Saturday, April 18, 2009

"Little Oddity"

[Originally posted 8 October 2008, 7:19pm.]

Yahoo ran a story today about Gemma Arterton, actress in the forthcoming James Bond film, who was born with six fingers on each hand.

In the article, Arterton claims, "It's my little oddity that I'm really proud of." Perhaps it is simply a language issue, but she appears to use the present tense when referring to her hands: "it's" does not mean "it was," but "it is." Having had her extra digits removed, and thereby removing all trace of her polydactyly (except her pride and some ambiguous scars), is it reasonable for her to imply that it still exists? Furthermore, does the use of "little" seem a little condescending? Perhaps she would not find her oddity so dimunitive if she had ever lived with the frustrations of having a visible physical difference.

I'm sure I'm being particularly hard on the woman, but it seems unjust that she should claim her oddity as a source of pride having never really known it. I'm pleased that she is secure enough to share her woes with Esquire (Esquire, seriously?), for she could simply hide the fact and we would be no wiser, but her simultaneous pride and condescension make her seem opportunistic (Esquire?).

Still insisting on present tense, Arterton claims that her former polydactyly "makes [her] different," but using that logic, I'm "different" because I was born with a slightly pointy head. (If my head is still pointy, no one is going to know, because my hair is much too huge to reveal the shape of my skull.) While "different" certainly applied at the time of her birth, Arterton cannot use a past circumstance to define who she is now. Her extra fingers don't exist now, so her difference was, not is.

Again, I'm sure I'm being much too hard on the young woman, and I'm tearing apart language about which most people would not think twice. But language is ridiculously powerful, no matter how little the words. Arterton's message that oddities are trivial and her implication that they are acceptable as long as they no longer exist betrays a frighteningly narrow and unrealistic view of "oddities" of any size.

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