a disabled woman whose life looked like mine – busy, stressful, confusing, with very little Discussion About Overcoming Disability – just meant so much to me. Seeing a disabled woman being loved and lusted after (even when she has an abled-bodied twin!) meant so much to me. Seeing a disabled woman whose virtues came from her personality, not her disability (or her ability to overcome it or whatever), meant so much to me.
While I’ve always known that it’s possible for me to have a happy, successful life in the same way that it’s possible for my able-bodied peers, that’s not the message I’ve been receiving from the media. Most, if not all, of the disabled characters I’ve seen have had disability, and the ways it’s holding them back, as their main story line. There are notable exceptions, of course: Joey Lucas on the West Wing, Dr. Weaver on ER. But none of them reminded me of me, seemed like they were living lives I could live. While their characters didn’t fall under the disabled-person-as-superhero trope, their lives were akin to superheroes’ to me: they were much older than me and wildly successful, with established relationships and tons of real-world savvy.
Jeannie, the main character of Beeswax, is living a life I could realistically be living in a few years. She c0-owns a small business, has falling-outs with her friends, gets back together with an ex-boyfriend, and loves her sister a whole lot. Me too! (well, not the small business part). Jeannie’s life, which seems awesome, is something I can totally relate to.
This film is something solid that I can point to, hold on to, whenever I worry that my disability will effect my ability to live the life I want. Worried that people I date would always prefer a non-disabled version of me? Jeannie’s ex-boyfriend preferred her to her sister, even though they’re twins! Worried that I’ll always have to talk about my disability in the Real World? With the exception of one scene, Jeannie’s disability is never explicitly mentioned.
Sometimes it can feel like I have to prove to others, and to myself, that it’s possible to have a disability and live a life that isn’t centered around that disability. Beeswax has showed me that other people are doing the very same thing and succeeding at it. And this is why seeing yourself in the media is so important: it’s made me realize that I’m not alone.