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Disability

Only F**ks Pat Me On The Head

A review of Only F**ks Pat Me On The Head, a short documentary film about a local man who has Cerebral Palsy.

This post was originally published on May 4 2021. It was last updated on May 8 2021 (2:46 pm).

Reading time: 2 minutes

Only F**ks Pat Me On The Head is a short documentary film about local Wellington man Jon Little, directed by Steph Miller and Dr Paul Wolffram.

The film was crowdfunded via Boosted and that’s how I came to receive an invite to the premier.

Jon Little has Cerebral Palsy (CP), an umbrella term that refers to a group of disorders affecting a person’s ability to move. But you have to go to the Cerebral Palsy Society’s website to get that definition, because the film is not about CP. Rather, it’s about Jon’s life and it’s about society’s knack for othering difference rather than embracing human variety, in the process erecting barriers that make life harder than it needs to be.

It’s a refreshingly honest film. The narration is a mixture of Jon’s own voice and a voiceover mirroring the voice in his head. This combination helps with understanding Jon’s speech and allows for a deeper level of insight during the non-speaking action scenes, whilst allowing Jon to retain full control of the narrative.

Jon is outspoken and does not hesitate to berate people who focus on his Assistive Technology (a motorised wheelchair) rather than on him, on his speech impediment rather than on what he is saying, or on his stature rather than on his presence.

The reason for this is quickly apparent – he has been putting up with this patronising bullsh*t for his entire life. As he states in the opening lines, his disability is not CP, it is that the world is not accommodating to him as he is. I can’t remember the exact words, but his definition of disability is one that I agree with wholeheartedly.

Vitriol aside, Jon is a smart IT guy who spends a fair amount of time foot-coding on his computer, attends job interviews, Skypes with his kids, socialises in bars and cafes, and stresses over the correct adjectives to use when texting his love interest.

Jon knows he has CP, but as he says, come closer … closer … you can’t catch CP! He knows that stressful situations make his body act up and he tries to stay calm. He knows that his speech is hard to follow at first, but he asks listeners to say ‘pardon’ rather than brushing him off with nods and smiles.

Jon has two support workers who help him out with activities like shopping, shaving, costume making, and hugs ????. His close friends accompany him to his dance parties and don’t hesitate to roll their eyes in solidarity when yet another person asks him how fast his chair goes.

The premier of Only F**ks Pat Me On The Head screened at the Roxy in Miramar. The venue had stairs but I understand that Jon used a lift. The introduction was in NZ English and NZSL and the film was captioned. I spotted several groups of people signing, a man finding his way with a cane and a woman sitting in the aisle in her wheelchair.

None of these people had a disability – the event catered to all and all were able to come together with dignity to enjoy a little slice of Jon’s life.

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