I don't usually let an entertainment figure's stance on an issue dictate whether I'll see one of their films, with some exceptions. I had some serious issues with "The Passion of the Christ" and some of Mel Gibson's public remarks, and now tend to avoid his work. I avoid some comedians because they use the R-word.
I knew that Jim Carrey's stance on vaccinations being toxic is quite strong, but I don't stop talking to people because they hold those views. I didn't see any need to boycott his films on that basis. And I still don't.
But last week he took some the steps to get his anti-thimerosal/anti-mercury message out (Carrey insists that he's not anti-vaccination, but against the addition of these substances in vaccinations) that crossed a line for me, and those steps have put me at "boycott" point.
Jim Carrey Uses Alex Echols' Picture in Rant About California Vaccination Law
Upset by the law officially put into place in California last Tuesday that children must be vaccinated in order to attend school, Carey went on a 30-tweet rant about the chemicals in vaccinations, calling California governor Gerry Brown a "corporate facist" and using images of children in distress, implying that the thermosil in their vaccinations had caused the autism.
According to Salon, two pictures of crying boys that were tweeted were stock photos. But the third was of 14-year-old Alex Echols, and was definitely used without permission. Alex's mother, Karen Echols was very upset, and tweeted to Jim:
"Please remove this photo of my son. You do not have permission to use his image."
She explained later in an Instagram posting that Alex's autism is caused by tuberous sclerosis and that he was showing signs of being autistic before he was vaccinated.
Jim Carrey removed the photo and apologized:
"I'd like to apologize to the Echols family and others for posting a pic of their kids w/o permission.I didn't mean to cause them distress."
I love a good non-apology.
Dehumanizing Autistic People
Cara (no last name given) nailed why Jim Carrey's action were inappropriate in her blog post, An Open Letter to Jim Carrey. She talks about how Jim Carrey used pictures of children in distress, one that we can confirm is autistic, hoping that they'd scare people into seeing his point of view, and his hopes that people would say, "Oh my goodness, we don't want our children to turn out like *that*, we'd better not vaccinate!" She talks about how static pictures are inherently dehumanizing, and how autistic people as a group don't need anything more that dehumanizes them - in the last five years, 80 autistic children and adults have been dehumanized by their parents and caregivers to the point where they've been murdered.
Kudos, Cara, for beautifully expressing why Jim Carrey's actions were so wrong.
Cara touches on the other form of dehumanization that went on.
Shame on You, Jim Carrey
The picture of Alex Echols that Jim Carrey used has been used in a couple of media pieces. Is it fair use? I'm not sure. I wouldn't use it without permission for a number of reasons, the least of them being that I figure that it's been posted in enough places by now that Alex doesn't ever need to come across it in another. But even if it is fair use, Jim Carrey did not use it fairly. He co-opted it for his own cause, with no concern for whether Alex and his family would be okay with that, and in his apology he didn't say that he was wrong. That he can claim to be so passionately concerned for child safety but exploit a disabled child in that way makes me angry, and very concerned that he didn't have that insight into why what he did was wrong until someone called him on it.
It was another level of dehumanization: "I'm just going to pick you up and drop you in my cause and I don't care what you think about it." Shame on you, Jim Carrey.
Yes, shame on Jim Carrey, because he didn't have to go further than Facebook to see that Alex is a growing, learning, person, deeply loved by his family and support staff. Because they're better people than I am, the Echols family is grateful for the awareness that this incident with Jim Carrey has brought to tuberous sclerosis and to the challenges that Alex faces every day.
And he could only manage a non-apology on Twitter.
You can learn more about Alex and his family here and here.
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