Are the Disabled Different?
- Josee, the Tiger, and the Fish
By Choi Hye-seon, Senior, Dept. of English Language and Literature
In November, a symposium on the anti-discrimination movement and human rights law in Asia was held at the Law School of Chonnam National University. The 15th Gwangju Human Rights Film Festival was held as well. When I think about human rights, the disabled come to mind first. Perhaps this is true for others as well. It was also last month that I saw the movie, Josee, the Tiger, and the Fish to prepare a presentation for a class. This movie covers the love story of a physically handicapped woman and a non-disabled man calmly and realistically. Yes, it is a kind of love story between young people but it also raised issues about the disabled.
“Josee”, the main female character whose given name is Kumiko, pushed through the streets in a stroller, is attacked by people who are curious to know the stroller's contents. It appears that she has been in this situation for a long time as she always carries a knife and wants to buy a gun to protect herself. She brandishes a knife with fear in her eyes when she meets Chuneo for the first time. People attack her just for fun or out of curiosity but it is a huge threat to her. Threats, serious or not, are always around her when she goes outside, so she cannot help but carrying weapons to protect herself. This could be the situation for other disabled people as well.
Kumiko’s grandmother takes her outside only at dawn and does not allow her to go out in the afternoon. Her grandmother uese harsh words with her and always reminds her of her disability and the harsh reality of her situation. First, I thought her grandmother was abusive towards her. Later, however, I realized that she does so because she really cares about Kumiko. She is well aware that Kumiko has been and will be hurt by people and the world. She does not want to see that happening again and tries not to let Kumiko have unrealistic expectations. Kumiko herself also seems to be fully aware of the reality of her situation. She thinks that she cannot get married like other people and Chuneo may leave her someday.
Kumiko spends most of her time at home and learns only from books. It seems that she is confined to her home and removed from the world. She cannot communicate with the world because of external and maybe internal factors. Perhaps what confines her more is an unseen barrier created by her wounds and people’s bias against her. She says that she has been in the deep dark sea where no sound and light exist until she meets Chuneo, but she could not feel lonely because there was nothing from the beginning. Through these words, one can perceive how her life has been since birth.
Chuneo’s ex-girlfriend made me think about a common perception of the disabled. She feels angry and says that she envies Josee’s disabled legs. She feels that her self-respect is wounded because she lost her boyfriend to a disabled girl. To her, a disabled girl like Josee is an inferior person and cannot be her rival. She also seems to think that Chuneo does not truly love Josee and he just feels pity towards her. Like this, in many people’s perspectives, the disabled are people that we should pity and help out, not people with whom we can share real love. Actually, I also wondered even if the non-disabled can really love the disabled as those cases hardly ever happen compared to non-disabled couples.
Regardless of other people’s biases, Josee and Chuneo love each other sincerely. Through this love, Josee can come out of her confinement and confront the world. As time goes by, however, Chuneo gets tired of taking care of Josee and begins to feel that she is a burden. Finally, Chuneo leaves her and many people say the ending is realistic. Perhaps so or perhaps not. Although Kumiko is alone again, she lives by herself much more capably after Chuneo leaves her. This movie shows that the disabled are human beings that can feel and love just like everyone else. I also think that they can gain the power to live strongly through sincere love or attention. This movie offers a lot of things to think about. How about seeing this movie and appreciating it in your own way?