When “ER” debuted in 1994, I enjoyed watching the show, not every week but often. Shortly after the appearance of Dr. Kerry Weaver, I stopped watching, and I haven’t seen a single episode since. The fact that Laura Innes is not disabled was one factor in my decision. More importantly, by that time I’d begun to tire of the media image of the embittered cripple.
- the angry invalid who blamed everyone, especially God, for being cursed by their condition;
- the fighter who must overcome a disability to become “normal” again; and
- the hero who performed amazing feats, despite severe physical limitations.
Along the way, any negative expression from a disabled character was considered a sign of bitterness. As a result, certain rules of behavior were imposed on the disabled character. Thus, most plots were about bringing the disabled character to the point of mirroring the following acceptable personality traits:
- They must not complain about anything.
- They must be express happiness, no matter what.
- They must strive for a cure from their terrible condition.
- If they cannot be cured, they are often expected to die.
These policies meant that just about every story featuring a disabled person was about their having to learn the lesson not to be bitter but to accept their lot in life with “grace.” And it took the patience of Job on the part of those able-bodied characters around them to teach them that lesson.
Moreover, I've recently read that the physical demands of walking with a phony limp have caused Laurie to develop serious hip problems. Hmm. Could this be some sort of "cosmic justice"? The better side of my nature hopes not, but I find it awfully difficult to feel too sorry for the man. All it would have taken to avoid that problem would have been a bit of research into the problems people with certain disabilities have walking with deformed legs, hips and backs. If he'd been smart, he'd have turned down that role.