The Oscars were filled with many, many lows last Sunday. For me one that I simply could not avoid writing about was the award given to Jerry Lewis for his work infantilizing the disabled. This apparently merited the Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award. It is further ironic that on a show where Milk was give two awards, that a raving homophobe would receive any acclaim
When I complained about the standing ovation that he received via twitter I was amazed to learn that many did not have knowledge of his statements. I have decided to take the time to help raise awareness as to why celebrating this man is at the very least problematic.
While speaking with a journalist from Channel Ten News, in October of 2008 Lewis was asked “What do you think of cricket?” His response was, “Oh cricket is a fag’s game!” Lewis then proceeded to flounce about, using camp, effeminate gestures, pretending to hold a bat with a limp wrist, squealing in a high pitched voice “Ah! The ball is coming towards me!” H/T QueersUnited.
Jerry Lewis Criticized For Homophobic Remark During Telethon
(New York City) Jerry Lewis dropped an anti-gay slur - the same one that got Isaiah Washington of "Grey's Anatomy" in trouble - during the 18th hour of his annual Labor Day telethon.
He apologized Tuesday for a "bad choice of words."
The 81-year-old showman - prowling about the stage during the live telecast Monday in Las Vegas - was goofing around and dodging his cameraman, then went into a ramble about imaginary family members.
"Oh, your family has come to see you," he said, speaking to the camera and gesturing toward thin air.
"You remember Bart, your older son," he said, and motioning toward another unseen character, "Jesse, the illiterate f-----.
When we combine this with his negative treatment of the differently abled who he claims to be helping, this is a man that should not be celebrated.
Jerry Lewis and the Telethon actively promote pity as a fundraising strategy. Disabled people want RESPECT and RIGHTS, not pity and charity.
In 1990, Lewis wrote that if he had muscular dystrophy and had to use a wheelchair, he would "just have to learn to try to be good at being a half a person." During the 1992 Telethon, he said that people with MD, whom he always insists on calling "my kids," "cannot go into the workplace. There's nothing they can do." Comments like these have led disability activists and our allies to protest against Jerry Lewis, and against the Telethon. We've argued that the Telethon promotes pity, a counterproductive emotion which undermines our social equality. Here's how Lewis responded to the Telethon protesters during a 2001 television interview: "Pity? You don't want to be pitied because you're a cripple in a wheelchair? Stay in your house!" H/T Wheelie Catholic
Only in a world in which we are determined that we should have a hierarchy of beings could a man like Jerry Lewis be rewarded for anything. This is not an ends justifies the means case. If you are going to be an ally of the disabled, it should behove you to speak about them with respect and consult them on what their actual needs are.
When I saw him stand on stage, smug in his appreciation from his peers, I found myself feeling ill. By publicly praising him, we are not celebrating the work of true activism, rather we cementing the idea that not all people deserve equal respect. He has spent a lifetime reifying difference and making sure that the disabled and gays and lesbians are thought of as lesser than.