I will be the first to admit that portrayals of blind people in books, movies, or articles tend to get my teeth on edge. Contrary to what many might think I don’t expect a perfect portrayal of who we are, because we are all different, just like sighted people. But perhaps even with the best of intentions, some of the worst stereotypes about blind people are perpetuated in these books, movies, or articles – that we are angelic inspirational beings for simply living our lives, that we require caretakers for everything from cooking to laundry to shopping, and if we do actually succeed at something it’s viewed as a miraculous feat tantamount to clearing tall buildings in a single bound. These ideas are frustrating to those of us who live with blindness – and others’ perceptions of it – every day of our lives.
That having been said, few books, movie portrayals, or articles have concerned me quite as much as this video, largely because it’s been shared around the world as a “sweet tearjerker that shows what true love and “blind devotion” really is.
I’m leaving aside here the main character’s perception of what she can and cannot do as someone losing her vision; the anger and denial process are entirely normal, given a diagnosis like hers. But the ending of the video infuriated me to no end. It is viewed as sweet, and beautiful, and yet I find it ugly. For those of you who cannot see (or just don’t feel like watching the video), this video ends with the husband following his blind wife to work every day without her knowledge. We’re not talking about driving her to work, waiting in the car and watching her get in to a building before driving away; we are talking about physically following her on her walk to work every morning because (I presume based on the video) he doesn’t think of her as capable enough to do it on her own. As a blind wife with a sighted husband, to me such behavior borders on stalking, and is not adorable and kind, but such a blatant abuse of trust that my blood is boiling even thinking about it.
Committed relationships (marriage in my case) are beautiful, messy and sweet and heart-breaking and restorative. Relationships are not perfect, whether or not one partner has a disability. Even if everyone disagrees on acceptable/unacceptable behaviors in any given relationship, I can think of no one who would disagree that trust is a foundation for any successful relationship. It is one thing to stumble and fall, or be unintentionally hurtful, but to knowingly use your partner’s blindness or deafness to your own advantage – even while fooling yourself into believing it’s being done for their benefit – can shake a relationship to the core when your disabled partner finds out about it (and trust me, we’re not fools; we WILL find out). Creating an admittedly fictional video as a feel-good look at what “true devotion” really is makes those of us living with blindness choke on the phony sweetness it’s meant to portray. I have two questions for those who made, produced, and touted this video as sweet and romantic: How would you feel if your spouse went behind your back and, by their actions, showed the entire world – everyone but you – that they viewed you as incapable? And what if you found out about it weeks, months, or years after the fact? It isn’t so adorable and sweet now, is it…