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‘Sling Blade’ And The Portrayal of Developmental Disability

‘Sling Blade’ And The Portrayal of Developmental Disability (photo)

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Tonight at 11:30 p.m. ET we are showing Sling Blade, a film that marked the directorial debut of country singer turned actor Billy Bob Thornton. The film was based on George Hickenlooper’s acclaimed short “Some Folks Call it a Sling Blade” and brought Thornton into Hollywood’s spotlight and, perhaps, to Angelina Jolie’s attention. (Remember when they were married and wearing vials of each others’ blood? Ah, memories.) The film starred Thornton as Karl, a developmentally disabled man with a violent past and a jutting jaw who was recently sprung from the mental institution and moved back home and into old patterns that begin to play out. Thornton was nominated for an Oscar for his portrayal of Karl. His nomination for best actor in a leading role, came just two years after Tom Hanks won for his role in “Forrest Gump”, as a man living with a developmental disability and a unique ability to run really quickly.

While the Academy Awards have recognized actors who step into the shoes of those living with mental illness and development disabilities, some people who work and live in those communities find the portrayals offensive. Lauren Potter as Becky Jackson and Robyn Trocki as Jean Sylvester both on “Glee” and Chris Burke (“Corky” from “Life Goes On”) do excellent work while living with Down’s Syndrome, so why cast, say, Juliette Lewis in “The Other Sister”? Still, actors ranging from Rosie O’Donnell in “Riding the Bus With My Sister” to Johnny Depp and Mary Stuart Masterson in Benny & Joon to Leonardo DiCaprio, who was nominated for his supporting role in “What’s Eating Gilbert Grape”, continue to show their acting chops struggling with challenges that millions of people living with disability face every day.

What do you think of stars playing people living with developmental disabilities?

Here’s Chris Burke in “Life Goes On”:

Here’s Billy Bob Thornton in “Sling Blade”:

Head to the comments and tell us who you think does a better job acting?

Listen to our podcast on Physical Disability in Film.

Sling Blade airs on IFC at 11:30 p.m. ET Sunday, Dec. 19 at 7:00 p.m. ET and Monday, Dec. 20 at 1:45 a.m. ET

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The Best Of The Last

Portlandia Goes Out With A Bang

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The end is near. In mere days Portlandia wraps up its final season, and oh what a season it’s been. Lucky for you, you can watch the entire season right now right here and on the IFC app, including this free episode courtesy of Subaru.

But now, let’s take a moment to look back at some of the new classics Fred and Carrie have so thoughtfully bestowed upon us. (We’ll be looking back through tear-blurred eyes, but you do you.)

Couples Dinner

It’s not that being single sucks, it’s that you suck if you’re single.

Cancel it!

A sketch for anyone who has cancelled more appointments than they’ve kept. Which is everyone.

Forgotten America

This one’s a “Serial” killer…everything both right and wrong about true crime podcasts.

Wedding Planners

The only bad wedding is a boring wedding.

Disaster Hut

It’s only the end of the world if your doomsday kit doesn’t include rosé.

Catch up on Portlandia’s final episodes on demand and at

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Your Portlandia Personality Test

The New Portlandia Webseries Is Going Your Way

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Carrie and Fred understand that although we have so much in common, we’re each so beautifully unique and different. To help us navigate those differences, Portlandia has found an easy and honest way to embrace our special selves in the form of a progressive new traffic system: a specific lane for every kind of driver. It’s all in honor of the show’s 8th and final season, and it’s all presented by Subaru.

Ready to find out who you really are? Match your personality to a lane and hop on the expressway to self-understanding.

Lane 10: Trucks Piled With Junk

Your junk is falling out of your trunk. Shake a tail light, people — this lane is for you.

Lane 33: Twins

You’re like a Gemini, but waaaay more pedestrian. Maybe you and a friend just wear the same outfits a lot. Who cares, it’s just twinning enough to make you feel special.

Lane 27: Broken Windows

Bad luck follows you around and everyone knows it. Your proverbial seat is always damp from proverbial rain. Is this the universe telling you to swallow your pride? Yes.

Lane 69: Filthy Cars

You’re all about convenience. Getting your car washed while you drive is a no-brainer.

Lane 43: Newly Divorced Singles

It’s been a while since you’ve driven alone, and you don’t know the rules of the road anymore. What’s too fast? What’s too slow? Are you sending the right signals? Don’t worry, the breakdown lane is nearby if you need it.

Still can’t find a lane to match your personality? Check out all the videos here. And see the final season of Portlandia this spring on IFC.

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Last-Minute Holiday Gift Guide

Hits from the '80s are on repeat all Christmas Eve and Day on IFC.

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GIFs via Giphy, Photos via The Everett Collection

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