Thursday, January 26, 2012

Lepors & Pirates

A new claymation movie entitled Pirates! Band of Misfits is set to be released on April 27th, 2012. The movie is produced by Aardman Animation, the same company that brought us British claymation gems like Wallace and Gromit and Chicken Run. Recently, the movie has come under fire from Leprosy Advocacy groups because of a scene where the Pirate captain boards a boat that turns out to be filled with lepers. According to the angered advocacy groups, a particular comedic scene that involved a leper loosing his arm only helps to further the stigma of the disease (movie trailer below).

Leprosy (also known as Hansen's disease) is a disease that continues to ravage people across the globe. Leprosy is curable with the treatment of several drugs over a period of months to years, with vital importance being placed on early diagnosis. Leprosy is uncommon in wealthy nations but is common in poorer nations such as India and across Africa.

I did not agree with the outright removal of this scene by leprosy groups, but instead felt that this was an instance of both PC gone a muck and a huge missed opportunity by leprosy groups, as contradictory as it may sound. What I mean by this is that political correctness in this case had the result of stripping the subject entirely away from the a source that potentially could have brought greater exposure to the disease -Pirates: Band of Misfits. A joke, that by appearance in the trailer suggested it had made light of the issue but did not seem to be maleficent in nature towards those afflicted with the disease.  The missed opportunity here was huge. Instead of stripping the joke away, leprosy advocacy groups could instead have encouraged Aardman Animation to include a short trailer that educated the audience about the disease. This trailer could have been shown right before the movie and mentions the joke within the trailer, instructing the audience how leprosy is actually a current disease where funding is greatly needed for medicine and research. The result of this missed opportunity would be to educate millions of people across the world about the current issues involved with leprosy and perhaps have an added benefit of gaining new benefactors through those watching the film.

The common saying "there's no such thing as bad publicity" does not apply here. All that has happened here is bad publicity for leprosy advocacy groups because of their missed opportunity to promote their cause and that they chose a fight with a children's animated movie. What furthers the situation is that a particular individual from The Leprosy Mission has made it her goal to connect with anyone who disagrees with the removal of this scene. This lawyer, a miss Sian Arulanatham, is the Head of Programs for the mission and a self-proclaimed Human Rights Defender according to her Twitter account. Sian sends personal insults and accusations to people who criticize this move by leprosy groups on Twitter. Below is the Twitter exchange between myslef and miss Arulanatham.

The part that annoyed me the most about miss Arulanatham's Tweets was that she turned my criticism of a situation into a personal insult and assumed a lot about someone she had never met. In her first Tweet she wrote "clearly you have not experienced such suffering". Such attacks on people via the social network does no one any good and in fact it ultimately hurts the institution /beliefs you represent, in this case leprosy advocacy groups. In fact, this runs counter to what the leprosy advocacy groups were saying in the first place: that Pirates had made the joke a personal matter against those afflicted with leprosy, or in another words a joke is not funny when it comes at the expense of someone. Furthermore, her Tweet would suggest that only those that have been affect by 'suffering' can understand leprosy. Does this mean that my opinions mean less because I have not 'suffered' enough according to her vague criteria.
I truly hope that the Leprosy Mission rethinks who they have representing them through social media networks and also rethinks how they want to go about creating social awareness for their cause. Via attacking children's movies and forming personal attacks on people through social media venues, groups such as the Leprosy Mission will never achieve the positive exposure that I believe they are ultimately seeking. 
I believe that issues such as leprosy deserve attention and illustrate a true tragedy in this world since it is a problem that can be solved. We have the medication but for various reasons it is not being dealt to those suffering with the problems. What is disheartening is that the groups that supposedly stand to help and be the voice for those ailing with leprosy are instead more concerned with how a children's movie is going to depict the disease and how a few people on Twitter disagreed with their stance against the said movie.

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