Mystify: Michael Hutchence and Disability

Two of Melinda’s first posts on BIOPOLITICAL PHILOSOPHY are film reviews, a review of both the depiction of (so-called) mental illness and use of blindness as metaphor in Bird Box and a review of representations of disability in Bird Box, Hush, and A Quiet Place. These reviews build upon Melinda’s earlier work on depictions of disability in horror films.

Critical analyses of representations of disability in film and literature comprise areas of disability studies and philosophy of disability in which a great deal has been written. Indeed, there are too many articles and books published in the areas to even choose a few titles that deserve mention. Readers and listeners of BIOPOLITICAL PHILOSOPHY who wish to explore this substantial body of work can find a way into it by, say, searching the archives of Disability Studies Quarterly and Disability and Society, both leading journals in the field.

For my own part, I am at present cautiously eager to see how disability is framed and discussed in the new documentary about Michael Hutchence, the sultry and soulful lead singer of INXS, the fantastic Australian band that enjoyed international success throughout the 1980s and ’90s.

Entitled Mystify: Michael Hutchence, the film premiered at the Tribeca Film Festival in NYC last month and at the Hot Docs Festival in Toronto last month and earlier this month. Made by Australian director Richard Lowenstein, who shot some of INXS’s music videos and directed Hutchence in the Australian cult classic Dogs in Space, the film includes unreleased solo material that Hutchence recorded in the months leading up to his death, presents well-known facts about his life and music, and introduces little-known details (about his childhood, the incident in which his skull was fractured, depression, prescription drug-use, and eventual heartbreaking suicide) that previously had not been in the public domain.

From the reviews of Mystify: Michael Hutchence that I’ve read thus far (e.g., here), I predict that the film recycles a number of ableist tropes and stereotypes about disabled people with brain injuries as, for example, victims of tragic circumstances, as aggressive, violent, with extremely altered personalities, and so on, tropes and stereotypes to which, incidentally, philosophers, cognitive scientists, and bioethicists have contributed in no small way (see my earlier post here about work in philosophy on Phineas Gage). I, for one, am especially interested to see how the film deals with Hutchence’s efforts to pass as nondisabled.

It is unlikely that Mystify: Michael Hutchence will play in a theatre in the city where I live. Indeed, I likely won’t have the opportunity to assess the film myself until it finds its way to YouTube or some other online venue. If some readers or listeners of BIOPOLITICAL PHILOSOPHY have the good fortune to catch the film in the near future, I’d love to know how they interpret its treatment of disability and the disabled Michael Hutchence, as well as how they rate the film overall, its use of the music, etc.

Thank you, Michael Hutchence, for sharing your beautiful spirit and amazing music with us.

Below I have copied links to YouTube videos of INXS performing their song Mystify.

The video at this link provides the music and lyrics to Mystify:

The video at this link provides music and visuals from a live performance of Mystify:

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