Performativity and the Super-Crip Essay

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Performativity and the Super-Crip The movie “My Left Foot” forces the viewer to question whether the explicit performance of extreme disability serves to humanize the individual with disabilities or simply to make those without disabilities feel good about themselves. This movie tells the story of Christy Brown, a man born with cerebral palsy who had voluntary control over only his left foot. Despite the significant degree of physical disability, he became a novelist, poet, and painter. These gifts are celebrated in the movie, as is Brown’s personal heroism, a directorial choice that allows the audience to feel good about a person with disabilities while overlooking the real conditions of that individual’s life. Brown’s life could almost have been genetically engineered to be the subject of studies about disability. He was born to a poor Irish family, the tenth of twenty-two children. Despite having been born with a highly debilitating degree of cerebral palsy, Brown was raised at home by parents who decided against institutionalizing him. With the help of his family as well as a number of mentors throughout his life, Brown wrote the autobiography upon which the movie is based as well as a number of other books. He wrote his books and poems as well as created a number of paintings using only his left foot, using the only muscles that he could control armed by Throughout his life, Brown was engaged in the kinds of performativity that we have been discussing throughout the course, the kind of performativity involved in creating an identity that serves to create both public and private persona. This model, which can be seen to arise in large measure from the work of Butler (in Nayak & Kehily, 2006), is based on the idea that identity is constituted through thousands upon thousands of small actions that accumulate into larger concepts such as gender,

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