Sound And Vision: M. Night Shyamalan

Contributing Writer; The Netherlands
Sound And Vision: M. Night Shyamalan

In the article series Sound and Vision we take a look at music videos from notable directors. This week we discuss Andra Day's Rise Up, directed by M. Night Shyamalan.

M. Night Shyamalan has an ableism problem, and it extends to his sole music video. Let me explain: as a disabled person I've noticed a recurring theme in a lot of Shyamalan's work of mental and physical disabilities setting people apart from society and even humanity. In Shyamalan's work a disability either makes you a god or a villain. This is most literal in his Glass-trilogy, in which superhero- and supervillain-status is tied to a mental or physical illness. But it shows up in The Village too, where the autistic character by Adrien Brody is one of the most offensive portrayals of autistic people in cinema, and the blind character saves the day by virtue of her blindness. In Signs it's the asthma of one of the characters being both a setback ánd a saving grace. The Sixth Sense, the film with which Shyamalan stormed upon the scene (even though it was in fact his third feature, look it up), starts with a mentally unstable person attacking his psychiatrist. And let's not forget the demonizing of psychiatric patients in The Visit.

There is also an anti-medication theme running throughout his movies: Old makes this quite literal, but explaining why would be going into spoiler territory. The Happening is less overt, but the twist that plants and trees are blocking certain inhibitors in the brain, to make people suicidal, is basically written to be the same way that SSRI's work is... not great. "SSRI's make people kill themselves" is very much a staple of anti-medication groups. So why would Shyamalan do this? The key to that would be After Earth, which, to the people in the know, basically reads like Scientology-fanfic, even going as far as taking a big page out of the books of L. Ron Hubbard, by ending the film on a very familiar volcano, and spouting semi-spiritual psychobabble that is straight out of Dianetics. Is M. Night Shyamalan a closet scientologist? I can't say for sure, but I wouldn't be surprised.

The sole music video he directed also has this undercurrent of seeing disabled people as 'the other', as being a person to either pity or praise. In disability circles we talk about inspiration porn: media that treat disabilities in such a way that disabled people exist purely to inspire non-disabled people. "Look at how brave that disabled person is" or worse, "look at how brave that disabled person's partner is". M. Night Shyamalan takes that second notion and turns it into a plot twist, because of course he did. We see a woman taking a disabled man on a date, and helping him dress, bathe and eat. Shocker: she thanks him for 'taking her out', instead of the societal expectation of the other way around. Isn't that inspiring? No. No it isn't. M. Night Shyamalan has an ableism problem.

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