Monday, November 13, 2017

Review: The Little Mermaid

Ever since I first watched Disney's The Little Mermaid in theaters when I was eight, I have strongly connected to Ariel's story.  A girl who longs for a connection to people who walk, and for legs that work like everyone else's, not a tail / walker / wheelchair / crutches?  I totally related.  I felt bonded to Ariel from the first moment I saw her:

[This is me, at eight years old, the year The Little Mermaid was released in theaters.  I was in awe.]
Though I am sure my review of this movie would have been profoundly different had I done it as a third grader, I'm doing it now, and I will do my best to share my initial thoughts on what spoke to me and why, as I remember it.

Ariel: Flounder!  Come on!

Flounder:  You know I can't swim fast!

As I have not seen the movie for about four years, and many many before that, this line stood out to me.  Flounder is not a fast swimmer (and Ariel is not a patient mermaid...)

In a later scene, where Sebastian is charged with supervising Ariel, he, too, struggles to keep up with her.  This makes it clear that in the sea, where having a tail is an advantage, Ariel is able to navigate her environment really well, which goes to show that with proper accommodations, she excels.

Part of Your World remains the song, and the sentiment that speaks to me the most.  I remember being moved by it as a child.  Connecting so strongly to Ariel wanting to be "where the people are", wanting to be a part of that world, but feeling separated because she moves differently.  So all she has are these "wonderful things" from their world.  But their "stuff" is not enough.  Because Ariel wants real connection, real acceptance.  It's clear that she feels a pull to the human world.  Feels inferior because she uses a tail instead of legs to move around.  This was me as a kid.

Ariel: Is he dead?

Scuttle:  I can't find a heartbeat.

Ariel:  No.  He's breathing.

I'd forgotten that Ariel actually rescues Eric from drowning in a hurricane.  Because she's adapted to the water and she is a fast swimmer, she has strengths that humans don't.  But like Ariel, as a child, I did not see Ariel's strengths as strengths at all.  Because all of her (and my) focus was on being "part of that world."

Ursula:  The only way to get what you want is to become human yourself.

Ariel:  Can you do that?

Ursula:  My dear sweet child.  That's what I do.  It's what I live for.  To help unfortunate merfolk like yourself, poor souls with no one else to turn to.  ...Now here's the deal: I will make you a potion that will turn you into a human for three days...

Ariel:  If I become human, I'll never be with my father or sisters again.

Ursula:  That's right.  Life's full of tough choices, isn't it?  Oh, and there is one more thing: we haven't discussed the subject of payment.  You can't get something for nothing, you know?  

Ariel:  But I don't have any--

Ursula:  I'm not asking much.  Just a token, really, a trifle.  You'll never even miss it.  What I want from you is...your voice.

Ariel:  But without my voice, how will I--?

Ursula:  You'll have your looks!  Your pretty face!  And don't forget the importance of body language!

The very first nightmare I remember having as a child was when I was nine years old, the year after The Little Mermaid was released.  I identified so strongly with Ariel that I dreamed I was being chased through waterless streets by octopus villain Ursula, who was closing in on me.  Even on land, it was inevitable that she would catch me.  I was not fast with my walker.  And I knew that once she did, she would take my voice, just like she did Ariel's.

This scene also very much brings to mind my experiences in church.  So many people claiming to have the power to heal me.  To make me nondisabled.  But these attempts did not come without a price.  They didn't listen to my objections, to my questions, they did not honor my hesitance.  And they were nowhere around when the attempts to transform me failed.

At the end of this scene, after Ariel signs her name.  In a truly terrifying series of moments, Ursula makes her sing, and takes her voice from her.  This tiny shining light, that Ursula traps in seashell necklace she herself will wear.

Ariel's transformation is brutal as her tail splits, and she is suddenly human, suddenly unable to breathe underwater.  She (such an adept swimmer with her tail) now needs Flounder and Sebastian's help to reach the surface so she can breathe.

Ursula is nowhere around for this, and does not even care whether Ariel survives this transformation.

Sebastian:  She traded her voice to the sea witch and got legs!

Flounder:  Ariel's been turned into a human!  She's gotta make the prince fall in love with her - and he's gotta kiss her!

Sebastian:  And she's only got three days!

Though it happens quickly, we see that Ariel, Sebastian and Flounder spend late into the night swimming until they can find a place to rest.  Even the next morning, all three are exhausted.  Ariel is now voiceless, but not uncommunicative, as we can see she is excited to have her new legs.  She tries to stand and is very unsteady.

I also wanted to talk about the notion that in order to remain human, Ariel must make Eric fall in love with her. She is not only crossing cultures here, she is doing it in a place where she doesn't have a voice that matters.  She must adapt after she has experienced a traumatic silencing.  She must also make Eric love her.  She must prove she is worthy of human love if she is to remain a human in the human world.  And all of this, she must do, without a way to ask questions in a way humans can understand, without a way to advocate for herself that humans understand.

This is the catch-22 I know I feel living in the nondisabled world as a disabled person.  I have to constantly prove my worth in a world not built for people like me.  "Make them love you," rings very true.  "Make them love you, to prove you deserve to be here, while knowing all the time that your voice doesn't matter."

(And do it on a time limit.  Or you must go back to living completely separated from the rest of the world.)

Sebastian:  We could get the sea witch to give you back your voice!  Then you could go home and live with all the normal fish, and just be...just be...just be miserable the rest of your life.  

For so many of us, there is no going back.  Going back is not an option.  So it very much is "be isolated, disabled and miserable" or "be among nondisabled people and try to assimilate."  (Until you find "your people" at least...


I'm trying to reach back in my memory for these missing minutes and I know Eric finds Ariel on the beach, and takes her to his castle.  I know he doesn't have any idea it was her who saved him, and she has no way to tell him that he'd understand.  I feel like he instantly pities her when he finds she can't speak and takes care of her because he feels bad for her.  But if I remember right, there is an attraction there on his part, for her, too.

I know he takes her to his castle, because the movie picked up with Sebastian trying to escape from Grimsby's plate over to Ariel's, after Grimsby suggests Eric take Ariel on a tour tomorrow.  I remember that Sebastian was almost cooked during Les Poissons.

Sebastian:  That was, without a doubt, the single most humiliating day of my life!  I hope you appreciate what I go through for you, young lady.  

Sebastian might as well be embodying Super-Crab right now, where the very heroic crab has to put up with "so much" to help Ariel adapt to human life.

Sebastian:  Now, we have to make a plan to get that boy to kiss you. Tomorrow, when he takes you for that ride, you gotta look your best.  You gotta bat your eyes like this.  You gotta pucker up your lips like this...

He also says that they have to come up with a plan to get Eric to kiss her.  Implying - not so subtlely - that not only would Eric not kiss her if she were a mermaid but he will not kiss her without a voice unless they trick him into it.  The false belief that disabled people cannot be loved by nondisabled people is a common one.  Sebastian talks about "getting that boy to kiss her."  Meaning he would not want to on his own, because, as the trope claims "disabled people are undesirable."

These lines by Sebastian also speak to the intense planning that goes into even the most basic situation.  There are barriers everywhere.  Adaptations to be made everywhere Ariel must go.  She will encounter unfamiliar obstacles, and it's impossible to prepare for everything.  But as Ariel is learning, you still try your hardest to plan ahead, because being spontaneous is not an option.

Sebastian:  You are hopeless, child.  You know that?  Completely hopeless.

At this point, Sebastian realizes Ariel has fallen asleep, while he has been planning for her to look her best when she tries to woo him.  While Sebastian says the above lines in an affectionate manner, it doesn't escape me that Ariel would be totally exhausted after a day spent adapting to a completely new place, with human legs and without a voice.

But it might escape Sebastian.  In fact, it did.  Because he dismisses her exhaustion in this moment and calls her hopeless twice.  Because she does not have the energy at this point to stay awake and plot with him how to best make herself lovable.

It takes a lot of work being disabled in a nondisabled world.  And fatigue is reasonable reaction after a day spent expending energy you are not used to expending.  Especially when disability is new.

Flounder:  Have they kissed yet?

Sebastian:  Not yet!

Ariel spends day two as a human dressed in a fancy dress and going around town with Eric.  She hangs upside down in the carriage, watching the horse's feet, and runs and points to things she wants to draw Eric's attention to.  Eric's reaction to these moments is still feels very pitying.  Like he is indulging the poor girl without a voice by taking her around town.

The moment it starts to change is when Ariel hands Eric what she had been holding in the carriage and takes the reins from him.  She urges the horses to speed up and jump a mini-gorge.  Eric is terrified at her lack of experience here.  But when they make it safely across and ride into the sunset, he relaxes, and even puts his hands behind his head.  It's a big moment.  He trusts that she is capable.

Sebastian:  She ain't got a lot to say but there's something about her...  Possible she want you, too.  There is one way to ask her.  It don't take a word, not a single word, go on and kiss the girl...  Look like the boy too shy.  He ain't gonna kiss the girl.

Kiss The Girl is an important song because it is Sebastian using his privilege as someone with a voice to communicate Ariel's desires.  She confirms this by leaning toward Eric and closing her eyes, clearly ready for a kiss, but he hesitates here.

Eric:  I feel really bad not knowing your name. Maybe I could guess?

Ariel: [nods]

Sebastian: [after several wrong guesses]  Ariel.  Her name is Ariel.

Eric:  Ariel?  It's Ariel?

Ariel: [nods happily]

Eric:  That's kind of pretty.  Okay.  Ariel.

Another notable moment where Sebastian uses his privilege to help Ariel.

Soon after this, they do nearly kiss and Flotsam and Jetsam (Ursula's pet eels) tip the canoe over.  Eric is heard saying, "It's okay.  I've got you," as he helps Ariel out of the water.  Human legs don't work as well as a tail.  And when Ariel rescued Eric, it wasn't out of pity, as his tone of voice seems to project for her here.  It was because he needed her help and she could give it.

Sebastian:  Ariel!  Hold onto this!  Get her to that wedding ship as quick as you can!

When Scuttle realizes that the mystery girl Eric has decided to marry overnight is, in fact, Ursula and they are getting married on a wedding ship, Ariel is quick to jump in the water.  She instantly struggles to even keep her head above the surface.  So Sebastian knocks a barrel into the water for her to hold onto, which Flounder pulls to the wedding ship, so Ariel can get there.

Scuttle acts as a diversion and Ursula's necklace with Ariel's voice in it falls off of her neck and shatters.  Ariel's voice is hers again.

Eric:  You can talk!

Ariel: I wanted to tell you...

It's subtle, but Eric's tone is totally different here.  Ariel is now a complete equal. With human legs and a voice, it's clear he is in love with her.

Ariel: Eric, you've got to get out of here!

Eric:  No!  I won't leave you!

But the sun sets before they can kiss and Ursula takes first Ariel, and then her dad, King Triton, captive.  What I had forgotten was that Ariel literally plays no part in saving the sea from Ursula.  Instead, this is all Eric, while Ariel is trapped in a whirlpool.

I was sure that with such superior swimming ability - and with her tail restored - Ariel had played at least some part in saving the sea from Ursula.

King Triton:  She really does love him?

Sebastian:  It's like I always say: children got to be free.  Live their own lives.

King Triton:  You always say that, huh?  Well, I guess there's just one problem left...

Sebastian:  What's that?

King Triton:  How much I'm going to miss her.

When all the 'poor unfortunate souls' that Ursula captured are restored, and Ursula is gone, King Triton sees Ariel again on a rock, looking at Eric, unconscious on the shore again.  He has the above conversation with Sebastian (not with Ariel) and without a word to her, transforms her from mermaid back to human.

It's very impersonal.  From a distance.  Ariel never sees it coming.  There is no consent, or lack thereof.  He just changes her.

Ariel and Eric kiss.  Then they marry.  King Triton, Flounder, Sebastian and all her sisters watch the wedding from the water.

Ariel: I love you, Daddy.

Music:  Now we can walk!  Now we can run!  Now we can stay all day in the sun!  Just you and me!  And I can be part of your world!

To be honest, I had completely forgotten that at the end, King Triton changes Ariel back to a human.  I remembered the wedding and her family being there, and I've been assuming that it happened with Ariel as a mermaid and Eric as a human.  That, somehow, they made it work.  After all, he did say to her, when she was a mermaid, "I won't leave you."

I can see why this movie resonated with me so much as a child.  I wanted nothing more than for my disability to just disappear so I could walk and run like the song suggests.  As a little girl, I could not fathom that other people needed to change.  Needed to treat me better.  So the idea of being changed so I matched everyone else sounded like a dream come true to me.  The idea that I was wrong as I was - and Ariel was wrong as she was as a mermaid - made sense to me.  That Ariel at least, had the chance to be accepted, was something to celebrate when I was a kid.  A happy ending, to be sure.  As an adult, though, this ending just makes me feel sad.

Because the movie is called The Little Mermaid, but in order to get the acceptance she craves, Ariel must be changed completely (once via coercion and a second time without her knowing) into a human.  Those around Ariel are never forced to confront why they treat her differently with legs but without a voice than they do with a tail.

I wish I had seen a movie where walking and running were not the goal, but where Ariel learned that having a tail was an asset.  That it gave her strength she does not possess with working legs.  I wish the end of the movie had shown Ariel accepting herself, tail and all.

Monday, November 6, 2017

Review: Speechless 2x04 "T-R--TRAINING D-A-DAY"

After seeing a few things about this episode of Speechless on Twitter, I thought I'd check it out.  For reference, I haven't watched since around 1x08 last season, when I just lost interest.  I tried again to tune in for the premiere last month, but I didn't last past the first five minutes.


This episode, Maya is training a group of teachers (who don't really want to be aides) to be aides for kids with disabilities.  To do this, she tells them she has printed out her son, JJ's care guide and made copies, essentially, as study guide material.  She says she expects that they've read these.

What about JJ's privacy?  Was he asked if he minded if his mom printed out and made copies of all of his personal care needs as a study guide?  Would a parent ever share private information about what their teenage nondisabled child needs with a group of strangers?  And make copies for them to read?  This felt like an exceptional breach of privacy to me.


Near the end of Maya's training of the teachers, Kenneth (JJ's aide) talks to them about "working with disabled people" and one of the trainees speaks up, "Aren't you supposed to say people with disabilities?"  Maya says, "You're damn right, you are!"

There is this push for people-first language and usually it is by nondisabled people.  I don't mind person first language (people with disabilities) but I do identify with identity first language (disabled person.)  The problem arises, I think, when identity first language is framed as wrong.  It is a valid choice for a lot of disabled people and I wish Speechless would not make it seem incorrect.


Jimmy happens to give Ray "the talk" as Ray has a girlfriend now, and Jimmy has noticed them getting closer.  Afterward, Jimmy comes home and tells Maya that he did this, and Maya's reaction is "Haven't we always said that whatever the other kids get, JJ gets?"  Jimmy objects that JJ doesn't yet have a girlfriend, but Maya insists that Jimmy needs to have "the talk" with JJ ASAP.

The notion that JJ should "get" The Talk just because Ray did is just plain ridiculous.  JJ should get The Talk because he is seventeen and he needs to be given this information so that he is prepared when he does encounter a situation.  Even when Jimmy and JJ do have The Talk, it's not implied that it happened, as it was with Ray.  JJ says he knows about sex, and Jimmy backs right off and asks if he has any other questions.  TALK TO YOUR TEENAGER.  I get that it's uncomfortable.  But you did it with Ray.  JJ is entitled to this information as much as Ray is, and not just via whatever he finds online.


For reasons I cannot fathom, Jimmy decides that he's going to take JJ camping to have The Talk.  I cannot think of a worse situation in terms of accessibility. 

Jimmy says he is going to gather sticks to build a fire, and JJ says he can do it.  Jimmy laments all the things that could go wrong.  Strangely, the question of "How is JJ going to reach sticks on the ground and carry them back?" is never raised. Adaptations and / or suggestions of that nature are never made.  Eventually Jimmy lets JJ go, sans accommodation, but tails him, leaving sticks in "obvious" places for him to find.  JJ finds Jimmy tailing him and naturally becomes discouraged.

This leads me to my final issue with the camping storyline.  Jimmy, at some point, has to use the outhouse.  While he's in there, a log rolls down a slight hill and gets lodged against the outhouse door, trapping Jimmy inside.  He checks for JJ, who is outside, and beeps his horn to indicate he is still present.  Jimmy says they'll just wait for someone else to come by and help.  But JJ decides to get help himself, and sets off down steep hills in the dark to find the ranger station.  He finds some signs and is eventually able to locate help for his dad.

If you've been around here long, you know I talk a lot about place blindness and how disorientation without sufficient landmarks is a very real thing for many people with CP.  Realistically?  JJ would be much more apt to get lost (not to mention flipping his chair down a steep hill) trying to find help.  But he's shown to be successful at navigating somewhere he's never been before and in the dark, no less.


I saved this part for last because it stood out to me as the most worrisome.  After JJ tells Jimmy he knows about sex, Jimmy says he is open to any questions JJ has.  JJ asks:  "Can I have a wife?  Kids?  Can I have a family?"  After giving him a very patronizing, "Yeah!  You can do anything you set your mind to!", they talk again.  Jimmy amends his answer to a "very sincere maybe."  Because "there are some things you can't do and this one is tricky to see." 

The implication here is very strong that disabled people cannot have families.  Cannot have children.  Cannot be parents.  This cannot be further from the truth, and it was difficult to see Jimmy give JJ a "maybe" (which was basically a "no, unless you prove me wrong").  This conversation could have gone very differently, had Jimmy been honest with his son about adaptations and accommodations that are available.  And that with the right support (as with anyone) JJ absolutely could be a father.

This was a hard one to watch because of all the faulty information that was shared in it.  I hope viewers will dig a little deeper and not take Speechless as gospel on these issues.

Monday, October 30, 2017

Review: Grey's Anatomy 14x04 "Ain't That a Kick in the Head"


Amelia via Voiceover:  There are 100 billion neurons in the human brain making and remaking connections.  

Amelia: [turns to reveal an L-shaped patch of hair she's shaved, beneath a top layer, which she has pulled aside with a clip]

Maggie:  That's it?  That makes you look fierce.

Amelia: [touches the shaved area briefly, studying herself in the mirror]

Meredith:  Are you sure you don't want me to call your mom?

Amelia:  No.  She didn't come for my wedding.  She doesn't get to come for my tumor.  

Amelia via Voiceover: It's helping us with math, remembering our keys, our dad's voice, working hard all the time.  So when the brain is faulty, it's a big rewiring job.  And there's no margin for error.  

Tara:  My head was shaved more severely than Amelia's, but a layer was left to cover what would have otherwise been hemispheric baldness.  

Also, the @GreysMedical Twitter noted that, according to their neuro consult, it is bad luck to completely shave a head.


Tom:  I'll go in through a subfrontal craniotomy - real clean - small incision in the dura and then scoop the tumor out.  I don't like the edema around the tumor but I gotta dance with the girl who brought me, so...  I imagine you have questions.

Chief Bailey:  How many of these have you done?

Tom:  So, so many.

Richard:  And what's the recovery time?

Tom:  I took a 13-centimeter tumor out of a cop in roughly the same place.  He was walking day one, talking day three, back at work in a week.

Amelia:  Thank you, Tom.  

Tom:  Yeah.  See you at the after party!  [Tom leaves]

Maggie:  He seems arrogant enough...

Amelia:  He's a showboat.  And he works best under pressure, so, DeLuca, ask him questions during surgery.  Make him show off.  And if I make it through--

Owen:  When.  When you make it through.

Andrew: --Early ambulation protocol.  

Amelia:  Thank you.  Okay.  Meredith.  If I die--

Meredith:  You are not going to die.

Amelia:  --But if I do.  You call my mom.  I'm sorry, but she likes you.  And you.  [Turns to Maggie]  Take my room!  It's way better!  I kinda scammed you on that!

Maggie: Stop it.

Alex: [under his breath] No, she's right.  It's way better.

Amelia:  Owen.  If I'm gorked.  Do not overthink it.  Do not visit me.  Just park me somewhere and go on with your life.  

Owen:  Amelia, please. Cut it out.

Amelia:  And, if I need unplugging, April has been named my power of attorney.  

April: [smiles weakly]

Alex: [scoffs]

Everyone: [turns to stare at April]

April:  What?  Was I supposed to say no?

Amelia:  She likes me.  She'll be there for you.  But we're not so close that she'll let emotion dictate her decision.  [Gets a little choked up] I don't know what's me and what's tumor talking.  [Shakily]  In this moment, I love you people tremendously.

[Camera pans to all the doctors' faces, as they take in Amelia's words.  The pan ends with Amelia in the center of the frame, looking back at them.  Owen puts a hand on her arm, in support.]

Tonia:  I really appreciated this scene.  Amelia is clearly in charge here, and even though everyone in the room is uncomfortable with the topic and they keep trying to stop the conversation, Amelia will not be detoured.  She is focused on giving everyone instructions.  I like that we see Alex backing her up, too, when she tells Maggie to take her room, because it shows that he has confidence in her words.


Tom: [softly]  I love this.  Are there really studies on this? 

Amelia:  Yup.

Amelia via Voiceover:  When you're going into surgery, you worry you won't wake up...

Amelia:  [still in superhero pose, waves to Meredith]

Meredith: [waves back]

Amelia via Voiceover:  ...But with brain surgery, you worry you WILL wake up...

Amelia:  [lies on the O.R. table.  Is secured in place with straps across her body.  Gets an I.V. and a mask with anesthesia.  The screen goes white.]

Amelia via Voiceover:  ...But you won't be there when you do.

Tonia:  I love that Amelia's neurosurgeon loves the superhero pose!  Of course he would!

Tara: Amelia's voiceover speaks of the common worry of being changed post-brain surgery.  The way she phrases it, she's worried that pre-brain surgery Amelia - the only person she knows - will be gone.  And while she's not entirely wrong, this feels as if it has been done for dramatic effect, as it is not something I have ever seen given the proper time, attention and through-line it deserves.


Owen: [takes her temperature]

Megan: If you say a number I don't like, I am going to hit you with this magazine.  

Owen: Still over 100...

Megan: Barely a fever...

Owen: A fever's a fever.

Megan: It's minor.  It's not like I'm having...brain surgery or something...

Owen: [scoffs]

Megan:  She avoided you during my surgery.  You're avoiding her now.  I suddenly understand your marriage completely.  

Owen:  Amelia has a lot of support.

Tonia:  They do have a very strange relationship.

Tara: To me, it makes perfect sense that Owen would steer clear of Amelia until she had made it through surgery. 


April:  Please don't make me have to unplug her. Please don't make me have to unplug her.  Please, Lord, let her be okay.  Please let her be okay.  Please don't make me have to unplug her.

Tonia:  I love that this scene is included, because it is taking time to make clear that Amelia's life has value to April.  It's also clear in this scene that April respects Amelia's words, and will follow through on them if she has to.  But only if she has to.  It is not something April wants to do.  Where this could have easily been April rationalizing about Amelia's potential 'quality of life' post-surgery, she does not do that.  We hear no such words from her.

April also does not say "Please let her be normal."  She says, "Please let her be okay," which was very much my own prayer while waiting.  We just want our people to survive and be okay.

Tara: I love this scene too.


[Close-up on Amelia's face.  It is draped and she is on a vent.]

Tom: [singing with the music playing in the operating room as he does Amelia's surgery]  And she'll have fun, fun, fun 'til her daddy takes the T-Bird away!  

Andrew: Any issues with the edema?

Tom:  [still singing as he operates]  Well, the girls can't stand her 'cause she walks, looks, drives like an ace now! 

Andrew:  Also wondering if you're all the way around the dura?

Tom: [singing] She makes the Indy 500 look like a Roman chariot race now!

Andrew:  Also, why did you choose this particular music?

Tom:  DeLuca?  Sing along or shut up.  [Starts singing again]  ...Goose chase now!  She drives like an ace!  And she'll have fun, fun, fun, til her daddy takes the T-Bird away!  

Tara:  I was understandably worried about having to watch this surgery.  But I was so pleasantly surprised by how easy, how "fun" surgery is for Tom.


Carina:  I still can't believe...

Arizona:  What?  That masturbation diagnosed her brain tumor?  

Carina:  [nods]  God works in such mysterious ways.

Maggie:  The Beach Boys seems like an odd choice.  Like inappropriate.

Tom: [still singing down in the O.R. as he operates] Well, you knew all along that your dad was gettin' wise to you now! And since he took your set of keys you've been thinking...

Alex:  Why did he stop singing?

Maggie:  He stopped singing.  

Meredith:  This is the crucial part.  He has to cut the last vessel and sometimes it's a feeder to the--

Tom: [snips]

Maggie: [gasps]  What was that?

Alex:  What happened?

Meredith:  That was the vessel en passant.  It looked like it was going into the Meningioma, but in fact, it was going straight through to the brain.  He didn't have a choice.  It's okay.

Maggie:  Is it?

Alex:  It is?

Meredith:  It's probably fine.  It could be really bad.  I'm sure it's fine.  

[Fade to black on Amelia's face, draped, still on the vent as The Beach Boys' Fun, Fun, Fun plays in the background.]

Tonia:  I feel like it is a very intentional choice in these scenes to keep showing Amelia's face.  And it is significant as there are many depictions of illness and disability where every scene ends on a family member's stricken face.  But here, we know, the narrative remains centered on Amelia.

Tara: Yes, thank you, Grey's Anatomy.


Meredith:  --I'm saying you clipped the vessel.

Tom:  The tissue went a little dusky.  It doesn't mean that--

Owen:  She's 11 hours post-op!

Maggie:  Shouldn't she be awake by now?

Tom:  I'm not concerned yet.  With that amount of bleeding, recovery time can be--

Meredith:  She's awake.


Amelia:  [blinks]

April:  Thank God!  Thank you, God!

Meredith:  Amelia.  How do you feel?

Amelia:  I'm okay.  How'd it go?

Tom:  Amelia.  Can you hear me?  [fingers snap]

Amelia: [sarcastically]  ...Yes...I'm right here...

Owen:  Is she awake?

Maggie:  Or did she just open her eyes?  Amelia?

Amelia:  They can't hear me.

Meredith:  I don't think she's--

April:  Oh, my God...

Tom:  Listen.  Everybody's recovery time is different.  Let's not panic.

Amelia:  Oh, crap.  Am I gorked?

[Close up on Amelia's face.  Her head is wrapped.  She's on a vent and unable to speak. She's looking around, blinking]

Meredith: It's okay.  She's okay.

Amelia:  Oh, crap!

Tara:  This scene - Amelia's perspective and sarcastic inner voice - rang super true to me.  I loved the choice made to shoot from her viewpoint and perspective.  And the choice to include her inner voice allows us access to Amelia's thoughts - which are central to a story that is about her.

Tonia:  Having been through many surgeries, and one, where I was very slow to wake up from anesthesia, this rang very true to me. Hearing people's voices, having people say things to / in front of me that they probably would not say otherwise?  This felt so, so accurate to me.


Andrew: [checks on Amelia.  Then wakes Meredith, who's asleep in a chair in Amelia's room]  Hey.

Meredith:  Hmm!

Andrew:  Sorry.

Meredith:  Hey.

Andrew:  There's no change.  But it's 5:30, in case you wanna get a shower or something.

Meredith:  Okay.  Thanks.  [Walks to Amelia's bed; takes her hand; addresses her]  I'm gonna go take a shower, okay?  I'll be back soon.

Amelia: [inner voice]  Okay.  It's sweet you slept here.

Meredith:  [looks at Andrew]

Andrew:  What?

Meredith:  I think she just squeezed my hand.  Amelia?  Did you just squeeze my hand?

Amelia: [inner voice]  Ow...  Stop talking...  My head hurts, Meredith...  I'm trying to sleep...

Meredith: [to Andrew]  Maybe not.

Amelia:  [coughs]

Meredith:  Oh my God.  She's breathing over the tube.  Let's get her extubated.

Andrew:  Okay.  This is good.

Meredith:  This is good.

Amelia: [inner voice]  Ow...  God...  So much talking...

Meredith and Andrew: [put gloves on in preparation to extubate Amelia]

Tonia:  I appreciated this scene because it showed so much:  that Amelia had someone with her all night.  It showed Meredith speaking directly to Amelia, respectfully, presuming competence.  And it let us know Amelia's thoughts.  She is not just asleep / recovering in the bed, a silent non-participant.  The inner-voice being included is a fabulous way to keep us with Amelia and up to date on her thoughts as they happen.

Tara:  And her inner voice indicates that it is far too loud with people talking at normal volume.  A nice touch of realism.


Richard:  How's Shepherd?

Tom: She's responsive.  Not yet verbal.  It's early.  

Tonia:  I like that even when Amelia is not there, it's obvious she is on peoples' minds.

I also love Koracick's answer about Amelia's recovery thus far.  It reminds me of an earlier episode where a doctor said of Cristina (who was traumatized and nonverbal at the time) "She's violent and uncommunicative!" and Bailey responded, "Oh, she's communicating!  She just hasn't talked yet."

Similarly Koracick, Meredith and others we will see, don't assume that not being able to speak has bearing on Amelia's ability to communicate.

Tara: Right, to Tom, being nonverbal after this particular surgery is par for the course early on, and not cause for alarm (or pity).


Andrew:  [putting Amelia's arms around his neck]  Here we go.

Amelia: [moans in pain]

Andrew:  Just a little bit more. [Helps her to sit on the edge of the bed]

Amelia: [sobs]  [inner voice]  Please stop.  No.  It hurts.

Andrew: [helps Amelia to her feet]

Amelia: [sobs]

Tom:  DeLuca.  What the hell are you doing?

Amelia: [leaning against Andrew; eyes still closed against the daylight]

Andrew:  It's early ambulation.  Dr. Shepherd does it with all her patients.  

Tom:  This patient is post-op day one!  Put her back in that bed--

Andrew:  She told me to do this.

Amelia:  [grimacing, eyes still closed]  [inner voice]  I changed my mind.  I changed my mind.

Tom:  No.  The giant tumor that was pressing on her frontal lobe told you to do it!  It also made me promise not to give her any opioids which is so incredibly stupid.  Put her back in this bed now!

Amelia:  [inner voice]  Agreed.  DeLuca, I agree.  

Andrew:  Sir, she made me promise.

Amelia: [inner voice] Damn it!

Tom: [chuckles softly]  Hey.  You sleeping with her?

Andrew:  What?

Amelia: [inner voice]  What?!

Tom:  You heard me.  You getting some extra office hours in with Shepherd?  

Andrew:  No!  Okay?  Just--  It's her protocol.  And her patients have a high recovery rate.  Higher than yours, which she wanted me to say to you, because she knew you wouldn't like this.  

Amelia: [gasping in pain]  [inner voice]  I am such an ass.

Tom:  If her intercranial pressure increases?  It's on you.  [leaves]

Andrew:  Okay, Dr. Shepherd.  You've got this, okay?  Just to the chair.

Amelia: [inner voice]  I mean, we could--  It's probably effective, but I--

Andrew: [helps Amelia to her feet]

Amelia: [screams]

Andrew: [helps Amelia pivot and sit in the chair just beside her bed]

Tara:  I definitely did this post-brain surgery almost 20 years ago.  I was on the edge of my hospital bed and in a chair Post-Op Day One.  I was not a screamer, but it was not pleasant by any means.

Tonia:  This was a tough scene to watch, with how much pain Amelia is clearly in, but also a great one.  We see Andrew keeping his word to Amelia, despite how much pain she is in.  Andrew's respect level for her never wavers.  We see it, too, in the way he refers to her as Dr. Shepherd, and does not take the vulnerable position she is in as permission to be overly familiar with her and addressing her by her first name.


Amelia: [through tears] [inner voice] In....  Ow, ow, ow...  Out...

[Camera pans out.  We see Maggie and Richard in the room with Amelia.  Each are holding one of her hands]

Richard:  Amelia.  The body can't heal as quickly when it's experiencing so much pain.

Maggie: [cries silently; strokes Amelia's hand]

Amelia: [crying; trying to keep breathing]

Richard: A.A. has no opinion on drugs for pain relief as long as you follow the doctor's orders.

Amelia: [breathing heavily]  [inner voice]  Opioids are my drug of choice.  What if they told you you could have just a drink or two if the doctor says it's okay?

Richard:  You're sure you don't want to reconsider?

Amelia:  [looks at Richard, determined]  [inner voice]  Please.  Stop.

Richard:  I didn't think so...but I had to ask.

Amelia:  [sobs]

Tonia:  Again, I love how Grey's shows Amelia being supported here.  She always has people with her.  In this case, Maggie and Richard.  Especially given the absence of Amelia's own biological family here, it's great to see her surrounded by people who are essentially her sister and the closest person Amelia has to a father figure.

I appreciate how they support her here, holding her hands, and just being there.  We can see, particularly for Maggie, that this is difficult, and she cries silently that Amelia is in so much pain.  But she stays.  She holds Amelia's hand.  She doesn't make it about her.  This scene could have ended with Maggie leaving the room, overcome with emotion.  A choice could have been made to follow Maggie, to hear about how difficult it is for her in this moment, but Grey's does not do that.

Additionally, Richard speaking to Amelia about options for pain relief is significant.  He gives her the opportunity to communicate whether or not she has changed her mind.  Amelia hasn't.  And Richard recognizes, accepts and respects Amelia's nonverbal communication as valid.  Instead of deciding for her that Amelia's own pain was too much.

Speaking of pain, I've read a comment by someone whose father is a surgeon, who claimed that no one should be in this much pain post-surgery because there are no pain-receptors in the skull.  I feel like no one but people who have been through brain surgery should get to comment on the accuracy of pain post-op.

Tara:  The pain Amelia feels is real - especially with no opioids.   


Meredith:  I used to scream at her to shut up all the time in my head.  

Alex:  No, I heard you a couple times.

Meredith:  I mean, now I wish she would just say anything.

April:  How is she?  

Arizona:  Is she talking?

Maggie:  No.

April: [to Meredith]  Did you call her mom yet?

Alex: [to April]  Did you unplug her yet?

All but April: [laugh uncomfortably]

April:  That's not funny!  At all!

Tonia:  While Alex's comment initially struck me as crass and awful (and it remains crass and awful) his comment to April actually serves to remind April about Amelia's boundaries here.  Meredith was instructed to call Amelia's mother only if Amelia did not survive surgery.  Alex asking "Did you unplug her yet?" is a reminder to April that as long as Amelia is alive, Meredith won't be calling her mom.

Meredith:  I mean, seriously, so she left a thriving practice and a fiance in L.A. to come and live with her brother, who she resented.  

Alex:  Yeah.

Meredith:  THAT was the tumor!  

Maggie:  Wow!  How did we miss this?

Alex:  Man, I just wish I had a tumor to blame my stupid crap on.  

April:  No.  Guys!

Alex:  "DeLuca, I'm sorry I hit you.  Tumor."

Maggie:  This is not cool.

Meredith:  Riggs.  Tumor.  

Arizona:  MINNICK--

April:  No!  

Arizona:  --Tumor!

April:  Do not encourage them!

Arizona:  What?  You have to laugh, April. I mean, in situations like this?  You have to laugh.  

April:  No.  She trusted me with her life--

All, but April:  Tumor!

April: [laughing in spite of herself] Stop!

Tonia:  Here's another example of a scene that could have exclusively been about Meredith, Alex and Arizona chalking up Amelia's "stupid crap" to her tumor.  But in this scene, we have April, repeatedly speaking out against this.

Maggie saying "This is not cool" remains extra poignant, given that Maggie was just in with Amelia for at least part of the previous night and witnessed just how much pain Amelia's in.

In a scene where people are crossing a line in some way when it comes to disability, it is beyond helpful to have those contrary voices speaking out against the majority.  Well done, April and Maggie.

[Cell Phone rings]

Meredith:  Oh. Speak of the devil.  My tumor's calling.

Maggie:  Are you gonna answer it?

Meredith:  No.  Once that's diagnosed, you cut it right out!

[Maggie and Mer's phones chime]

Maggie:  It's DeLuca!

Meredith:  Amelia's talking!

Maggie:  She's talking!


Meredith:  She's talking?

Andrew:  Well...  Sort of...

Amelia:  [speaks French]

Andrew:  It's weird, right?

Amelia:  [turns to Maggie, continues speaking French]

Maggie:  It's French!

Amelia:  [repeats herself in French]

Alex: She speaks French?

Maggie:  I speak French.  She speaks German.

Meredith:  What is she saying?

Amelia:  [repeats herself in French]

Maggie:  Sorry.  She said she needs a glass of water.

Meredith:  Oh.

Alex: [pours Amelia a glass of water]

Meredith:  You know...all the Shepherd children went to French preschool!

Andrew:  And that's still in her brain somewhere?

Alex: [hands Andrew the water]

Andrew: [holds the cup for Amelia; steadies the straw so she can drink]

Amelia:  Merci.

Meredith:  I've seen this before.  It reverses on its own, but this--  It's still good.  It's progress.

Maggie:  Amelia?  [asks a question in French]

Amelia:  [responds slowly in French, looking confused, and a bit frightened.]

Alex:  What did she say?

Maggie:  I asked her if she could speak in English and she said, "Didn't even know I could speak French."

Meredith: [laughs softly]

Amelia:  [Openly afraid now]

Tonia:  I loved this scene because it showed the other doctors adapting for Amelia relatively easily.  No one was showing undue fear of her speaking French.  Maggie knows French herself and is able to communicate with Amelia.

When she asks for water, Alex immediately pours it, and hands it to Andrew, who holds the cup and steadies the straw for Amelia.  (No one expects her to manage this solo.  The scene, therefore, does not become about how "sad" or "tragic" it is that Amelia might struggle at this point to hold a cup steady.)

Notable, too, that no one insists Amelia speak English at this point.  Maggie, instead asks Amelia in French if she can speak in English.  And we can see by Amelia's verbal response and her facial expression that, perhaps she thought she was speaking English all along.

Tara:  Amelia's unawareness that she was not speaking English reminded me a bit of my experience with aphasia.  Sometimes, I was aware that I wasn't saying what I meant to say.  Other times, though, I was not aware of it until the words came out of my mouth and I heard them.  (Mental processing can take more time.)

Tonia:  Though not directly related to Amelia's storyline, I wanted to include this scene (video above).  April (left) and Arizona (right) are discussing the "new normal" that occurs post adjusting to only having their daughters part-time following their divorces.  Arizona's had some practice at this, but for April, it is still new.

Arizona talks to April about how it starts out really hard, but eventually it hurts less, and after that, April will discover things she finds joy in.  April laments she doesn't want a new normal.  I found this poignant, in an episode centered around Amelia's recovery from brain surgery - and that she is very much experiencing a "new normal" of her own right now.

Tara:  It is also significant that Arizona is disabled herself, and that she is bringing up a common disability-related topic in regular conversation.


Owen:  Hey.  How is she?

Meredith:  The same.

Owen:  Meredith, what do you think?  I mean, how bad is this, long-term?  Do you think we'll get her back?

Meredith:  I wish I knew.

Amelia: [sleepily]  Would you keep it down?

Owen:  Sorry.  Wait--

Meredith:  That was English!  She spoke English!

Amelia:  ...When was I not?

Owen:  How are you?  How do you feel?

Amelia:  I'm okay.  I'm good.  

Meredith:  Do you know what happened?  Do you know where you are?  

Amelia:  ...I had a surgery.  ...I had a brain tumor...

Meredith: [to Owen] Call Koracick.

Owen:  Mm-hmm.  

Amelia:  Ugh.  No.  Koracick is such a blowhard...

Meredith:  [laughs]  This is good!

Amelia:  You should call Derek.

Meredith: [stops laughing]

Amelia:  What?

Tonia:  I'm curious about Owen's use of "get her back" here.  Because Amelia is right there in the room with both of them.  Does he mean "get her back" as in "Will she be a surgeon again?"  "Will she be able to work?"  I do appreciate Meredith's response in that she doesn't play into it or become overwrought at the possibility of Amelia being "gone."  She simply admits she doesn't know.

Tara:  I think Owen may mean "get Amelia back" in the sense that she can communicate in a way that he can understand.

I also noticed that Amelia has what is commonly referred to as a "flat affect" in this scene.  This is because vocal inflection takes energy that she does not have at the moment.  

Tonia: Also, I noticed that when Mer asked Amelia two consecutive questions ("Do you know what happened?" and immediately after "Do you know where you are?") Amelia only answered the first.  Can you comment on this?  Is it significant?

Tara: First of all, I would think Amelia may have been overwhelmed by consecutive questions.  Her brain may have been able to hold and respond to the first question only.

It is also possible that she may have trouble remembering the names of things, like the hospital or the name of it.  (Derek notwithstanding as a Very Important Person in her life.)  We'll see more potential evidence of this later.


Amelia:  [puts a hand up to stop the MRI tech from securing her head in place]

Tech: [stops and backs up]

Tonia:  We do not even see this MRI tech's face at this point.  But we see their hands responding to Amelia blocking their progress at securing her head for the scan.  The tech stops, and then takes a step back.  Just part of their silhouette is visible, but we see this person intentionally giving Amelia the space she's requesting.

These moments, though small, remain significant, because again, it is so common for a scene like this to play out with the tech (for example) assuming that Amelia doesn't know what she's saying or what she is doing.  It could have been a painful, ugly, abusive scene where the tech insisted on securing Amelia before she was ready.

But that isn't what happened here.  Amelia is respected as a human being, with the right to set her own boundaries and limits and have them honored by those around her.

Amelia:  I mean, I know that Derek is dead, I just forgot he was dead.  But then, the second that you tell me, it's all there.  It's like I have this jigsaw puzzle, but I can't put the pieces in until you give them to me.  What if I can't be a surgeon anymore?  What if I get into surgery and I can't find my way back out?

Meredith:  She's panicking.  [Ready to go next door to reassure Amelia]

Tom: [over the microphone] Amelia.  Work the problem.  

Amelia:  [fidgets nervously]

Tom:  What's the cause of your memory loss?

Amelia:  [shakily]  It's, uh, retrograde amnesia.

Tom:  [nods]  From?

Amelia:  From damage to the temporal lobe.  [Still fidgeting; still shaky]  But you were in the frontal.  There could be interruption of blood flow.  Ischemia-reprofusion injury.  Edema.  It's likely temporary.

Tom:  Say that again?

Amelia:  [props herself up on her elbows to see them in the next room]  It might be temporary.

Tom:  Yes.  It will be.  You know what this is.  You don't have to be afraid of it.  You will be a surgeon again.  You're too good not to.  So am I.  Now, I need you to simmer down so I can get these scans.  Okay?  

Amelia:  [lies back down]  Okay.

Meredith:  [to Tom]  Thank you.

Tom:  She was hot for teacher back in the day.  She tell you about me?  

Tonia:  We see similar respect for Amelia here.

The scene is not Meredith and Koracick insisting that Amelia comply.

Meredith recognizes Amelia's distress and moves to help.

Koracick gets on the microphone to help Amelia work through her panic.  He deliberately takes her through what she knows about her symptoms, a step at a time.  He gives her time to process what's being said and even asks her to repeat herself when she says her amnesia is likely temporary, so the truth of that can settle with her.  Once she's calm again, he tells her what needs to happen, and she is able to move forward with getting the scan.


Tom:  Do you know where you are?

Amelia:  I'm at work.

Tom: Do you know who the president is?

Amelia:  I wish I didn't.

Tom: Very good.  Dr. Shepherd, you're post-op scans are pristine.  I'm clearing you to go home.  I'll see you in a few days for a follow up.  It's been a pleasure being treated by me.

Maggie:  Yay!  This is incredible!

Amelia:  I want to see my scans.  All of them.

Maggie:  Amelia.  He said you're fine.

Andrew:  You're cleared to go home.

Amelia:  Something's wrong.  Something's missing.  [To Andrew]  Um, please get my scans.

Tara:  Here we see again that Amelia declines to give proper names when getting a neuro check.  She answers in a way that makes it clear that she knows the correct response.  These workarounds are perhaps ways of saving face in front of her colleagues.  But we see that proper names could be part of the jigsaw puzzle for Amelia.


Tom:  I once had a patient with bipolar disorder and a malignant Glioma.  I took out the tumor.  Bipolar didn't change.  

Amelia:  Shhh...

Tom:  I once had a patient with an armpit fetish, pre-op.  Tumor came out?  He still loved him some pits.  

Amelia:  Are you saying you think I'm nuts?

Tom:  I'm saying there's nothing physically wrong with you anymore.  Go home.

Amelia:  DeLuca, schedule a functional MRI, a carotid duplex and a CT with contrast.

Andrew:  Dr. Shepherd, respectfully, I just--  I don't understand what we're looking for.  

Amelia:  I'll know when I'm looking at it.

Tonia:  I appreciate this scene because, in it, Tom does specify that Amelia did not become her tumor when she had the tumor, and similarly is not a blank slate with no personality now that it is gone.  I like that Tom tells Amelia not that she is nuts but that there is nothing physically wrong with her anymore.  And that, as always, Andrew's respect for Amelia remains.  (He even uses the word "respectfully" and then continues to clarify "I don't know what we're looking for."  He aligns them together and does not treat her as if she has no idea what she is talking about.

Tara:  Tom tries to reassure Amelia in this scene.  However, the fact remains that the surgery has changed her, however subtly, and she feels that change.


Amelia:  I can't find the operative report.  Did Koracick dictate--?

Andrew: [closes the door]  I think I figured out what you're looking for.  [Holds up Amelia's tumor in a jar]  This.  This is what's missing.  [Sets the jar down on Amelia's bedside table]

Amelia: [regards it.  Then regards Andrew]

Andrew:  I think you've been waiting for the other shoe to drop.  For...something to go wrong.  And, I think it might be because, for years now, something WAS wrong.  This thing was growing inside of you, and you were in constant danger.  But now it's gone.  And you're safe.  

Amelia: [a bit startled]

Andrew:  ...And, I think, for something's wrong. But, uh...  You know, I'm sorry.  I thought I'd--

Amelia:  [stands and hugs Andrew, breathing shakily]

Tonia:  I love that this scene is here because it just continues to drive home Andrew's unwavering respect for Amelia.  He does not treat her like some pity case.  "Oh, poor Amelia.  She's freaking out over not having a tumor.  I have to reassure her / patronize her."  Andrew takes his suspicions about what could be missing for Amelia very seriously. Her feelings - of safety, in fact, feeling like a danger - are legitimate to him.  I also like that we see Amelia dealing with some of the trauma surgery actually is.  (She's said it before herself:  "Surgery is traumatic.")  And now?  Amelia is dealing, head on, with that trauma.  She's not just "fine" now that she's had the surgery.  It's much more nuanced than that.

Tara:  There is a specific vulnerability to being post-op, particularly being post-op from brain surgery.  I think Amelia is feeling and reacting to that.

Also, it says something that Andrew is able to put himself in her shoes to such an extent that he is able to address things she has yet to verbalize.  He brings that missing part of her back, so that she can see that it is actually gone.  So that that puzzle piece can snap into place.  It has to be said that that level of empathy cannot be reached or acted upon if what a person is feeling instead is pity.


Owen:  Hey.  So, I stocked the fridge with all your favorites.  I set the thermostat to boiling, just how you like it.  I want you to come home, Amelia.

Amelia:  Yeah, I figured you would take care of your sister, and my sisters would take care of me.  And then--

Owen:  And then what?

Amelia:  And then I don't know.  And it's scary.  You were coming to end it - to leave me - when I told you I was sick.  

Owen:  Listen, I was upset, but I didn't know--

Amelia:  You were right.  I was awful to you.  You were right to wanna leave.  

Owen:  You had a tumor.

Amelia:  You married a tumor.

Owen:  I married YOU.

Amelia:  We don't know who that is anymore.  I don't know who I am.  So, you don't have to do this now.  You can be free.  

Owen:  Amelia.  [Walks closer; takes her hands]  You're my wife.  Okay?  In sickness and in health.  Come home.  

Tonia:  I like that Amelia does not see herself as a burden here.  She doesn't say: "You'd have to take care of your sister so my sisters would have to take care of me."  Phrasing it the way she does, it is simply what family does for each other. 

I like that Owen corrects Amelia when she says he married a tumor.  He says, "I married you."  He humanizes her.  So that even in this early moments when Amelia is struggling to come to terms with what's happened and who she is now, the audience is reminded that she is not her tumor, she is Amelia. 

I just cringe at Amelia's line telling Owen, "You can be free."  I know she thinks she is doing him a favor.  And I know it's common for people with disabilities to see themselves as different and as burdens, but I was sad to hear Amelia say it here.  Glad that Owen pushed back on that, even if I do agree with Amelia that he was coming to end it, because, like Amelia, I sure wouldn't want to be stayed with out of pity.

Tara: Amelia does not know who she is anymore.  This is very true to life.  It also feels true that she would want to give her husband an out.  It is a way of taking a little control back - of letting him go, so that he does not leave suddenly later.

Amelia via Voiceover: The trouble with crossed wires is you don't know they happened until it's too late.  So we have to be very careful with our connections.


April: [praying]  Thank you.

Tonia:  I can't say enough how much I appreciate that Grey's takes the time to show April being thankful that Amelia survived instead of grieving all the ways she has changed.  These scenes in the chapel are short but I imagine they are very involved to film.  They take time.  They take money.  They could have easily dedicated these few seconds to a minute of chapel scenes with April to something else, but Grey's chose to use the time and money for this minute of screen time to show that Amelia's life has value to April, and she is glad and thankful Amelia made it. 

I know I risk sounding repetitive here, but I don't know if I have ever seen scenes like these in media, and so I have to take time to say how glad I am that they are there.


Amelia via Voiceover:  They take time, care and attention.  They take vigilance and single-mindedness.  We reconnect everything we can as carefully as we can.  And then we just have to pray to God...that we got it right.

Tonia:  I wonder how all will go with Amelia and Owen at home together?  Especially as she has not been home with him in a while.  I hope we get to see a bit more of her recovery at home, and that she does not just jump back into work in the next episode.  I'd also be curious to see if she has any deficits, and how she continues to cope and come to terms with the trauma of this and how Amelia feels changed by it.

Tara: This was such a great hour of disability representation!  And it is proof that this can be done right!

Saturday, October 28, 2017

Review: The Fosters 4x16 "The Long Haul"

Originally written: March 15, 2017

Mariana:  Mama's not busy.
Lena:  Yes, I am, honey.  I have to take Jesus to physical therapy every day and --
Jesus:  Well, I'm not going anymore.
Lena:  What?  Yes, you are.
Jesus:  No, I'm not.
Stef: Jesus.
Tara: This sounds an awful lot like Jesus is a chore and not a human.  Also, I am 99% positive that he waited until family dinner with Grandma to drop that little info nugget about therapy.  Everybody trying to make nice for the relatives means less of a chance of an argument.  (And more of a chance that the family hears Jesus out.)  No follow-up conversation in this episode, though, so we’ll have to see what comes of it.
Tonia:  Yes, and while I am sure Jesus hates PT with a passion, I wonder if also isn’t saying this to lessen the ‘burden’ of caring for him on Lena.  I hate that Moms just keep warning him silent whenever he says something they don't like.  (Also, at this point, 5A has aired and we have yet to see a followup to Jesus saying he's not going to therapy anymore.  In fact, we've yet to see him in therapy again at all.)
But I love how Jesus’s cane is right next to his chair.  One of the things I always remember eating dinner with my family at home, was feeling like I had to prop my crutches in a nearby corner so no one tripped.  But that also meant they were out of my reach when I needed them and I always had to ask someone to get them, which was annoying.  And he’s finally in a chair with a back on it!  Hallelujah!  No need to use up all that energy keeping his balance when he can use it on eating.
Brandon:  Hey.  Um, Jesus isn't feeling well right now.  
Emma:  I know.  He texted me.  
Tonia:  Well, don’t we just love hearing about how Jesus is doing via Brandon and Emma and not Jesus himself? (Sarcasm.)

Emma:  I just wanted to [pulls a letter out of her pocket] give him this.
Brandon:  Oh, um...  You know, he's really sorry.
Emma:  He's not the one who should be sorry.  He's not just being paranoid.  What he said.  I mean, there IS something going on with you and me.  We're not hooking up or anything, but there's this...secret...  
Tonia:  I wish you both could have told Jesus this instead of letting him walk around thinking you’re betraying him or that his reactions were too big for the situation.

Emma:  I just can't face him and not tell him the truth, so I've been avoiding him.  So, I wrote him this.  It doesn't say anything about you.  He doesn't ever need to know that you went with me.
Tonia:  Nice to know Emma can respect Brandon, by not outing his involvement to Jesus…

Emma:  But I just can't tell him to his face.  I mean, what if he freaks out, or--?
Brandon:  I think the letter is a good idea.
Tonia: Emma and Brandon, you are so frustrating.  It’s beyond irritating to see all this stuff that directly concerns Jesus being discussed with Brandon, of all people.

Tara: Also, Emma is bringing up Jesus "freaking out."  Perpetuating the idea that the TBI makes him dangerous.
Emma:  Thanks.  Will you give it to him?
Brandon:  Yeah.
Emma:  Thanks.
Narrator:  ..treehouse was constructed with permanence and sustainability in mind. The design allows for flexibility...
Tara:  Jesus seems so isolated and subdued here.  

Tonia:  Yes, it's really clear in scenes like this that he has no one.  :(
Brandon:  [knocks on the doorframe]  Hey.  So I, uh, I talked to Emma today.  
Jesus:  Yeah?  What did she say?
Brandon:  Not much.  She just, uh, wanted me to give you this.  [Hands Jesus the envelope.]  
Jesus:  What?  Do you think it's like a breakup letter or something?
Brandon:  No.  
Jesus: [nods]
Brandon:  Did you want me to stay?
Jesus:  No.  Nah, I'm okay.  Thank you, though.
Brandon: Yeah.  [Pats Jesus on the shoulder.  Walks out.]
Jesus: [Opens the envelope and tries to read the letter.  The words blur and move around the page.  Jesus is distressed, and puts the letter down, focusing on the laptop again.]
Tara:  I am glad to see that Brandon offers to stay while Jesus attempts to read the letter.  But really, there is no excuse as to why Jesus’s reading difficulties have not been caught by this point.  
In reality, a reading assessment is one of the first things done when a patient enters rehab.  And even if the show only covers about a day at a time, Jesus has been home for at least five days.  (And as Lena said, going to physical therapy every day - and for the sake of TV time and TV simplicity, all of Jesus’s rehab falls under this “physical therapy” category.)  Five days is more than enough time for a reading assessment.  Dragging this plot point out for drama is just cruel, in my opinion.  

Tonia:  Yes!  A person's difficulty due to disability is not a plot device nor should it be used as one.  Especially when there is plenty of story that could be told respectfully, should the writers choose to do so...
Lena: [to Will] Thank you for making dinner.
Jesus:  What is in this?
Will: Grilled carrots!  We wanted to thank you for letting us have the wedding here, and inviting our friends.  They were pretty insistent.  And we want all of you to invite your significant other's too.
Brandon: [to Jesus] Are you gonna invite Emma?
Jesus:  Yeah.  Probably.
Mariana:  Why wouldn't he?
Brandon:  Just asking...
Tonia:  Yeah, Brandon, you're so subtle with your curiosity.  Also, I love how Jesus loads up on potato salad after Will tells him that's not a hot dog he's eating, but a grilled carrot.  Not a happy surprise...

Jesus: [Still in bed, and trying to read the letter again, but the words still blur and move.]
Grandma: Knock, knock.
Jesus: [sets the letter aside]
Grandma:  I got a bunch of meds your mom sent up for ya.  I tell ya, with all those prescriptions, you'd fit in with some of my friends.  
Jesus: [takes pills]
Grandma:  So, what do you got there?
Jesus:  It's a...letter from...Emma.
Grandma:  Hmm?  
Jesus:  Yeah, I just...I kinda have a headache and my eyes are tired.  I've been trying to read it but I can't really focus.  
Grandma:  [gently holds onto his head] Aw, I'm sorry.
Jesus: [laughs softly]
Grandma:  I could read it for you, if it's not too personal.  
Jesus:  No.  Yeah.  [Hands Grandma the letter]
Tara:  Again, it’s just plain negligence that this reading issue has not been caught.  Regardless of whether Jesus is doing inpatient or outpatient therapy, the facility has had ample time to assess him, given his current level of functioning.  Also, while Jesus uses the fact that he has a headache as an excuse for not reading the letter, his pain and other symptoms remain real and valid.

Tonia:  It's good to see Grandma and Jesus connecting here, and good that Jesus feels comfortable asking her for help, but absolutely.  His reading difficulties should have been caught by now.  So unnecessary to have Jesus in a position like this, having to deal with it by himself.
Grandma:  All right.  Let's see what Miss Emma has to say.  [Puts on her reading glasses; starts to read]  "Hey!"  What is it with you kids and "Hey!"  Whatever happened to the old "Dear," you know?  "Dear,"  "Dear, Jesus!"  
Jesus: [laughs]
Grandma:  I'm not going to editorialize anymore.
Tara:  Yeah, why don’t you try really hard to do that, Grandma?

Tonia:  Right????
Grandma: "First I wanna say I love you" Aww...  "Even when we were just friends with benefits" [Grandma pauses and raises an eyebrow at Jesus]
Jesus: [laughs]
Grandma: [laughs too] "Even when we were just friends with benefits, I loved you."  Ah.  So far not so bad, huh?
Jesus:  I feel like...there--there's a 'but' coming, though.
Grandma:  Hmm.  "But things have been hard, with all that you're going through.  I'm sorry I pulled away the other day but it wasn't you.  It was me."
Emma's letter continues [Grandma reads this part to herself, not to Jesus]:  "I was pregnant.  And I was scared to tell you because you're dealing with so much.  But, I decided to have an abortion.  It wasn't an easy decision, but it was the right one for me.  I was upset and afraid and I didn't want to tell you."
Jesus:  Is that it?
Grandma: [Takes off her glasses]  These progressive lenses, they are just a nightmare. [Clears throat]  Here it is: "I'm just trying to deal with everything the best I can.    And if you wanna talk about it, I'm totally willing.  I hope you understand."  [Folds the letter]
Tara:  While I get the need to “protect” your kids/grandkids from life’s difficulties, keeping something like this from him is not nice or good or helpful.  Emma chose to share information with Jesus, and Jesus is relying on Grandma to give him that information.  Her choice to only give him part of the story?  That helps Grandma get out of an uncomfortable situation.  It does not help Jesus.  
When a person with a disability asks a nondisabled person for help with a personal task, we are asking for that person to be an extension of ourselves.  Our hands.  Our feet.  Our eyes.  If a nondisabled person takes the liberty to omit, edit or otherwise change what we aim to know, accomplish or experience, that person is taking away our agency.  
Not only is Grandma taking away Jesus’s agency in this moment, she is, by extension, taking away Emma’s.  Because, despite being given the full letter, Jesus still does not have the whole story.  And Emma intended for Jesus to have that.

Jesus: [laughs to himself, relieved]  I thought she was gonna break up with me.
Grandma:  Mm-hmm.  No, I think she's just looking for a little...reassurance from you.  
Jesus: [nods]  Yeah.
Grandma:  But I think you're gonna wanna look at that letter yourself when you feel a little better.
Tara: And then, he’ll realize you lied to his face, and won’t that be nice?  

Tonia:  Horrifying...
Jesus:  Thanks.
Grandma: [gives Jesus a hug, leaves]
Jesus: [voice-to-texting Emma]  I read your letter and you have nothing to be sorry for.  I'm not mad at you.  I totally understand.  And we definitely don't need to talk about this. And I love you, too.
Tara:  Oh Jesus.  You’re doing the best you can with what information you have.  

Tonia:  Heartbreaking...and my saying that is drawing my attention to yet another place where Jesus not having the full information Emma meant for him to have is used as a reason for the audience to pity Jesus.  
Jesus: [answers the doorbell, finds Emma on the other side, all dressed up, smiles]  Hi.  Come in.  You, you, uh, look really, really nice.
Tonia:  So many rugs on the floor for Jesus to slip on. Come on, Stef and Lena and up your accessibility level…
Emma:  Thanks.  Is...that what you're wearing? [smiling]
Jesus: [laughs]  No.  No, I haven't--I haven't dressed yet.
Emma:  Are we...good?
Jesus:  Yeah.  Yeah, I was gonna ask you.  I mean, are you really...?  You okay?
Emma:  Yeah.  Especially if you are.  [Hugs Jesus hard.  He hugs her back.
Tara:  This is just heartbreaking. :(

Tonia:  I know!  Emma really does believe that Jesus read the whole letter, and Jesus believes he was read the whole letter.  This is terrible :(
Brandon:  Hey.  What did Jesus say about the letter?
Emma:  Just that he's not mad and he understands.
Brandon:  Well, that's good, right?
Grandma:  Here comes the bride, almost!  
Brandon:  Hey, Grandma!  You know Emma, right?  Jesus's girlfriend?
Grandma:  Yes, of course!  I remember you!  Hi.  How are you?
Emma:  I'm fine.  Thank you.  Congratulations!
Grandma:  Why thank you!  You know, I could use a little help with my dress.  You got a minute?
Emma:  Sure!
Grandma:  Wanna zip me up there?
Emma:  I love your dress.
Grandma:  You don't think I'm too old to pull it off?
Emma:  Not at all.
Grandma:  Thank you.  Listen, I wanted to tell you that, um, Jesus asked me to read the letter you wrote him.  
Emma:  Why?
Grandma:  Not for me.  He asked me to read it because his head hurt and his eyes were tired.  I didn't read ALL of it.  I mean...I...did.  But not out loud.  I skipped over the part with the...  I just wanna tell you that I support your choice.  Do your parents know?
Emma: [shakes her head]  I was gonna tell my mom, but she'd maybe want to talk to Stef and Lena, and I didn't know if Jesus was okay with that.
Grandma:  Right.
Emma:  I wanted to tell him.  You know?
Grandma:  I'm sure you did...but I can understand why you couldn't.  
Tonia:  And again, all this conversation around Jesus but he is not included in it.  It is a sweet scene.  I’m glad Sharon is there for Emma.  But it has to do with Jesus so directly that it gives me weird feelings.  Again, everybody’s talking about him, nobody’s talking to him.

Tara: From the way these scenes are written and shot, it is obvious where the impact is meant to land.  
Grandma:  Well you don't have to worry about me, okay?  I mean, I wasn't even supposed to see that.  So...I would never tell anyone.
Tonia:  You've got that right, Grandma.  You won't even tell Jesus! :/
Grandma:  I just needed to know that you were okay.  [Hugs Emma]
Emma:  Thank you.
Emma:  So, I know you said we don't need to talk about it, but you read all of my letter, right?  Yourself?  I mean, obviously, you read it yourself.  
Tara:  This is just so difficult.  And then, she tacks on “Obviously,” which is pretty much like a slap in the face, even though she doesn’t realize it.

Tonia:  No, Emma, "obviously" he didn't read it himself...and this wouldn't have needed to be a conversation if Grandma could have done what Jesus asked and read him the whole darn letter...
Jesus:  Can we please just stop talking about it?  
Emma:  Yeah.
Jesus:  We're good.
Emma:  I don't see our cards.
Jesus:  Yeah.  Me, neither.
Emma:  [rounds the table to stand by Jesus] I hope we're sitting together.  [Catches sight of her own place card right beside Jesus.  His own is right next to Emma now.  She smiles at him as if expecting he'll tell her he's kidding, but Jesus just keeps scanning the table.  Realization dawns that it's not a joke.  The smile falls from Emma's face.]
Tara: Well, he’s not lying.  I did like the way Amanda played Emma’s realization - as if it must be a joke at first, and then quickly realizing it’s serious.

Tonia:  Yet another moment when disability is portrayed as tragic and sad.  It's "Oh God, he can't read" not "Well, he might need accommodations.  Let's see what we can do to make that happen," (which would be on the doctor's part, a very long time ago, not something Emma should ever have to discover or something Jesus should ever have to worry about people discovering in this way.)
Emma:  So, Jesus didn't read my letter.
Brandon:  What?
Emma:  He definitely didn't read it.
Brandon:  How do you know?
Emma:  Because he can't read.  I'll explain later.
Tonia: Wow, Emma, way to out him.  And to Brandon of all people.  If you’re gonna tell someone that at least have it be Stef and Lena, the adults, who need to know.  Though you can’t tell me that in early evaluations Jesus’s ability to read was not among the first things to be evaluated?  And if not, somebody else in PT, or OT or ST should have caught on, especially by now.  Anything less is just negligent.
Tara:  I’ll just add on that Emma should not have been in that situation in the first place, had the facility done its job.  And that her choice of who to go to with Jesus’s medical information has been severely limited due to Sharon only reading Jesus part of the letter.  If she tells Moms, they will most likely ask how she knows what she does, which means she might feel compelled to tell Moms about the abortion before Jesus knows, which Emma is trying to avoid.