This means that Lori has to wheel Dori around in a contraption that seems more fit for performing chimps. That's why my brother was fairly confident that these two hadn't strolled off window-shopping. We stood at a discreet distance and kind of ogled for a while. My brother wondered why they were in town, but my thought was that we were near Montel Williams' studio.
It was a very nice return to the glory of Times Square, and I don't mean the diseased recent heyday of porn theaters and slasher films. I mean the Times Square heyday of flea circuses and grind shows. You didn't even have to pay a dime to see the Schappell Twins.
Still, not that many people were gawking. It's fortunate that my brother and I were there. As it turns out, we were providing vital balance. I now know what the Schappell Twins were doing in town: they were busy filming Face to Face: The Schappell Twins. This documentary debuted last week on the A&E Channel, and provided a weird new twist in both arts and entertainment.
Now, there's nothing wrong with the enjoyment of grotesqueries. I'm as likely as any other hipster to have a copy of Freaks around the house. My desk has a framed autographed photo of Pete Moore, whose height measured 16 inches when sitting erect. Pete Moore, however, died long ago at a relatively old age. He seemed like a sweet man, but let's not slight modern science for abolishing his kind. The simple fact is that many people?both parents and unborn?have benefited from a Death March of Dimes.
It is simply good that many modern horrors have never been born. Despite the film's best intentions, this remains the recurring message of Face to Face. Check out the scene where the Schappell sisters visit the Central Park Zoo?even the monkeys can grasp that these dames are against God's law. People are less intelligent. The true star of Face to Face is Alice D. Dreger, PhD and professor of anatomy. This learned lady steals the show as she tries to convince us that the Schappell sisters are a fine idea. Consider the doctor's deep thought on why people can't stop staring at Lori and Dori: "People aren't attracted to a really beautiful supermodel?like Iman?for terribly different reasons."
Dr. Dreger is a hot-looking redhead who's nicely balanced between nerdy gal and beautiful woman. There's likely a deep psychological reason for that. Still, my personal research shows that I'm attracted to Dr. Dreger for a very different reason than I'm attracted to Lori and Dori. I would like to have sex with Dr. Dreger. I would like to have 20 percent of the gate on a Schappell Sisters tent at the county fair. A distinction is easily made between what's sexual and what's repulsive. At least for some of us. Dr. Dreger mentions that she's married. Maybe her husband is covered in disfiguring tumors.
I don't think so, though. The executive producer of Face to Face is noted journalist Linda Ellerbee. Meaningless declarations are a recurring part of the Ellerbee philosophy. We all remember when Ellerbee told us to start inviting homeless people into our homes, don't we? And we all had the same response: You first, Linda.
Face to Face?in that Ellerbee tradition?is a definitive liberal film. The basic conceit is that Lori and Dori are pathetic. Therefore, we must ignore that they are pathetic. Instead, we are supposed to use sheer force of will to act like they are our equals. Never mind that Lori and Dori act as if they're retarded. It's not their fault. The sisters were raised in a home for retarded people, and they struggled to prove themselves intelligent. They're retarded in the way of any bad modern liberal. They can't quite understand simple realities. Again, that's not their fault. Like many schoolchildren, they've been encouraged to be delusional at every turn.
"Right now," says Lori, "I'm not concentrating on dating." This statement is allowed to pass without comment. The filmmakers pretend that Lori actually has an option. There are many fine, well-adjusted guys just dying to hook up with a hunchback who has another human being growing out of her head. To pretend otherwise is to take away her status as a human being. It's like using words such as "nigger" or "fetus."
Lori and Dori are, in fact, the perfect product of a good liberal upbringing. They've been well-trained in absurd semantics. They've been trained to refer to the retards they grew up with as "clients" of the institution. They're also full of weird pronouncements, matched with a total lack of insight. "I'm infallible," explains Dori, "just like anyone else."
Does this mean that Dori is confused? Or is Dori really reflecting the feel-good philosophy that assures us that everyone is equal? If Dori has been convinced she can do anything she wants, then she must be just like anyone else. There are self-esteem classes in our public schools that are producing all kinds of similar weird thinking. Dori is, in this sense, a normal modern liberal.
Lori and Dori are, naturally, presented as victims of mindless discrimination. The continuing message is that these sisters are here, they're queer, and we better get used to it. Lori has a touching tale of discovering "discrimination," as she begins to search for a job after graduating as a nurses' assistant.
Now, there's nothing cruel about any responsible institution rejecting a one-eyed nurses' assistant who comes attached to an entirely different person. It's much more cruel to encourage an unwieldy mistake of nature to think she could ever be employed as a nurses' assistant. Still, nobody wanted to make Lori feel bad. It was better that she waste her time in a futile pursuit.
Don't worry, though. Dori can pay the bills as a country & western singer. She got a recording contract from a small label at the end of an episode of Jerry Springer. Dr. Dreger is quick to put things in perspective, though: "What [Springer] is doing with Lori and Reba is particularly subversive... because he's not treating them with pity." She adds that the recording contract wasn't awarded out of pity, either. She might actually be right. Perhaps the people at the record label weren't good Christians. Maybe the contract was awarded out of good old exploitation.
Don't worry about that, either. Dr. Dreger comes prepared with a rationalization: "Movie stars and models make a huge amount of money off of their looks." And don't forget those freakishly tall NBA stars. As the doc explains, "They make money essentially off of that anatomy." Never mind the mad skillz, yo.
Ergo, Lori and Dori aren't freaks. They're just blessed with a wonderful uniqueness. Now, Dr. Dreger worries about other people who might win the two-headed lottery. She's afraid that bad things like ultrasound and prenatal care may someday eliminate things like Lori and Dori. Dr. Dreger has good reason to worry. It seems that she has her own "genetic condition." Dr. Dreger explains that she was born with the inability to earn as much money as men, and that she is at much higher risk of being raped.
That's right, folks. Dr. Dreger's "genetic condition" is having been born female?although I feel compelled to personally confirm that information. Dr. Dreger is also, presumably, one of those feminists who are adamantly anti-abortion. At least, we hope she is. There are some women out there who are simply nuts. I've actually met one woman who explained to me that she would abort a healthy child, but have a disabled one. This was built around some notion that the imperfect deserve to be protected. It sounded more like this woman was simply looking for a hobby.
As the t-shirts say, God does not make junk. He is, however, clearly capable of interesting pop art. It would be really nice if the horribly disfigured Dori could open her mouth and sing like an angel. But she doesn't. She sings like a drunk barmaid. That's not necessarily bad. I'd still buy her CD for the novelty value. She could open for Mr. Bungle out in L.A. Those guys love giving their audience a cheap thrill.
But could we have a documentary that explores all that? Couldn't we even have a documentary that addresses the horrific physical pain that these two sisters daily inflict upon each other?
The answer is no. That would be mean-spirited. The lie is preferred. Heck, we don't even like to profile Stephen Hawking without dwelling on his lovable human side. Otherwise, he'd be making us feel like underachievers.
Face to Face can't even bow out with a simple emotional moment. Instead, the filmmakers require a finale as grotesque as their subjects. This requires a low-budget music video of Dori singing "Fear of Being Alone." All of the Schappells' supporters come to join them in a park. As Dori sings, Lori stomps her feet in a deranged perversion of line-dancing. By the end of the song, all the normal people gather around the twins. These healthy men and women sing, dance and clap while circling this mistake of nature. I haven't seen anything this pagan since the final scene of The Wicker Man.
The good news is that honest minds will continue to prevail. Consider the day that Lori and Dori were wheeling around Times Square. My brother and I were there to attend a Backstreet Boys concert at the New Amsterdam Theater. At the same time, Ricky Martin was being interviewed on MTV's Total Request Live. As a result, the streets were full of teenage girls running after their physical ideals. Lori and Dori were sitting right across the street from the parking deck for the MTV studios. The backs of 50 screaming adolescents wereturned to them. Honestly, nobody even noticed those freaks.