Many blind people charge the movie is deplorable to the blind of the nation and encourages the public to accept negative stereotypes about them.
The National Federation of the Blind (NFB) says the portrayal of the blind in the film is "simply inaccurate." The NFB points out blind people are a cross-section of society who happen to share the physical characteristic of being unable to see. The blind are employed in almost every profession imaginable, have homes and families, raise children, do volunteer work in their communities, and generally lead normal, productive lives. To the extent this is not the case, the problem is not blindness itself, but rather the misconceptions and stereotypes that society holds about blindness and blind people.
The NFB which is organizing protests across the country at showings of the film states on it web page:
"The premise in the film Blindness is that everybody but one person becomes blind. The description of society as an increasing number of its members become blind is one of filth, greed, perversion, and vice. The film depicts blind people as incapable of doing everything, including basic tasks like bathing, dressing, and traveling. Blindness becomes a metaphor for all that is bad in human thought and action. Blind people in the movie have every negative human trait and few of the positive ones. The only encouraging element in the release of this film is the almost universal reaction of the critics that the film is a failure."
Marc Maurer, President of the 50,000-member National Federation of the Blind, said of the film in his July 2008 banquet address, "The Urgency of Optimism":
“The capabilities of those who become blind remain essentially the same after they lose vision as they were before they lost it. Although the loss of any major asset (including vision) will bring a measure of sadness to some and despair to a few, it will also stimulate others to assert their will. Blindness can be a devastating loss, but it also has the power to galvanize some to action. The reaction to blindness is not the least bit one-dimensional. Therefore the description is false. . . . The charge that loss of vision creates a personality alteration to a sordid and criminal character is in itself sordid and defamatory to an entire class of human beings.”'
This film will do incalculable harm to the public image of blind people. Society labors under multiple misconceptions about blindness and blind people, and this film promises only to affirm and strengthen these false impressions. The film Blindness will diminish opportunities for blind people to find employment, a distressing reality considering that over 70 percent of blind people are already under-employed or unemployed. The film will also further lower the general public's expectations about the ability of blind people to be fully contributing members of society. Both of these consequences will be devastating to the hopes and aspirations of blind people."
President Maurer concluded his reflections on the film when he said, "The description in Blindness is wrong–completely, unutterably, irretrievably, immeasurably wrong. That such falsity should be regarded as good art is revolting and amazing."'
The NFB began planning the protests after seven staffers, including Christopher Danielsen, a spokesman for the organization, attended a screening of the movie in Baltimore last week. The group included three sighted employees.
"Everybody was offended," Danielsen told the AP.
Protests are planned in at least 21 states. This will be the largest protest in the 68-year history of the NFB, which has 50,000 members and works to improve blind people's lives through advocacy, education and other ways.
Miramax, the studio responsible for the movie, released a statement that read, in part, "We are saddened to learn that the National Federation of the Blind plans to protest the film `Blindness.'"
If you look around the web you'll find many bloggers attacking the NFB's position. They say the NFB is taking "political correctness" to another extreme. How many times have we heard this rap?
The blog Justice for All has a good answer to this charge.
"Everyone is entitled to his or her own opinion, but not his or her own facts. If an artist were to create a painting called “Elephant,” but the picture in fact represented a giraffe, a camel, or a creature from the artist’s own imagination, then any art critic–or any layman–would point out that the picture does not, in fact, represent an elephant. The person pointing out the inconsistency would not be accused of “political correctness” or a “difference of opinion” with the artist, but would be recognized as having good common sense. The portrait of blind people in this movie is simply wrong; artistic license does not permit a writer or a filmmaker to make false assertions about an entire group of people. The stereotyping of blind people is just as inappropriate as the stereotyping of African-Americans, women, Hispanics, or any other group of individuals who share common characteristics."
The following is from Wired News.
Dystopian Thriller Blindness Sparks Protests
A group of blind activists are outraged by a dystopian film depicting an unexplained epidemic that renders humankind sightless.
The protesters claim the film Blindness -- which features blind people attacking each other and trading sex for food -- is offensive and reinforces negative stereotypes about the blind.
"The movie portrays blind people as monsters, and I believe it to be a lie," Maurer, president of the Baltimore-based National Federation of the Blind told the Associated Press. "Blindness doesn't turn decent people into monsters."
Maurer plans to lead his organization and allies in demonstrations during the film's opening night on Friday. Boycotters will hand out fliers and carry signs.
Blindness is based on a Pulitzer Prize-winning novel of the same name about the collapse of society.
Director Fernando Meirelles (City of God) spoke out during Cannes when the film premiered, saying the film is a metaphor for blindness to the human condition -- such as the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina and global crises.
A few months earlier, Ben Stiller's R-rated Hollywood parody Tropic Thunder sparked a similar reaction among advocates for the disabled over the repeated use of the word "retard" in the film -- a response that may have been a bit more expected, considering the joke was more explicit in its nature.