1. Amazon.com. While I was shopping online for some stuff for my daughter, I came across a DVD of old black-and-white mystery movies. Four movies on one disc. It was about the price of a rental. I added it to my cart.
2. Old black-and-white movies. So last weekend my wife and I popped the DVD of old mysteries into the machine. We had seen (and liked) "The Kennel Murder Case," with William Powell as private-eye Philo Vance, before, so we skipped right to something called "Eyes in the Night." It starred Edward Arnold as wealthy private investigator Duncan "Mac" Maclain, whom I'd never heard of. Well, not only was it a pretty good little flick, but Mac happens to be blind. Now, before the PC police get on me, the disc did not have Closed Captioning or Descriptive Video. Nevertheless, I thought the depiction of disability was pretty cool. He doesn't have superhuman hearing or smell, but he is constantly under-rated, especially by the bad guys. He does things like turn off the lights to disorient the bad guys. Naturally, the darkness has no effect on him, so he can knock them all out. Which is improbable, to be sure, particularly because Edward Arnold was pretty pudgy. But as I say, he's not superhuman. At one point he's rescued by his well-trained guide dog. (I wonder if all the movies on this disc involve dogs. I'll lecha know. )
3. Old TV shows. The blind detective led me to think about "Ironside," the old wheelchair-using detective series I loved as a child. And not just because Raymond Burr was even pudgier than Edward Arnold! I discovered the first three seasons are on hulu.com … and I've been addicted to them. I realize it's totally unrealistic--the dude ends up in all kinds of places, including, say, the second floor of a two-story house, with no explanation as to how he got there. In fact, he never calls ahead to check on access, which was even more of a necessity in those days than now. And the things he's able to do with his upper body and arms make me wonder why he's not using crutches instead. But there is a ramp in his apartment/office. And he does have a lift-equipped van (a lift-equipped truck, actually, in the first two seasons). By the end of the series, a decade or more later, I think he was driving the van himself, though I don't recall any hand controls shown… Again, not the best depiction of disabilities, but I can't help loving it. Something about seeing this guy in a wheelchair living a more-or-less normal life--bossing everyone around, no less!--feels good. Or maybe it's just nostalgia.
If you have favorite disability portrayals, or other guilty pleasures you care to share, please send them to me at email@example.com