Steve Palmer's blog about his son Stanley - who has Down's Syndrome - & the extended family. All about Down Syndrome and learning disability.

Saturday, 13 September 2014

And then you go and spoil it all by saying something stupid like the R Word

I was two-thirds of the way through my fourth Douglas Coupland book when it happened; I was really enjoying reading this author and the way he speaks to me (Man). And then he went and spoilt it all by doing something stupid like using the R Word. 

What happens when an author/artist/performer you're enjoying, suddenly says something that makes you feel uncomfortable because of what's happened to you personally?

I'm opposed to blanket bans on certain words; I am however, concerned about people not thinking before they use them. 

Now, Coupland's use of the R Word in Generation A is through the mouthpiece of a particularly unsavoury character. But I wonder if Coupland's done enough to let the reader know that this is purely the character speaking; I worry that people will read it and go on to assume it's OK to call my son a retard. Am I too sensitive?

I thought the film The Descendants was a cracker but there’s an awkward moment. Here it is reproduced from this blog:

Clooney’s character Matt says, “You are so retarded.”
Nick Krause’s character Sid replies, “That’s not nice. I have a retarded brother.”
Matt looks shocked.
Sid goes on to say, “I’m just kidding. I don’t have a retarded brother. Sometimes when old people and retarded people are slow I just want to make them hurry up.”

Sid is an interesting character and I think the writers were making a point, a point better made I think than by Douglas Coupland in Generation A. But that's just me; perhaps Coupland would be horrified that anyone thinks he's being lazy with his use of the R Word. It's just that I was left unconvinced. 

A great blog on the Babble website says that we, as parents of people with learning disabilites, aren't politically-correct word police. Author Ellen Seidman does however, say: "This isn’t about a ban (on the R Word); it’s about raising the respect bar, and getting people to consider how they think and talk about people with disability." 

Douglas Coupland hasn't used the word in any of his other books I've read. When the new one comes out in paperback, I'll be nervous. 

Here's hoping artists of all persuasions at least deal with the issues rather than purely bandy harmful words around. Or you can just forget all that and watch Jackass's Johnny Knoxville in the completely fantastic The Ringer. That's how you do it. 

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