More on "The Ringer"

An update to my Friday blog about "The Ringer":

Sunday's New York Times Arts Section had a long article about the making of "The Ringer" which goes into quite a bit of detail about the Farrelly Bros and their use of disability in their filmmaking career. I am almost persuaded:

But Peter Farrelly argues that America needs to understand the inherent humanity of people with intellectual disabilities, and that includes seeing them make jokes, engage in hijinks and dance close to "Full Monty"-style in the shower. "My whole point in making this movie is to make people with mental disabilities accessible, make people know who they are and feel comfortable with them," he said during a recent interview in the brothers' office here.

"If you don't know someone who's mentally challenged, and you meet them, you're afraid of them because you don't know what to expect," he said. "It's not bad. It's just normal. But if you do know them, you're very comfortable."

Patricia E. Bauer, who wrote the piece, has a child with Down syndrome, it says. At one point she quotes Kathleen LeBesco, who chairs the department of communication arts at Marymount Manhattan College, who "published a paper on the Farrellys' "contradictions of freakery" in Disability Studies Quarterly." So I've hotlinked that because you will find it interesting. Especially interesting to me was this paragraph:

A comparative examination of the box office receipts of all seven Farrelly brothers films reveals that their most offensive films -- those that continue to make jokes at the expense of people with disabilities -- were their most profitable ventures, with Dumb and Dumber earning over $127 million in 1994, and There's Something About Mary raking in nearly $177 million in 1998 ( In contrast, their attempts to make "message" pictures that sometimes tackle difficult terrain and intervene in politically charged issues -- most notably Shallow Hal and Stuck on You -- produced significantly less revenue (with Hal performing at only the $71 million level in 2001, and the complete numbers on Stuck not yet calculated, but estimated to be in a similar place). Read LeBesco's There's Something About Disabled People: The Contradictions of Freakery in the Films of the Farrelly Brothers.

Finally, this paragraph from the New York Times story should give us pause:

A national survey of 6,000 middle school students found that young people consistently underestimate the abilities of peers who have intellectual disabilities. In addition, the survey found that 67 percent of young people surveyed would not spend time with a student with an intellectual disability if given a choice, and almost 50 percent would not sit next to one on a school bus.

Sometimes New York Times stories can't be viewed without registration. The story is also available here, from the Arizona Republic.

December 13, 2005 | Email this story


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