Dear Mr. Melissa Blake:
How we explored my love of a good Lifetime movie yet? I’m sure you probably rolled your eyes at me from the get-go, but I probably got you sucked into them eventually. Did we cry? Did we laugh? And sometimes, depending on the movie, did we cry and laugh simultaneously?
And since I recently upgraded my wonderful DISH Network package, I now get the Lifetime Movie Network, which gives me 24/7 programming of the best made-for-TV-movie experience the good people at Lifetime have to offer. I’ve seen movies about women (and men) fleeing from abusive partners. I’ve seen movies about children caught in the crossfires of bitter divorce battle. I’ve even seen one about a woman who goes back in time to win her high-school crush. As you can probably imagine, I identified with that one quite strongly.
But you know what really bothers me? OK, maybe bother is not the right word – too strong, perhaps? It’s most like a little annoyance, more like a tiny bone to pick. Yes, you head honchos over at Lifetime, I suppose I have a slight bone to pick with you — a small sliver, really. I’ve seen some shows in which the women (or the man) was handicapped or in a wheelchair, and they’re madly in love with their spouse/boyfriend/girlfriend/whatever. The able-bodied significant other, of course, makes a grand speech about never leaving said disabled person, not caring about the disability obstacles that stretch out before them.
What I rarely see portrayed is a person who is disabled from birth, falls in love with an able-bodied person and said able-bodied person isn’t afraid, turned-off or otherwise scared of the other’s disability. Honestly, I know what Lifetime is trying to do here….show the power of love, how love can overcome any obstacle. But I can’t help but feel it’s a cop-out of sorts, like only running half of the race. If you’re going to show a love story like that, don’t wimp out on the disability side. Go full throttle and – shocking – have the character be disabled from birth. Tell a story that hasn’t been told before and don’t be afraid to tell it.
And when I do see something along these lines, it’s always the same: The man is in the wheelchair instead of the woman.
My beef: Of course it’s easy to say “I love you for who you are. I’ll never leave you” when you can ALSO say “I knew you before, when you were able-bodied”, so FYI to guys who think they’re such heroes when they don’t bail on their girlfriend/wife after she’s in a car accident and become paralyzed: Would you honestly still fall in love with this person and want to be with them if you’d met them WHILE they were disabled? All too often, I see the heroic stories of spouses standing by their loved one’s side after a debilitating illness/accident, and I sometimes fail to see how it’s heroic at all. Why would you even have to think twice about seeing your loved one through the hard times.
I’m not saying it’s “heroic” for an able-bodied person to fall in love with someone who has been disabled from birth, but frankly, the dynamics in that situation would be far more interesting and thought-provoking. This is how MY Lifetime movie would play out:
Man: Don’t you know how beautiful you are?
Me [shielding my face]: Look, just go away. You don’t have to say it. In fact, why don’t you just not say it.
Man: Say what?
Me: That I’m not beautiful. There are a million girls out there who you could have a life with – a normal life. I’m not one of them. I’m never going to be one of them; don’t you know that guys like you aren’t supposed to fall for girls like me?
Man: Well, you know what? I’ve never gone for normal, and you just let me decide who I fall in love with….
Me: I’m not going to be the reason you resent your life someday. Trust me, I’m not like other girls and you’re going to come to regret it someday. I can’t say I blame you. If I were in your position, I’d probably resent me someday, too.
Man: You know, maybe that’s your whole problem right there. You resent yourself already. You are too afraid to take a chance, so you’ve already put up these walls so you’ll never have to get close to anyone. If you never get close, you’ll never get hurt.
Me: See, even you know in your heart that you’ll eventually resent me…
Man: No, that’s not what I said [he raises his hand to my cheek). What I’m saying is that you don’t give yourself enough credit for the power you have over people. You don’t think I see it every time I look at you? You’re wrong. I’m just saying if you stepped outside your guarded heart, you just might like the view.
Me: Oh, of course, because you love my view [I pull back suddenly, maybe more out of anger than fear].
Man: I love what I see so far….
He then sweeps me up in a big, passionate kiss. Well, that’s how it plays out in my head anyway.
Is that how it played out in our movie too?