22 Nov 2021
Zoë Hunter Gordon
Esme Lonsdale, Ben Mudge, Jameisha Prescod
This documentative British film by Zoë Hunter Gordon is a splendid, short insight into the experiences people with disabilities face in the online, daunting world that is impossible it seems, to avoid. Three individuals are introduced: Ben Mudge, Jameisha Prescod and the mysterious Bella (whose identity is never revealed yet whose story is most prominent).
Ben (who has cystic fibrosis) and Jameisha (who has lupus) both openly share their stories on social media, influencing predominantly young people and use their disability to their advantage. We see their subsequent success from this; thousands of followers and achieving their goals as they set out to embarrass and educate those who are ignorant or even bullies, illustrated through documentative skills such as talking heads and voiceovers of the individuals. A heart-warming over-the-shoulder shot of Ben watching a video of a young boy (who supposedly also has cystic fibrosis) doing press-ups saying how he wants to “be like Ben Mudge” (the inspirational fitness trainer) indicates just how important it is for his message to be heard. Jameisha’s passion is also portrayed subtly, in a shot of her poster “Be the change you want to see in the world” spoken eloquently by Gandhi as well as her use of her platform for people of similar backgrounds to speak openly about their experiences.
Bella’s (who has ehlers danlos syndrome) story however, is the one most grasping and unexpected to the audience, especially for those who are unfamiliar with the perpetual world of social media. Bella utilises the medium as a platform to show off her fantastic body but to her followers keeps her identity and disability a secret. It is never expressed whether she earns for what she posts, but regardless, her chapter is fascinating. Hunter Gordon’s camera voyeuristically examines Bella in two states: one where she is in provocative lingerie, lying on her sofa in a two-shot with her wheelchair also framed and another where she is herself; in fluffy socks, quirky clothes and in her comfortable, cluttered home. It comes as quite a pleasant shock to see these two-aesthetics mixed with each other and her iconic line: “just cause you’re in a wheelchair or just cause you have an illness, doesn’t mean you’re not hot as fuck” encapsulates the unique and moving life Bella leads at her home and on social media.
Ill, Actually is ultimately a lovely depiction of the way people with disabilities combat oppression and lies on social media. It connotes how they too can have “fun being a character”, as Bella and Ben (as a Thor lookalike) especially show themselves off and conceal their disabilities; or rather just don’t see the importance of it dictating the way they choose to live their lives. As Bella concludes in her chapter: “I am someone with a disability, but the disability isn’t me.”