My sense, based on no scientific evidence whatsoever, is that if you can find a romance story about a specific group of people (with the exception of aromantics, because that just wouldn’t make any sense), then attention is being paid to that group’s issues and interests. And the number and quality of romances available probably correlates with the degree to which those issues are recognized by mainstream culture. I guess that would indicate that I am using romance books and movies as an indication of visibility.
That is one of the two main reasons I like the 2012 movie Morgan. The film depicts a romance between a person with paraplegia, the title character Morgan, and a guy he meets on a basketball court, Dean. It demonstrates and focuses on the romantic and sexual desires of a person with a disability, which are often ignored or erased in media portrayals of people who use wheelchairs.
As a “legger” (a term Morgan uses in the movie to describe people who can walk) trying to review a film about a person with paraplegia, I do not have the experience to judge the authenticity of the depiction. I was thinking about that after watching the film and made an effort to find out a little more about the director. Michael D. Akers, producer, director, writer, and editor of the film, and his partner Sandon Berg began considering the idea of a character with paraplegia after an actor who used a wheelchair submitted a headshot for their film, Phoenix. While the actor was not cast in the film, his story intrigued Akers and Berg and he talked with them about the experience of being gay and having paraplegia. Berg went on to interview a number of gay men who use wheelchairs. Those interviews were used as the basis for the film. Akers talked about this and more in an interview with San Diego Gay & Lesbian News’ editor in chief Ken Williams. One of the most important things (to me) that Akers said was, “It had never occurred to me that there were young paraplegic people in our community. They were practically invisible to me in my experience of going to clubs or bars when I was dating.” I think that is true of most people in most communities who do not have direct experiences with people with paraplegia.
And as a person without disabilities, being exposed to the issues and the existence of people with disabilities is important.
The second main reason I liked the film is because it is extremely sweet (to the extent of being cheesy) and because some of the moments between Morgan and Dean are stunning. Along with the romantic and sexual desires of a person with a disability, the film also addresses the struggles a person may experience after an accident which has changed their physical abilities, the experience of losing a loved one to cancer and the emotional toll of providing end-of-life care. However, like all good romances, underneath all the issues and challenges that propel the plot, the main story line is the typical person meets person, they fall in love, circumstances test their love, they overcome the circumstances, and they live happily ever after. The reason I’ve watched the film several times is the moments that demonstrate that at the end of the day all people have their own challenges to face, but love looks the same regardless of the specifics of those challenges.
Content aside, as a writer and a viewer of a large number of movies, the quality of the film left something to be desired. The dialogue sometimes seemed overly scripted, forced or simply unnecessary. In a few scenes, people seemed to talk past each other because they each had things they needed to express that weren’t exact responses to what the other person said. The film is supposedly set immediately before Memorial Day, but it was clearly shot during the winter.
Overall, Morgan was an enjoyable film (I have watched it at least three times) and seems to do a fairly good job making some of the issue of people who use wheelchairs visible.
Queerview Mirror is a semi-regular feature where Queereka contributors review a variety of media. Look for Queerview Mirror posts on Friday afternoons.