Bird Box’s Mental Illness Problem & Blindness as Metaphor

I just ran across a post that is quite thoughtful about the mental illness stigma rife in Bird Box.

Unfortunately, to make the point, the headline for the essay uses blindness as a metaphor for ignorance!: “Netflix’s ‘Bird Box’ is blind to the issue of stigmatizing mental illness”.

This is precisely the problem with all those #birdbox viral memes. Again and again, the idea is that not being able to see is a metaphor for ignorance, intentional ignorance, and injustice.

Same goes with the allegory to race and white supremacy – let’s not make important points about the oppression of one group with metaphorical gestures equating another group with ignorance. This thoughtfulness about language is very important.

Check out my original post on this topic.

6 Responses

  1. C.W.

    How else might we describe someone whose problem is precisely their failure to notice things in their environment (ex. injustice and so on)? It is a more specific failing than merely being ignorant. Why should we dance around instead of saying what we mean here? A more forceful question: why should we prioritize the sensibility of disabled people over the need to expose specific forms of ignorance and injustice? Is avoiding their being offended worth more than exposing our moral failings in a forceful way?


  2. shelleytremain

    C.W., quite a lot has been written about the use of disability as metaphor. I, for one, have written about the problems with the ways that blindness is used as a metaphor, especially the ways that philosophers use it and other disabling metaphors. That disabled people take offense is not the crux of the problem, but rather the equation of blindness and lack of knowledge, or the erasure of blind people as knowers. In chapter 1 of my book Foucault and Feminist Philosophy of Disability, I critique the use of the term blind review especially, but also phrases such as “blind to the implications”. I think one question that needs to be asked is why you and others regard such metaphors as “forceful” and powerful expressions. I suggest that the answer to this question involves the derision of disabled people and the low status conferred upon them.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Jennifer Justice

    Thanks for pointing this out- I too was troubled by the handling of those labeled “crazy” or “criminally insane” in the film. It’s why I give the film an overall rating of “meh.” Looking forward to reading your book! Looks great!


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