What's Eating Gilbert Grape- Review and Critique

2227 Words Jan 6th, 2011 9 Pages
What’s Eating Gilbert Grape.
Film review and critique.

Society’s ideological constructs and attitudes towards minority groups are created and reinforced through media imagery. Although negative associations that maintain inequities with regard to race, gender and homophobia (Conner & Bejoian, 2006) have been somewhat relieved, disability is still immersed in harmful connotations that restrict and inhibit the life of people with disabilities in our society.

Disability has appeared frequently in recent films (Byrd & Elliot, 1988), a reflection of society’s interest in the subject. These films often misrepresent disability using stereotypes. These stereotypes reinforce negative and incorrect social perceptions of, and attitudes towards,
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Whenever he tries to escape (usually to the water tower), he is ultimately returned back to this position of subordination under the care of others, which is typical of this stereotype (Hayes & Black, 2003).

A most common stereotype depicted of disabled characters is that of a ‘super-man’ (Safran, 2000) or ‘supercrip’ (Harnett, 2000), where a disabled character overcomes massive odds to beat or succeed in defeating their disability to become ‘normal’. The character is often seen as a hero to have made such progress. Although Arnie does not reflect a hero status, his character is beating his disability by the very fact that he is still alive. In the opening scenes of the movie, Gilbert’s narration lets the audience know that “doctors said we’d be lucky if Arnie lived to be ten, well ten came and went” (Matalon, Ohlsson, Teper & Hallström, 1993), implying Arnie’s ‘triumph over tragedy’. He defies death that would be otherwise be brought about by his disability.

Although not a thematic stereotype reinforced throughout this whole film, it is typical of a disabled character to be represented as a victim or object of violence (Safran, 2000). At the climax of the film, Gilbert’s overwhelming frustration and anger of his life situation overflows into a violent episode directed at Arnie. On occasions throughout the film, Arnie is portrayed as an innocent a victim or object of violence from his