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I am Sam Disability

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I chose the movie I am Sam to challenge my own opinion on how people with disabilities should be treated under certain circumstances. I am Sam is a movie about a mentally challenged man, named Sam, striving to raise his daughter, Lucy, alone. Diagnosed with Autism, Sam’s intellectual capacity cannot exceed the age of 7. As we watch Lucy grow up under Sam’s roof, we are able to see the love they have for each other. When Lucy reaches the age of 8, social workers see this as an issue, so they place Lucy in a temporary home while Sam goes to court to try to win Lucy back.

Sam’s lawyer, Rita, took this “pro bono” case to impress her coworkers.

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At first, Rita doesn’t believe Sam is capable of raising Lucy along with the social workers who want to take her away from Sam. Although, as she forms a connection with Sam, she realizes and learns from Sam that love is the key aspect of raising a child.

She shifts her beliefs and begins to see Sam as a role model who eventually helps aid her own relationship with her son. This story seems to accurately explore the prejudice and difficulties people with disabilities face in everyday life.

As I watched I am Sam, I observed several forms of prejudice take place toward Sam. Analyzing this prejudice, I noted the possible reasoning the characters had behind performing their prejudice. I feel as if a majority of the prejudice I saw was because people felt “morally better” than Sam. One example of this was apparent at the birthday party Sam put together for Lucy at the beginning of the movie. Lucy’s friend’s dad looked down on Sam, because he was disabled, and he accused Sam of hitting his son. Another time this type of rationalization seemed to occur is when Lucy’s temporary foster parents tried to win custody of Lucy. Even though they eventually realized Sam was a good father, they initially assumed that Sam wasn’t fit to be a parent simply because of his disability.

The Foster mom said to Sam, “I’m going to do everything I can to protect that little girl (Lucy) from getting hurt again.” The “morally better” rationalization was also apparent when Rita first became Sam’s lawyer. Initially, she thought Sam was annoying and didn’t know how to treat him as she said to him, “I just don’t know what to call you, retarded, mentally retarded, mentally handicapped, mentally disabled, intellectually handicapped, intellectually disabled, developmentally disabled.” At first she didn’t have the intentions of helping Sam because she felt like too good of a lawyer for him. Here she was expressing pride, which is one aspect of this rational.

This movie brought out a lot of emotion for me. It is difficult to grasp the challenges that people with disabilities have no choice but to deal with, especially ones involving family. I chose to watch this movie alone. I feel that by making this choice, I was able to depict different perspectives evolving from the different experiences of each character. I felt I was also able to connect with the movie on a deeper level, while watching movies alone tends to bring out more emotion for me. The reason I feel this movie brought out so many emotions, is because it is from Sam’s perspective. Because of this, I was able to feel connected with Sam, resulting in feelings of empathy along with a new perspective of the confusion people with mental illnesses have to deal with. The actor who played Sam also did an incredible job portraying Sam’s disabilities as he emphasized the frustration that autistic people encounter in a variety of situations.

Looking back at the assumptions I surfaced about disabled people, I noted that I saw them as helpless and uncompetitive. I feel that watching I am Sam helped me to shift these assumptions as I saw Sam take on challenges that surprised me. Clearly, he felt motivated to win Lucy back and did everything in his power to pursue his goal. Also, it was apparent that people who have disabilities aren’t always dependent, either. Sam was able to raise a smart, empathetic daughter for seven years. He also had a job at Starbucks. This exemplifies how people, who are severely disabled, like Sam, can lead a “normal” life as well. As Sam and Rita are preparing for the trial, Sam states that he feels he is smarter than Lucy in some ways. He then tells Rita he is in some ways smarter than her, too. Here, Sam is displaying the confident side of himself. On the other hand, Sam seemed to parallel my assumption that disabled people can be fragile in ways that are not related to their disability.

We see this after Sam loses hope of winning his case as he says to Rita, “You don’t know what it’s like when you try and you try and you don’t ever get there! Because you were born perfect and I was born like this. People like you don’t know what it’s like to get hurted, because you don’t have feelings. People like you don’t feel anything!” Many people tend to perceive disabled people lacking emotion or feeling, or that their emotion is just part of their disability. It seems that Sam thinks that feeling sad is part of his disability, but what he doesn’t know is that everyone experiences intense emotions. He lacks the realization that anybody getting their child taken away from them would have feelings similar to his. His statement raised questions in my mind about how all disabled people perceive able bodied people.

Sam also displayed one of my assumptions that “disabled people are more comfortable around each other compared to being with abled people”. Sam’s best friends in the movie all happen to be disabled in some way as well. The film shines a positive light on these characters as they all worked together to try to help Sam win Lucy back. Sam seemed to get along better with them, than anyone else in the movie.

As I watched I am Sam, I was able to apply many ideas and subjects we have talked about in class to several of the characters and situations. The film provides an outlook on the issue of how society treats people with disabilities because of stereotypes. Since Sam is portrayed in both positive and negative ways, we are able to see a variety of assumptions people have about him throughout the movie. Throughout the film, there are instances where society seems to be bothered by Sam. At other times, he is seen as a hero. The social workers who believed Sam didn’t have the ability to raise Lucy seemed to also be making the fundamental attribution error.

The fundamental attribution error occurs when we overestimate the influence of personality traits and underestimate the influence of situational factors. The social workers neglected the fact that any single parent raising a child is going to overcome difficulties, while Sam’s disability was their main focus. Rita explores this area as she brings out emotions in the opposing counsel as she says “Ever parent I have spoken to has had moments where the task is so unbelievably challenging…that you feel retarded…disabled in some way.” Rita emphasizes that just because someone is challenged in some way, does not mean that they are incapable of loving someone, which is the most important quality in parenting.

The negative idea instilled in the minds of society of people with differing abilities drives the division of the “normal” and “different” classifications in society. While there are many themes that derived from I am Sam, the one that stood out to me the most was Rita’s changed outlook on life because of Sam. I thought the film provided a good representation of how one can learn from opening up and listening to someone different than them. Many stereotypes evolve from lack of experience with an out-group. Without exposure, how is one expected to be able to learn and interact with people with disabilities? While films provide an ability to recreate the image of disabled people, I think I am Sam does a good job enabling people to build an understanding of people with these disorders.

Cite this I am Sam Disability

I am Sam Disability. (2016, Jun 15). Retrieved from https://graduateway.com/i-am-sam-disability/

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