Baby it’s Hard to Love

Christmas is a time for having fun, sharing good times with family and peace and goodwill to all. On Boxing Day we finally found time as a family to sit down and watch a Christmas film. Our usual staple is the wonderful “Arthur Christmas.” It’s slightly sarcastic, utterly charming, contains a stellar cast including Bill Nighy and Hugh Laurie and is of course, quintessentially British. However, my girls had become aware of a film the was allegedly designed to rival ‘Love Actually’ and starred Jimmy O. Yang as Josh and Nina Dobrev, of Vampire Diaries fame, as Natalie, who is clearly hiding a painting in her attic. (If you don’t get that, check out the wonderful ‘The Picture of Dorian Gray’ by the gorgeous Oscar Wilde. It should be prescribed reading.)

But I digress. The film is named after ‘Love Actually’ and ‘Die Hard’, the two main protagonists favourite Christmas movies. The plot of the story, insomuch as a plot exists, is not really relevant for the purposes of this blog. However it is fair to say that everything is extremely run-of-the-mill and predictable as you would expect a cash-cow paint by numbers Christmas movie to be. In fact, most people in our living room were shouting at the television; “we hate this movie! Whose idea was it to watch this?” And “Oh my goodness these characters are so unlikable!” Yet their mother believes in seeing things through to the bitter end, so we were resolutely going to hang on in there and watched the thing right to the very end.

It wasn’t all bad, there was a reasonably amusing scene where the two main characters change the lyrics to ‘Baby it’s Cold Outside’. This isn’t really such a terrible thing, although it does represent a complete inability to recognise that the song was written in a completely different time. In addition,  had they been better educated they would realise that the lyrics don’t mean what they initially think they actually mean. Although I will admit to modern audiences it does sound terribly stalkerish and every girls worst nightmare. Yet just when we thought it couldn’t get any worse, they are taken to an old folks home to teach them about online dating. We are presented with a room full of elderly people. There is the usual person in a wheelchair, and various people covered in rugs looking kind of, well, frail.

Things go horribly wrong here. Walt (Mel Tuck), an elderly man at the back of the room says “I have dementia and Parkinson’s.” The characters Josh and Natalie tell him he can be creative with how he writes a bio for dating. I looked at my eldest daughter. She said “Oh no…” I replied “here we go…” Walt onscreen grins and laughingly says “with my Parkinson’s I can say I’m always on the move!” and the room erupts in laughter.

My daughter and I wryly smiled and high-fived each other.

Everyone in the room looked at me.

You know what? I have a sense of humour. I have done heaps of stand up comedy, lots of it about Parkinson’s. It’s usually quite acerbic. I can laugh at myself. But I felt like I was kind of in a weird little bubble. This stupid, get-rich-quick blink and-you’ll-miss-it silly film had made me feel … uncomfortable. And I’m angry. I’m angry because it is trying to be all right-on and politically correct. Natalie asks a taxi driver to change the station of his radio because she so offended at hearing ‘Baby it’s Cold Outside’ over the airwaves. Yet it’s OK to crack a cheap joke about a disease that causes quite frankly, so much misery. I suppose there is a counter-argument that it raises awareness that Parkinson’s exists. I disagree. The man in the wheelchair wasn’t mocked for … I don’t know … sitting around chilling all day doing nothing. No other disease or ailment was mentioned by name. Yes. I’m lumping dementia in with the Parkinson’s. While I’m on the subject, thanks for reminding me that Parkinson’s Dementia is a ‘thing.’ But what it does do to a whole range of people that know nothing about Parkinson’s and the utter misery it brings millions of people, many them much younger than you would imagine, is perpetuate the lie that it’s a disease for the old. Not only that but old, barely senile men. It’s not that bad, see? It’s really funny. Shaken not stirred, anyone? Ha frickin ha.

image shows Kitty Fitton and Mike Doyle stood together in front of a bright shiny laden Christmas tree.

In that moment I wanted to catch a plane to wherever the writers of that dismal film are and give them an absolute kicking. When did we start mocking the sick? I thought we’d got rid of jokes about ‘Spastics’ and ‘dumb people’ or whatever other awful terms are out there. It’s not OK to joke about something that is absolutely heinous. The comedian in me is saying it is OK, but there’s a time and a place. A film that is screaming about how ‘rapey lyrics’ to a much-loved Christmas song means it should never see the light of day has no right to take the piss out of me or others like me. Because that’s what it felt like. Like my disease is nothing more than a joke. A bit of fun for everyone to laugh over.

Well it isn’t. I am offended. I had thought I might strike this terrible film, but that sure sealed its fate. I was disappointed and disquieted. In ‘Arthur Christmas’ Steve Claus says “Who cares about a single child?” Well, as the man himself Charles Dickens wrote, “No one is useless in this world who lightens the burdens of another.” Love Hard was never going to be anything groundbreaking, but it won’t be gracing my screen again. It increases my burden and for that, I exile it forever.

Incidentally there’s a few good essays on why ‘Baby it’s Cold Outside’ is perfectly acceptable. If you can cope with the context of yesteryear.

Until next time.


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