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My Brother is Not Cute--He's a Badass

mheffern's picture


ekrasnow's picture

Your brother is most definitely a badass.

Reading about your brother's life and accomplishements it is clear  "cute" has not been a relevent adjective since about the time of the picture with Chris Burke. In that picture I see Brian as a cute kid not because of his Down syndrome, but because I think most kids are cute. Working with children with disabilities in the past, I was conscious of not infantilizing the in comparisson to other kids their age, or thinking of them as "cute" due to characteristics of their disabilities. However, the age when children with disabilities stop being "cute" and start being handsome, beautiful, etc., as neurotypical children do is a bit of a blur. Looking back, I am guilty of the "sentimentality" referring to 14 year old girls as "cute" when I probably stopped being "cute" around age 9, and most teenage girls are the opposite of cute. Did I really still think these two girls were "cute" or had I kept them the age I had met them, 6 years old, because of their disabilities.

There is no doubt your brother is a badass and it makes me wonder about other individuals who society keeps trapped at "cute" and never get to show how badass they are.

amweiner's picture

First of all, I want to express how much i enjoyed learning about your brother through your piece.

Secondly, I found many connections between your project and my own when it comes to representing disability (or ability) in the media. I hadn't found Chris Burke in my research and am so happy to have learned that there are in fact some actors with disabilities whoa re able to make names for themselves as well as a living. This also ot me thinking about Crip Drag. Whent he actors without disabilities play characters who have disabilities, it is coined as Crip Drag. There is a great movement against crip drag and for the employment of people with disabiltiies so they can represent themselves. In its essence, ti is a push to restore autonomy. 

Lastly, I love how your brother provides be an example of a way to make to make a difference outside of mainstream media. He, as an advocate, cuts out the middle man; he says what he wants to without someone feeding him lines or reframing/changing his contextual surroundings. He has restored some optimism in me becuase I now see that there are so many ways, even beyond the media, for greater understanding to be reached. 

Chewy Charis's picture

You discussed a very important question that bothered me for quite some time, in a different context. During the summer of my junior year in high school, I volunteered in Dominican Republic for a month, working on a very classic project of building a baseball field for local children. I cannot count the number of times when I heard other American participants telling me that they are absolutely amazed by how "people have so little but can be so happy," while all the time in my mind I was thinking, "God, why do they have to be happy with so little?"  

By portraying minorities or people from a less privileged background as content with what they have, our media implies that it's okay to leave them the way they are, to not improve their situation since they are happy already. The portrayal of happiness serves as an excuse for not progressing.