Helen and Frida
The article Helen and Frida takes place in a theatre where Anne Finger directs. Although it is a short script, it encompasses many details that are meant to question and challenge the way we view disability and sexuality alongside able bodied people. Able bodies are simply defined as members of society who are healthy and physically strong. Thus, they can go through society without physical assistance in the form of a device or person. Through imagery and perception, Anne Finger brings two American icons to life. In her script she imagines a conversation between the two heroines. Provoking acts that are contrary to what history would allow them to do and say. Through the script, Anne gives Helen the chance to explore her sexuality, while Frida is allowed to talk about the pain that she feels as a disabled woman. Finger attempts to accomplish what the writers of history have failed to do; Finger gives the disabled women a chance to tell their own story, in their own bodies.
Fingers first main point is unraveled as she struggles with the idea of performing gender roles. As a nine year old child, stricken to a cast and bed rest, Finger could not grasp her sexuality. According to her understanding, straight women were straight because they could properly perform gender roles. Once disabled, one cannot properly be heterosexual. A disabled bodied individual is often acquainted with being asexual because of their socially inferior positions. For this same reason, Helen’s mother denied her the chance to marry Peter. In the minds of many able bodied individuals, desire towards a disabled individual is not radical. Disability lies outside of normative expectations and societies idea of perfection. Finger believes that society creates a more immobilized space for the disabled by creating spaces and ideas that enhance the lives and roles of able bodied individuals. In history Frida is known to be well sexually desired, but only at the lost of displaying her disabilities. Finger does not believe the writers of Frida’s history would’ve comfortably written about Frida’s sexual life had she been portrayed as a disabled icon. Images that explore her disability have often been marginalized and ignored.
Frida intends to reiterate the lives of two disabled women from the voice of her own disabled body. Often in media, especially film, able bodied actors play the roles of the disabled. Historically, notions and ideas of disability have been constructed and construed via able bodied individuals. In film, the eyes of the blind are not displayed, but often covered with sunglasses. Finger is not afraid to shock her audience. She writes a plot that suggests they are more than what history has alleged. She gives the two women complexity through the writing of her script. Helen is given the chance to explore sexuality and desire. Finger created something for Helen that others, including her mother denied her. For Frida, the script gives her the opportunity to speak of her disability and pain.
Finger as a child did not believe she could perform femininity and was unable to find examples of women like her on television. This lack of supportive images put Finger in isolation as it did Frida and Helen. Her isolation felt at the start of the article exemplifies the isolation that disabled bodies deal with routinely. In bringing the two together in the plot, finger provides an opportunity that disabled individuals are often denied. Helens denial of love stems from societies idea of love and how it is felt. The connection that sparks the kiss between Helen and Frida is queer. Helen cannot see and eyes are the key to ones soul. Helen cannot hear which further makes her incapable of sensing desire. Helen however can sense. Frida’s and Helens disability created a queer possibility. If Helen could feel without seeing or hearing then the rubric for sensuality is in need of redefining. Thus, the general projection of our senses as sexual enhancers is false as is so our projection of disabled bodies.