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Ads for 'Gadget' Foster Negative Image of Amputees

July 31, 1999

I see that the Los Angeles Times Calendar section of July 22 includes advertising for the movie "Inspector Gadget" that is demeaning to arm amputees. Several years ago you indicated that you would not accept advertising images that were so demeaning to the handicapped because of an ad for an adult movie in which the villain was using a hook to stab a bleeding baseball.

The ad for "Inspector Gadget" is more insidious, as it is directed to children, and about a device specifically designed for use by children and young adults.

The good guy is in white and has a hand. Although on a device, it is a hand. The bad guy in black has an oversized version of the CAPP hook, [apparently intended as] a visual statement of good versus evil.

The CAPP hook was designed for use by children, because in the flesh tone it usually lacks the connotations of the aluminum hooks that many adult amputees use as replacements for the flesh-and-blood hands they would rather have.

The C-shaped metal hooks have a frightening connotation because of the way they have been visually depicted, specifically by the movie industry.

I received my first prosthesis when I was 10. It was equipped with the very functional Dorrance Hook. I liked it and was doing well.

Shortly after that, Disney's animated version of "Peter Pan" was a box-office success. I became "Captain Hook," and the implication was that I could harm others. There were times when young children ran away screaming, believing I was going to hurt them, when all I was doing was walking through the halls of the school.

It is the same Disney Co. that is now selling the same theme to another generation, and ruining the device meant to help children avoid connotations created by the earlier movies. If the implication of danger wasn't still attached to the C-style Dorrance Hosmer hooks, the CAPP hook might never have been created.

I lived with that image all of my youth and young adult years. Now a different generation of children will have to cope with those films, plus a new version of the arm amputee as villain.

I'm in my 50s, remembering how I hurt as a child. I am hurting for the children who are going to be living with these visual images. No one wants to be an arm amputee. To be thought of as a living horror because of insensitive movie makers and illustrators is an undue burden.

I hope you return to policies that your paper once endorsed.

AMY DAVIS

Anaheim

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