“May you overcome your obstacles”: reconsidering Pedro Almodóvar's Hable con ella/Talk to Her (2002) through the disability studies lens

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Beginning with its initial sequence, impaired perception emerges as a central motif of Pedro Almodóvar's Hable con ella/Talk to Her (2002). This is especially evident in those scenes that contribute toward our awareness of the psychopathic condition – arguably a disability – that gives way to the character Benigno's gross misreading of an impossible romantic relationship with his comatose patient, Alicia. Though left as an unresolved matter in the diegesis, this implied psychological disorder parallels a dynamic at play in our own perceptive experience as spectators of the film. Almodóvar's drama provokes a muddled, even contradictory, vision of Benigno as both hero (caring nurse) and villain (rapist), not to mention as a victim himself – a social misfit, for one, but also (and though it cannot excuse his crimes) a person with a potentially untreated cognitive disability. This essay will frame this film's diverse iterations of blurred vision in relation to its heretofore unexamined problematization of bodily disability and, in particular, recovery. Namely, it will consider the thorny issue of how we are to interpret Alicia's uncanny return to “normalcy” by way of rape, pregnancy and miscarriage. Highlighting how the circumstances of this awakening place her recovery narrative in a highly unsettling space, this paper proposes that Hable con ella ultimately offers a critique of ableist culture's facile rhetoric of overcoming.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)45-61
Number of pages17
JournalJournal of Spanish Cultural Studies
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2 2016


All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Cultural Studies
  • History

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