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%3Ca%20href="/ouch">Home > %3Ca%20href="/ouch/features">Features > Disability is Everywhere: from Phil Collins to not-so-easy lovers

Disability is Everywhere: from Phil Collins to not-so-easy lovers

%3Ca%20href="/ouch/writers/simon-minty.shtml">by Simon Minty

15th December 2010

In this series, Simon looks at how disability related matters are just below the surface of everything. In his latest despatch, he considers the place and portrayal of disability in the world of lovers and the hopeless romantics.
Copies of Lady Chatterley's Lover for sale in 1960
I rather like the term 'guilty pleasures' when discussing pop music. It refers to songs which are a bit cheesy, like a sappy but melodic ballad or maybe a song from a different era which is no longer hip nor current, yet you still secretly like it.

One of my guilty pleasures is the Phil Collins 1989 album, 'But Seriously'. In 1990, a couple of months after buying it - ahem, on cassette - I was speaking with a friend about its merits. We naively agreed that we couldn't envisage a time when we would stop listening to it, such was its apparent greatness.

As the year progressed, I did stop listening to it and over the last decade or two, Phil Collins slipped in to my guilty pleasures playlist.

Recently he appears to be having a credible resurgence, and not all down to that Cadbury's drumming %3Ca%20href="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TnzFRV1LwIo">gorilla advert featuring the seminal track 'In The Air Tonight'. It is his recent album of Motown covers that has been well received.
Phil Collins on Top of the Pops in 1990
When interviewed by the Sunday Times in mid-November, %3Ca%20href="http://www.philcollins.co.uk/biography">Phil spoke of having hearing loss in one ear and also revealed that he now has great difficulty drumming since severely damaging nerves in his hand. As a solution, he now tapes the drumsticks to his fingers. Something for the gorilla to consider?

A seemingly random instance of disability popping up was via the actress Helen Mirren, recently discussing her experiences with a friend who has Parkinson's.

%3Ca%20href="http://www.guardian.co.uk/society/2010/dec/01/helen-mirren-parkinsons-disease-change-attitudes?CMP=EMCGT_021210&">The Guardian reported that Helen "called for a revolution in attitudes towards the disease so that sufferers are no longer mistaken for drunks nor end up in social isolation because they are seen as "weird'".

A good sentiment and we know a 'sleb' highlighting an issue often gets people talking about it. As I am doing here. See, it works!

Helen Mirren is supported by %3Ca%20href="http://www.parkinsons.org.uk/advice/living_with_parkinsons/exercise_and_parkinsons/benefits_of_exercise/parkinsons_and_the_wii.aspx">Parkinson's UK, who in turn are funding a study as to whether using the Nintendo Wii helps to improve balance and co-ordination in people with the condition.
Dame Helen Mirren
Where I felt a little confused, or even duped, was at the very end of the article, almost as a footnote, where it was explained that Helen "helps promote Wii Fit games". But I'm sure she'd say her links with Parkinson's and Nintendo are a positive collision of interests.

Germaine Greer %3Ca%20href="http://www.guardian.co.uk/books/2010/nov/14/germaine-greer-d-h-lawrence?CMP=EMCGT_151110&">recently celebrated the 50th anniversary of the landmark legal judgment which allowed for the first full publication of %3Ca%20href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lady_Chatterley%27s_Lover">Lady Chatterley's Lover in the UK.

The sexually explicit novel, written by DH Lawrence, was first published in Italy in 1928. It wasn't until %3Ca%20href="http://news.bbc.co.uk/onthisday/hi/dates/stories/november/10/newsid_2965000/2965194.stm">1960 that it was released by Penguin in Britain, the author's own country, some 30 years after Lawrence's death.
Germaine Greer
The trial focused on whether the book's ban for obscenity should be lifted; it was engineered by Penguin to test the newly created Obscene Publications Act of 1959.

The jurors each read the book and Penguin won the case when they agreed it met the Act's criteria that the "literary merit neutralises any tendency to deprave, corrupt, shock or disgust".

Germaine agrees with the lifting of the ban but she describes the book as "nasty" in its depiction of women, their feelings and attitudes. Naturally the article criticises the view of the titular gamekeeper, AKA Oliver Mellor, who says: "...most [women] ... want a man, but don't want the sex."

Germaine raises valid points around gender but curiously she doesn't mention disability.

Considering Lady Chatterley’s husband, Clifford Chatterley, was paralysed from the waist down and impotent, it seems reasonable to suggest that this is shown as one motive for her finding a lover in Mellor. Although Clifford Chatterley is a cold husband, said to be obsessed with fame and money: if Mellor was right about women wanting a man but not sex, wouldn’t Lady Chatterley be more happy with her sexless marriage to him? Unless the ‘nasty’ disability stereotype implied Clifford Chatterley was both sexless and not a complete man.

It is a shame the %3Ca%20href="http://www.bfi.org.uk/education/teaching/disability/thinking/stereotypes.html">stereotype wasn't explored, as it could add more weight to her argument against frighteningly dated attitudes.
Princess Diana on her wedding day walking up the aisle with her father Earl Spencer
                                                    Who's supporting who?
                 Lady Diana and her father are a picture of focus and determination.
This month's article is littered with guilty pleasures and lust, so, it being the season of goodwill to all, perhaps I should clean things up and remember the purer notion of love. This is where the recently announced engagement of Prince William and Kate Middleton comes in.

It was inevitable that reference would be made to the royal wedding between Prince Charles and Lady Diana Spencer, especially as their son William has given Diana's iconic engagement ring to Kate.

Much archive footage from %3Ca%20href="http://news.bbc.co.uk/onthisday/hi/dates/stories/july/29/newsid_2494000/2494949.stm">July 1981 was shown on the TV on the day of the announcement. It transported me back to a time of national celebration, a public holiday and numerous street parties. I was particularly interested when we saw again the pictures of Diana's father, the %3Ca%20href="http://www.althorp.com/estate_family_history.php">8th Earl Spencer, being helped up the steps outside of St Paul's Cathedral before he escorted his daughter down the very long aisle.

Earl Spencer had had a stroke in the late 1970s and was clearly still recovering at the time. Whilst most people were naturally focusing on his daughter's designer dress, it is touching to see that, even before letting go of his aide's hand, he has already inter-locked his arm with Diana's. I suspect that, for the three and a half minutes they spent walking up the aisle, it was more likely that %3Ca%20href="%3Ca%20href="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Af9gyXaKo-0">Diana was escorting him, not the other way round.

Merry Christmas all.
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