The main character in "Warm Bodies," R, and other zombies stand hunched over looking at the camera.

By Jason Harris | Oct. 19, 2020

The film “Warm Bodies” takes something we fear and view as simplistic and monstrous with no thoughts or empathy – a Zombie – and turns it on its head. Like many good comedies or horror films, this also reflects society’s fears and absurdities. In fact, we can compare it to how society has treated and reacted to people with intellectual disabilities in our not-so-distant past and recent history.

There has been some fear about intellectual disability and maybe even subconsciously what it means about our humanity as we define our species as “wise man” (Homo sapiens is Latin for wise human). People often wonder what people with intellectual disabilities can notice or sense; even philosophers question the humanity of people with intellectual disabilities.

The idea that humanity still exists within zombies reminds me of the book “There is a Boy in Here” and parents saying that autism took away their “normal” child. This is a saying that was used in ads like “I am Autism” from Autism Speaks and others that said autism kept their child from being normal and held their child hostage.

Similar to R in the movie, people with intellectual disabilities are often perceived as incapable of having friends or relationships, especially with people who are different from them, like someone who doesn’t have a disability

Warm Bodies does what other films featuring a protagonist with intellectual disabilities do and shows their lives from their perspective, promoting empathy and understanding. It also makes us question our assumptions of what is scary, who we can build relationships with and what it means to be human.

The OTR International Film Festival, in partnership with other film festivals across Cincinnati, will show “Warm Bodies” on Saturday, Oct. 24, as part of the Film Fest Drive-In series. Get tickets and more information here.

Jason Harris is Director of Strategic Operations at LADD. He is also founder of Jason’s Connection, a non-profit and online community for individuals with disabilities, mental health, aging and diverse abilities and needs. As a neurodiverse individual on the autism spectrum, Jason knows firsthand the challenges faced by individuals in finding supports to assist them to live their lives in a way that meets their needs and goals. Jason has a master’s degree in Cultural Foundations of Education and a Certificate of Advanced Disability Studies from Syracuse University.