Monday, 14 April 2014

On Rita Leeds and Arrested Development

Something that has always been a source of debate among Arrested Development fans is the Rita storyline and the question of whether it not it is disrespectful to mentally disabled people. Speaking strictly as someone who loves the show and has only dabbled in the fandom, I cannot say whether or not anyone from the disabled community has spoken on the storyline and whether or not is offensive. Based only on my observations as a viewer, though, I have always felt that the way the story was written was respectful to Rita specifically as a character. The true humour of the arc came not from mocking Rita's disability, but rather from highlighting what awful people the Bluths are in regards to their treatment of her.

Michael, of course, is horribly selfish from the beginning in his relationship with Rita, as he initially only approaches her in order to get her assistance in helping him view some classified documents. He becomes enchanted with Rita, but only because of her beauty, whimsical nature, and willingness to listen to him pratter on about his ridiculous problems. He knows almost nothing about Rita aside from the fact that she's British and lives with her uncle. If he had even bothered in the slightest to ask her about her life, he would have learned (as she would have offered the information gladly) that she is mega rich and mentally disabled. 

Secondly, the storyline also serves to highlight how truly awful the other Bluths are as well, as they see nothing wrong with marrying Michael off to a woman he knows absolutely nothing about (and who is terribly unsuited to him, his lifestyle, and family) because they want her family money.

I'd say that particular storyline is in a sense, part of the essence of Arrested Development, as it asks us to follow the lives of an extremely unlikeable family,  and tricks us into sympathizing with them until they do something so reprehensible that we are startled out of our comfort zone and forced to acknowledge the reality of the Bluths, and to recognize that they are people who, if we were watching their storyline unfold in real-life on the news, we would be cheering for their destruction and dissolution.


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