by Melanie Peskoe
Editor’s Introduction: Any member of the National Federation of the Blind has had the opportunity to learn skills of advocacy. This movement of over 50,000 has been the voice of the collective blind for over sixty years now. In this article, Melanie Pesco, a relatively new federationist, who is helping to reorganize the Kentucky Association of Blind Students, shares an opportunity that she seized to educate students on her college campus. Melanie encourages us all to reflect on how much we have accomplished, and think about what our role must be in shaping our future. Here is what Melanie has to say about her first experience with educating students on her campus.
Some of you might have heard about the movie titled “Daredevil”. If you haven’t, a review is included here. I went to see this movie in early February and enjoyed it. The movie, for the most part, portrayed blindness positively. I was feeling pretty good about the notions that this movie may leave people with regarding blindness, when I read the following review of the movie in The Louisville Cardinal (the school newspaper for the University of Louisville). I was angry and confused about how these stereotypes about blindness still exist. I mean, it is the year 2003 right? I felt compelled to write a letter to the editor of The Louisville Cardinal to dispel these misconceptions and set the record straight. My letter was published in the paper the following week. Before you read the review and my letter, I want to share a few thoughts.
I am relatively new to the NFB, having joined the Kentucky affiliate in August of 2002. Before I found the NFB, I was going through life trying to “pass” as a sighted person, not accepting my blindness in the least. I have always been legally blind due to congenital cataracts and glaucoma, but until a couple of years ago I functioned quite well with minimal assistance (or so I thought). When I started experiencing some changes in my vision, I soon realized that the techniques I had been using all these years (in work, school, and at home) were not working very well anymore. I got in touch with my local NFB affiliate and the rest is history. What’s more, I now realize that the techniques I once used never really worked at all. Since finding the NFB I’ve discovered many new and much more efficient ways to live. I am now learning how to accept my blindness and not be ashamed or embarrassed to use the tools that enable me to live more independently.
Maybe it is because of my infancy with the organized blind movement or that I just recently attended my first student seminar and the famous Washington Seminar, but I have this passion and drive when it comes to spreading the message of the NFB. I get so excited and proud about what the NFB is and what it has done for me. I want to tell the world that blindness is not a disease or a handicap, nor is it something to be pitied or looked down upon. Blindness is just blindness. It’s not good and it’s not bad, it just is. That is why when I read the “Daredevil” review in my school’s newspaper; I felt the need to do a little educating on the matter. This is also just one reason I am currently working with other students in Kentucky to reorganize the Kentucky chapter of NABS. The changing of stereotypes and ideas has to start somewhere and I believe that students have an excellent opportunity to lead that change.
It is up to us folks. We as blind individuals have to be the ones to change ideas like the ones you’re going to read about in this movie review. While national campaigns are great, and certainly serve a purpose of their own, much of what we need to do to educate people about blindness starts with people like you and me. I strongly encourage you to speak out, step up, and do something! The only way we can really begin to impact change is to take action and not sit around idly while these stereotypes are obviously still circulating in our communities. When you see examples of ignorance about blindness, whether it’s in a newspaper article or a service worker being overly custodial, or any other action or word that leaves you thinking, “Now wait a minute, that’s not right”, use that opportunity to educate. By influencing the ideas of one person at a time you might just impact many more people through that one person. Here is the movie review of “Daredevil” that appeared in the February 18 issue of The Louisville Cardinal and following the review is my letter to the editor. I hope this review leaves you feeling as I did, and I hope you feel the desire to “step up” the next time the opportunity comes around.
Movie Review: Daredevil (1/2) Dueling Daredevils: Daredevil vs. Elektra
by Sarah Weller
This Valentine's Day was a time for some of us girls to spend with our men. Luckily for me, I also got to spend it with "The Man Without Fear": Daredevil, that is. Though Ben Affleck has played a range of both likable and unlikable characters, with his title role in Daredevil he convinces even his biggest critics that he was meant for this character. This movie is dark, funny, action-filled, and emotional, all in a little over two hours.
The movie begins well into the story, with Matt Murdock lying wounded in a church, wearing the maroon attire of a superhero, telling us that your entire life flashes before your eyes when you die. We then flash back to his childhood, when his father is involved with a crime lord, much to the surprise of little Matt, who is sprayed by hazardous chemicals, causing him to go blind. Later, his father is killed, and Matt Murdock swears to get justice for everyone, and he grows up to become Matt Murdock, blind lawyer, by day, and Daredevil, the fearless masked man who patrols the streets of Hell's Kitchen by night.
Enter Elektra Natchios (Jennifer Garner) who meets Murdock in a diner while
having coffee with his business partner. Elektra is the daughter of the extremely
wealthy Nicholas Natchios, one of the many followers of the Kingpin (Michael
Clarke Duncan). Though she is hesitant at first, the two fall in love and seem
to be living happily ever after; that is, until Elektra's father is murdered
by hired assassin Bullseye, whom she wrongly identifies as Daredevil. This can
only mean trouble for the two lovebirds.
This movie is gloomier and more character-centric than Spider-Man. The characters in Daredevil experience more loss and trauma, and Daredevil seems more human, especially after one fight where he goes home to shower and chew on some much-needed Vicodin. The fact that this man is blind and is able to function at all is outstanding, but to be a superhero at the same time is something that no other comic book character can match. It will be up to the people who've read this comic to judge the accuracy of this movie, but it is a movie worth going to see whether you are a fan of the comics or not.
I really enjoyed the opening photography, which included flashes of upcoming frames of the movie. The action scenes in this movie are great, and the actors, especially Colin Farrell, are a joy to watch. As Bullseye, the man with deadly aim, Farrell not only scares people but also annoys everyone and makes us laugh at his character's sheer madness. He's the sort of character that you are supposed to hate; however, he's so unique and entertaining that you can't help but like the bastard.
The ending screams for a sequel, as if we didn't already know that was going to happen anyway. But just when you think the action is over and you are ready to leave, don't. There's a surprise waiting for you right after the credits begin to roll.
Cardinal Grade: A
Movie Review: Daredevil (2/2)
Dueling Daredevils: Daredevil vs. Elektra
by Chris Johnson
Have you ever wondered what it would be like to be blind? Would you feel helpless or would you try to adapt to an unknown world where you don't know what surrounds you? Well, young Matt Murdock (Ben Affleck) was blinded in a chemical accident. He began training and became a formidable fighter at a young age. His father was a boxer who had become somewhat famous as Jack "The Devil" Murdock. However, it turns out that Jack's boxing career was in the hands of criminals, and Jack is murdered. Matt swears that justice will be served!
Flash forward many years later, and Matt has become an attorney, with his good friend Franklin "Foggy" Nelson as his assistant. By day, he serves justice in the courtroom, but by night, Matt becomes the Daredevil, commonly known as the "Man Without Fear". It is Matt's home to right the wrongs in the neighborhood known as Hell's Kitchen. Enter Elektra Natchios (Jennifer Garner) who is the daughter of a Greek billionaire who has ties to the criminal mastermind known as the Kingpin (Michael Clarke Duncan). Since the Kingpin doesn't like any loose ends, he hires an assassin known as Bullseye (Colin Farrell) to eliminate any threats to his empire. It is up to the Daredevil to prove that in the end, justice will prevail.
Daredevil is based on the Marvel comic book of the same name, which came out in 1964 and was an instant hit. Daredevil has been around almost 40 years, and though he is not as well known as Spider-Man or the Hulk, Daredevil has developed a huge fan base nonetheless. Recently, under Marvel Knights line of comics, Daredevil was reborn in a new comic that brought an edgier feel to the stories, much like the movie.
The performances in this movie were outstanding. Affleck really captured the
look and feel of Matt/Daredevil. He was sincere and showed that he cared while
being able to back it up when he was out on patrol as Daredevil. Garner was
absolutely stunning and showed that she had the look and feel of Elektra, combined
with her Alias skills. Duncan was amazing as the Kingpin, and even
though his comic counterpart was white, he proved to be just as good, if not
better, than the comic character. Finally, Farrell was an over-the-top villain
as Bullseye, but proved to be quite a threat in the long run.
Daredevil is another incredible adaptation of a comic book by Marvel, and it looks like there is no end in sight for these characters. This movie will make millions and spawn a franchise (there is already talk of Daredevil 2) without a doubt. Go see Daredevil and see the world through someone else's eyes. You will learn why he is the "Man Without Fear."
While the reviews of the movie "Daredevil" in the February 18th edition of The Cardinal were entertaining, they contained some very disturbing misconceptions about blindness. Miss Weller states, "The fact that this man is blind and is able to function at all is outstanding, but to be a super hero at the same time is something that no other comic book character can match." Furthermore, Mr. Johnson asks, "Have you ever thought about what it would be like to be blind? Would you feel helpless, or would you try to adapt to an unknown world you don't know what surrounds you?" Both of these writers must not have yet "seen the light", because there could not be more over generalized and ultimately false statements about blind people at large.
I would like to first point out that among the millions of blind people in our world there are only a small few who cannot "function" for themselves. In fact, most blind citizens are highly productive, intelligent contributors to society. There are blind people in almost every occupation available to the sighted population. There are blind teachers, lawyers, businesswomen and men, and writers. There are even several blind medical doctors. Last year a blind man climbed Mount Everest. So, you see that we are not helpless or substandard and I will contend that we are as capable as anyone else (sometimes even more so).
As for the blind living in an "unknown world", I wonder if you might consider that we have four other senses with which we perceive the world around us. Granted, I have yet to meet a blind person with such supersonic senses as that of "Daredevil" (no, we don't have extrasensory hearing folks), but we don't need to "adapt" we simply live like anyone else. Through the invention of spectacular technologies the blind are now, more than ever, able to "see" our world with 20/20 vision. With our canes or guide dogs we travel independently and with our large print or Braille we can read and write just the same as anyone else. We use cell phones, computers, microwaves, DVD players - you name it. The blind live as normally as the sighted with very little difference.
The National Federation of the Blind (NFB) is an organization of the blind, which supports self-advocacy and is a vehicle of collective self-expression. With a membership of over fifty thousand blind individuals throughout the United States, the NFB is the largest and most influential membership organization of blind people in existence. In the NFB we say, “The real problem of blindness is not the loss of eyesight, but the misunderstanding and lack of information which exist.” I am currently in the process of leading an initiative to bring a student chapter of this group on campus so that we might bring education and understanding to the University of Louisville, where we hold diversity as an ideal. I encourage these two writers (and everyone else) to visit the Web site of the National Federation of the Blind (www.nfb.org) and get up to speed on where we are, because I assure you we're not in the "dark" anymore.
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