|Alec Frazier at the theater to see Alita!|
The new film Alita: Battle Angel has done quite well at the box office, and many have praised its feminist ideals. However, the film is also quite a boon to the disabled community. It can be argued that it is a two-hour, $200 million treatise on prosthetics. During an interview with disability rights firm Autistic Reality at Lightstorm Entertainment in 2014, Alita coproducer Jon Landau came out with a novel position when asked about diversity in film. “We work on stuff creatively,” he says. “When you push something to the forefront, I think it has much less of an impact than when you play it in the background.” As such, the pro-prosthetic agenda of Alita: Battle Angel does not slap you in the face but is instead an inbuilt part of the film.
|Alita Raises her sword towards Zalem.|
In the world in which the film exists, a future community called Iron City, prosthetic limbs and bodies are par for the course. In fact, it is rarer to come upon someone who doesn’t have a prosthetic body part than it is to see someone with one. This is typified by a scene early in the film when Dr. Dyson Ido (Christoph Waltz) takes Alita (Rosa Salazar) around Iron City, and we see many people living their everyday lives with prosthetics. Some of these people work their prosthetic limbs to their advantage, such as a guitarist, who has two extra hands on his left arm, allowing him to play a double-necked guitar flawlessly. Ido’s nurse, Gerhad (Idara Victor), is kind and compassionate, and has a prosthetic left arm that is finely tuned to better allow her to assist in surgeries. Some people use prosthetic body parts for sports, such as the much-favored sport of Motorball. In fact, at one point during the film, Dr. Ido fits Alita with prosthetic skates for the sport. Other athletes have prosthetic weapons that they use to gain an advantage in the game. There are even animals with prosthetic parts, and one bounty hunter named McTeague (Jeff Fahey) has an entire pack of dogs that are either robotic or cybernetic with prosthetics.
|Alita tests out her first cybernetic body in the film.|
There are multiple amputees in Iron City, and Dr. Ido treats many of them. In fact, Alita’s first body in the film was originally meant for his daughter, who was paralyzed from the waist down. Some in the modern disability rights movement would view the trait of a prosthetic body for someone affected by paralysis as unnecessary, and that that person should probably live with their paralysis. Then again, the film takes place several hundred years in the future, and in a completely different world. One would expect that, as prosthetics became more readily available and more lifelike, people would take to them kindlier. In fact, Alita’s love interest, Hugo (Keean Johnson), is given an almost entirely prosthetic body towards the end of the film, and, all things considered, it has relatively little effect on him psychologically since he grew up knowing that it would always be a possibility.
|Bounty Hunter Zapan|
Of course, some characters take the prosthetic surgery to extremes. Merciless bounty Hunter Zapan (Ed Skrein) has heavily invested his earnings on a sleek, pretty-boy body and face, all the while engaging in insidious plots to defeat the protagonists of the film. He is cold and manipulative, and undeserving of his beautiful body, and gets his just desserts near the end of the film when Alita destroys his face, leaving him as ugly as his emotional bankruptcy would indicate. An even further example of extreme prosthetic modification is Grewishka (Jackie Earle Haley), one of the main villains of the film. He starts out just barely human, with a human brain with a modified human head, and over the course of the film, his cybernetic body is further and further “upgraded”. By the time of his death at the end of the film, it is impossible to empathize with Grewishka, and it is more like seeing a machine terminated than it is seeing a person die.
As Landau mentioned, “…at the end, as we talked about, we want to make movies that, that affect people, and have an impact on their lives, and how they see the world, as they move forward.” Therefore, through it all, Alita remains the most human character in the entire film, even though her brain is the only originally human part of her. She is compassionate, loving, empathetic, loyal, and sweet. The question thus becomes, “What makes us human?” If Alita can be human, then it does not matter how many prosthetic parts someone has. Just because one has prosthetics does not mean they are broken. Everyone is human.
This blog posting is both the personal opinion of Alec Frazier, and the professional policy of his advocacy firm, Autistic Reality. If you oppose it, please screen grab it! We are very proud of this opinion!