When I was a child (and even as an adult) my least favorite joke was used by everyone – my grandmother, my friends at school, and strangers.
The joke is that I am Ms. Magoo.
For those of you who never saw the Mr. Magoo cartoons, they were essentially a whole series of sight gags based on people not being able to see. As a child, I remember when I would slam into a glass door (because I couldn’t see it) it would be joked about because I was like Mr. Magoo.
Mr. Magoo humor is still prevalent in our culture, and I think that needs to change. I’m not saying that blind people shouldn’t be made fun of, we absolutely can be. But what bothers me is the culture of slapstick. It’s funny that the blind person can’t see and so they get injured. It’s funny when blind people break their glasses.
So during the Lego Movie, I was understandably upset when all of the various characters are sent off to do their part to help with the ensuing Big Event…. and then the blind character is seen pointing a gun at the wall he’s facing and not doing anything to help.
This irritates me. This enforces a societal norm that blind people are useless, and that we cannot offer anything to society. We are not helpful, but a thing to be mocked because of our lack of sight. Much like the trope that Deaf people are angry, blind people aren’t observant of their surroundings.
I found it disheartening to hear so many people laughing with their children at the “stupid” blind man. I feel the same way about when you watch blind people fall down stairs, and people laugh. Because it ends up reading as permission.
Permission to laugh at someone because of their misfortune. And while schadenfreude is certainly something which all people indulge in, I think our humor, especially in childrens movies should be better. We shouldn’t be encouraging children to be mean in their humor, we should encourage them towards kindness, and laughter at things which we can all find funny.
Mr. Magoo is hurtful and as writers we should strive for better blind jokes. It’s not that you can’t make fun of the blind – no one is so precious that they are not fodder, but we shouldn’t be cruel.