I’m watching the Little House on the Prairie in which Mary became blind. A few days ago, I watched the one in which her husband, Adam Kendall, regained his sight. On that one, Mary was supposed to be blind. Yet, she was clearly making eye contact with the other characters. How can I tell what she was looking at? I don’t know. I can just tell that she was making eye contact.
But how reliable is my instinct on that? On The Empire Strikes Back, it looks to me as if Luke is making eye contact with Yoda. And, yet, I learned from a documentary about Star Wars that Luke shot a lot of those scenes without Yoda even being there. So was he making eye contact with nothing? Beats me!
This is an issue with a lot of actors who play blind characters. On an episode of Kung Fu, John Carradine (Aaron on The Ten Commandments and Caine’s father in real life) played a blind man, and he was making eye contact. On M. Night’s The Village, Bryce Dallas Howard (Opie’s little girl) played a blind person, and she was making eye contact with the other characters.
Ordinarily, Little House handled this issue pretty well, for it had the people playing blind characters stare into space, or simply look down. That’s like what the blind one did on The Ten Commandments: he looks into the sky. But Mary was making eye contact on that one episode.
Now to a similar topic: Asperger’s on television. I was watching House on Friday night, and it was about an autistic kid. House is a surgeon who is a big-time jerk. He envied the autistic kid because he didn’t have to deal with social niceties in his day-to-day life. Some of the other physicians were speculating that House had Asperger’s, but they concluded that such was not the case. He’s just a jerk.
On this episode, at least there was a good, clinical definition of Asperger’s. They were obviously quoting an authoritative source, maybe that big book of psychological syndromes (whose title I forget). Regarding other shows, I’m not too sure about their research. Doc was a program that starred Billy Ray Cyrus (of “Achy Breaky Heart” fame), and it had one episode in which a character had Asperger’s. But he seemed to be on the extreme end of the autism spectrum, for he was very limited in his ability to interact (but at least he got a hot babe at the end!). And then there was Becker, in which the secretary was making fun of the name “Asperger’s.” Dr. Becker chastised her, as he informed her that Asperger’s is a really serious disease. But no one defined what the syndrome was.
And so television is making progress!