Terminal Device

A personal, witty, and engaging call for Hollywood to re-evaluate how amputees are portrayed

Terminal Device Tired of the negative stereotyping of prosthesis-wearers in cinema, amputee Ross Turnbull sets out to overturn the idea that prosthetics are indicative of a monsterous soul. In a witty and masterful analysis of Hollywood’s best-loved classics, Ross challenges our preconceptions of what it means to be an amputee. Woven in to a touching personal narrative, this clever doc will ensure you never look at Captain Hook in the same way again.

"He learned to say he was born with it." A mother's account is heard alongside footage of a young boy washing, dressing and feeding himself, but this child is extraordinary: he only has one arm. From play-fighting in the playground to navigating the football field, directing feature films, and raising a family, Turnbull's narrative poses the question: What makes you think he shouldn't do all these things?

Terminal Device faults the representations of prosthetics found on-screen, one-dimensional caricatures which paint amputees as villains, aggressors and fundamental Others. It is frustrating that such prejudices still endure: "Amputees should be represented." Whilst some positive depictions of amputees can be found in films, Turnbull expresses an artistic desire to fill the void of representation left by such leering monsters as bond villain Tee Hee and Captain Hook.

"What happened to you?" The horror-struck quotation from Edward Scissorhands resurfaces frequently alongside clips of live action and a cartoon-animated Captain Hook. As we shift from these images to those of Turnbull's own youth and childhood, the movie stereotypes that inform common perceptions of the prosthetic hook are challenged, and Turnbull redirects the question 'What happened to you?' back at the viewer.

This considered and insightful documentary explores how a glancing look can shape both the observer and the observed. A vigorous demonstration of the ways film can both limit and assist artistic representations of ability, Terminal Device offers a telling glimpse into a life lived with a medical prosthesis and takes aim at the popular misconceptions associated with hooks and the people who wear them.

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