Despite it being stationary and silent, going to the theatre has always been a holistic experience: the only sight you have is the revelatory screen in front of you and the only sound is the speakers bombasting by your sides. Movies dominate our pop culture to the point where we take cues from them to lead our daily lives. It’s not inconceivable that movies may be the most quintessential form of entertainment, however, they’ve hardly ever been the most inclusive.
Times have changed.
If movies can change society, then society can change movies. As a society, we have managed to become more inclusive. We now celebrate our diversity and differences beyond the colors of our skin and our nationalities; we’ve realized that there’s more to disability than just what the naked eye can see.
Movies focusing on characters who have disabilities have hardly ever been a walk in the park to watch; often focusing on the plight of the individual, reducing the disabled character to nothing more than a victim. Their disabilities are seen as the only facet of their personality, making them slaves to their disability with little to no nuance in between.
In 2017, a certain filmmaker took note of this and decided that disabilities should be at the forefront of film; something to be celebrated, not disavowed. Edgar Wright, a British filmmaker, decided to change the way Hollywood looked at disabilities with Baby Driver.
Baby Driver is a film centered around Baby, a young getaway driver who has tinnitus, which can be best described as hearing sound when there’s no sound present. Most people who have tinnitus experience a subtle ringing or ticking sound. To deal with his disability, Baby listens to music to drown out the sound that follows him everywhere he goes. Throughout the film, Baby’s team criticizes him for always wearing his headphones, listening to music, despite the fact that it’s the only thing that keeps him focused. Moreover, Baby was only able to discover his skills as a driver because of tinnitus, as the music he uses to drown out of the humming propels him to match his driving to the beat.
The fact that Edgar Wright, the director of the picture, is able to stick to his guns and portray Baby’s disability as one of his motivating factors is great. Wright is able to create a character that is aware of his limitations but still makes do with what he has in order to be the best he can be. Baby is not limited by his disability, rather he is free and able to experience the world in a completely different light thanks to it.
Wright also makes sure that Baby’s personality isn’t just his disability, but instead an extension of his character. The music he listens to dictates his moods, mannerisms, and choices. While many would see tinnitus as something that keeps them out of tune with the world, Baby makes it his strength. Effectively, it’s musical therapy turned up to eleven in a glamorous fashion.
Most people who walked into Baby Driver expected a fast-paced, music-driven, heist picture, but they walked out knowing that there’s more than what meets the eye. As opposed to ridiculing the disability, using it as the butt of the joke, it encourages the audience to embrace it and become aware that there are more disabilities than the ones seen by the naked eye. Putting tinnitus in the forefront of such a successful movie helps people understand that it’s a real issue. For those who suffer from tinnitus, Baby Driver gives them the representation they seek. At the end of the day, representation isn’t enough if it doesn’t address the issue head-on, but that’s exactly what Baby Driver does. Not only does the film asks questions about tinnitus, but it is courageous enough to suggest a solution to it: music.
Written by Aahil Dayani / Image by Katherine Tang