Fighting with the Sky

Denise Handicapped

Posted on: October 29, 2009

This guest post comes from Danine Spencer.  Danine is a freelance writer based in northern Wisconsin.  Her work has appeared in Bitch magazine and the Women’s Rights blog at Change.org.  You can also find her on her blog and on Twitter as @daninespencer.

Last week on Curb Your Enthusiasm, Larry meets a woman named Denise in a coffee shop.  They flirt and Larry asks her out.  Larry is excited about it… until he sees Denise is in a wheelchair.

Larry is clearly repulsed by the idea of going out with Denise but as he tells his friend Jeff, “I was stuck.  I didn’t want her to think I was a bad guy.”  Jeff tries to reassure Larry that it’ll be okay to date a woman in a wheelchair by saying, “It’s an adventure, it’s an adventure.”  Yeah, Larry, dating a woman who can’t walk is like a trip to see the freaky disabled woman in the sideshow at the circus.  Who knows, she may even get frisky with ya.  That’ll be adventurous, for sure.

So they go on their date.  As Larry pushes Denise up to the restaurant’s entrance he says, “If we’re going to have a second date, you’re going to have to get an electric chair.  I’m not doing this again.”  Cue symphony of tiny violins.

When they get to the entrance, they encounter about a dozen steps and no ramp.  Denise suggests going somewhere else.  Larry pitches a fit because he’s hungry and says it’ll take too long to go somewhere else.  Denise signs and agrees to let him carry her up the stairs.

Okay, so I get that Larry carrying Denise up the stairs had great comedic value, especially when they got to the top and realized the chair was still at the bottom.  There was not place for Denise to sit now.

But come on! That was so not the way it should have been handled.  If the restaurant really didn’t have a ramp they should have been able to get in through a back entrance.  As a last resort, the restaurant staff should have had to come out and help Denise get into the restaurant.  I’m not sure if that would have been lifting her in her chair or what, but the restaurant had some responsibility to help Denise get into their restaurant with some dignity and respect.

After dinner, Larry drops Denise off at her house.  She invites him to come in but he says he should probably get going.  “Right,” Denise says.  “Because I’m handicapped?”  Larry denies it, of course.  “What? Nooo….”

They go inside and try to get busy.  Larry couldn’t figure out how to be intimate with a woman who uses a wheelchair so they showed him trying to put the moves on Denise in all sorts of contorted positions.  This is all set to jazzy music of course.

Why didn’t Denise tell him what to do?  Also, why didn’t she get out of the wheelchair and sit on the couch?  While I’m on the subject of getting out of the chair, why didn’t they show her transferring in and out of the car?  Why didn’t she push her own wheel chair when she was out with Larry?  When the writers had Larry push it, it made Denise look incapable.  For someone who lived by herself, they really didn’t show her being capable of very much.

But I digress.  Larry and Denise ended up in the bedroom, where Denise laid listlessly as Larry tried unsuccessfully to give her an orgasm.  The next day, Larry decides to break up with Denise – because she didn’t have an orgasm.  So, so classy.

I didn’t find this episode overly offensive in the “Oh my gawd, I can’t believe Larry said or did that” kind of way.  Yes, Larry was a jerk.  Yes, his friends behaved despicably.  However, almost none of it was intended to be mean.  Larry behaved the way he did partly because he’s self-centered (unbelievable so) and partly because he’s ignorant.  For the most part, his friends’ behavior was simply ignorant.

Disabilities scare people and they don’t know how to behave so they act stupidly.  As a culture, we still have the archaic beliefs ingrained in us that anyone with a disability is deaf and dumb and should be institutionalized.  People are inherently good.  They want to do the right thing and treat others well, including those with disabilities.

What I actually found offensive about this episode was that the writers of Curb Your Enthusiasm took the time to point out how Larry’s behavior was inappropriate towards Denise but they almost never showed Denise doing anything for herself: pushing her own chair, driving, being an active participant in sex, etc.  Having a disability doesn’t mean you’re not capable and Curb Your Enthusiasm could have done a much better job of showing this.

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3 Responses to "Denise Handicapped"

[…] head on over to Adventures of a Young Feminist and keep reading: Like this post? Share […]

[…] again, I am fascinated by the President and First Lady’s body language. In a guest post for Adventures of a Young Feminist last week, I criticized the writers of Curb Your Enthusiasm for how unrealistic and inaccurate they […]

As Larry pushes Denise up to the restaurant’s entrance he says, “If we’re going to have a second date, you’re going to have to get an electric chair. I’m not doing this again.”

I… but… Oh YES, let me spend thousands of dollars on something to make YOUR life easier, based on the slim possibility that you’ll “pity” me enough to take me on a second date! Because, after all, it’s all about the ableds.

*headdeskheaddeskheaddesk*

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