Characters Who Stutter
he images of people who stutter in books and films
are a source of controversy in the stuttering community. One
person's idea of a realistic, non-condescending, or sympathetic portrayal of a
stutterer can sometimes be another person's idea of an insult.
In this area of the Veils of
Stuttering site will be posted reviews of important films and
books that feature characters who stutter. Some reviews will be of
episodes and their meaning within the work, because of the limited role
of the stuttering character. Others, like the first review -- of
Lady in the Water -- will consider the entire work.
of the stuttering character is probably Warner Brothers' Porky Pig.
There are numerous opinions of PP's impact on the image
and self-image of stutterers. Some see
PP as a hero who perseveres in spite of his stuttering; others see him as a
buffoon who presents a stereotypical image of stutterers; still others
see him as an attack on people who stutter -- particularly children who are also
subjected to teasing that identifies the child with a cartoon character.
The continual focus on Porky Pig is unfortunate,
of course, because of the superficiality of the character. After
all, a "cartoon character" is the very definition of superficiality.
If it is true that PP does create a stereotyped identity of stutterers
in peoples' minds, people who stutter have enough false self-images without volunteering to
being forced into assuming a non-human one by listeners.
Unfortunately, many of the portrayals of people
who stutter are not very much more sophisticated than cartoon icons.
This in itself is telling because the shallowness of the
characterizations reveal a lot about the failure of society to
understand stuttering, and perhaps even more about the lack of interest
in improving this understanding.
It would be helpful if genuine,
plausible, characterizations of stutterers were available, not only for
the education of fluent speakers, but for the edification of people who
stutter, their families, and friends.