ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel

View of disability in "What's Eating Gilbert Grape?"

Updated on April 4, 2012
Source


Disability is the focus of the 1993 movie “What’s Eating Gilbert Grape”. This is an older movie I had never seen before and it was an eye opening look at disability in all forms and manifestations. One might say that Arnie Grape, played superbly by Leo DiCaprio was the most disabled of all characters in the film, but I believe each character is disabled in some way, from the overweight mother played by Darlene Cates, the two sisters who live to care for their obese mother and mentally disabled brother, to the quintessential Gilbert, played by an ever so handsome and effective Johnny Depp.

Depp is seen as a prisoner in a dead end town, in a dead end job, playing lothario to the Insurance man’s wife, and chasing his brother to varied “heights” including the town water tower. DiCaprio plays Arnie to a “T” utilizing vocal inflections, a crazy laugh and mannerisms that identify him as a mentally challenged young man. Arnie flicks at his nose, he walks in an awkward step and is brash and outspoken when it is not the right time and place. In one scene at a funeral, Arnie sees the new Burger Barn arriving in town and screams with delight! This, juxtaposed against the solemnity of the funerary benediction makes for a juxtaposition with the pain and the beauty of life.

Gilbert is not disabled in the sense of physical qualities, but he is unable to live his life as he would like too, having become a caregiver to the entire family. As such, he is paralyzed and his emotions in essence “eat away” at him. He knows he will never be able to leave his family and when faced with a choice not to handle one of his appointed tasks (bathing his brother), he is made aware than leaving his home for good is not an option, and there seems no end in sight to his duties. He takes his rage out on his brother in one scene, and yet as a viewer, I found myself sympathizing with his frustration. He simply has no private life, recognizing this most specifically in his inability to spend time with Becky without feeling pulled to his duties to his disabled family.

Another disabling issue in this film is the anger that the family feels whenever one of their members let the other down. Mama is quick to critique her children, but depends on their care to survive. The sisters also are quick to anger, making it a somewhat hellish existence for Gilbert. Additionally, the food store he works in has been bereft of customers since the new larger chain store opened on the fringes of town. Gilbert works in the store, disabled by the lack of customers and the depression of its owner who is of course concerned about making a living. Gilbert takes time to offer him his ear and some kind words, again offering himself in a caregiver position.

One of the most wrenching scenes comes with Mama’s death and the subsequent decision to “cremate” her by setting the house on fire. Here we seem to see Gilbert rising like a phoenix from the ashes of his prior life and taking back the authority of his own life and destiny. His mother mentions before she dies that he is her “knight in shimmering armor” to which he replies: “you mean shining don’t you?” She tells him no, he shimmers and shines.

Researching for playing the part in “Rain Man” Dustin Hoffman wowed the audience in his rendition of an autistic man and in this movie DiCaprio appears to have studied the mannerisms of mentally challenged young people in order to provide us with a sweet and kind young man. The mother is also a disabled woman who is seen killing herself with food. Darlene Cates weighs 514 pounds, and the entire time I watched the movie I felt uncomfortable FOR her. As she is a genuinely loving character the viewer is only the viewer of in the perceptive reality of being large and trying to live in a thin world.

Comments

    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    • Aley Martin profile imageAUTHOR

      Alice Lee Martin 

      6 years ago from Sumner, Washington,USA

      thanks ladies. It is a great view!

    • Trish_M profile image

      Tricia Mason 

      6 years ago from The English Midlands

      Hi

      I love this film and this is a very good review :)

    • Pamela99 profile image

      Pamela Oglesby 

      6 years ago from Sunny Florida

      This is an interesting review of this movie, which I haven't seen. I will see about renting it. Good review,

    working

    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, hubpages.com uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at: https://hubpages.com/privacy-policy#gdpr

    Show Details
    Necessary
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the googleapis.com or gstatic.com domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Features
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Marketing
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Statistics
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)