Whatever Happened to Frida's Polio?
By Dave Reynolds, Inclusion Daily Express
January 29, 2003
LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA--The movie "Frida", which was released last fall, was a beautiful -- yet highly stylized -- portrayal of the life of Mexican painter Frida Kahlo.
The film makes it clear that Kahlo, who was also famous as the wife of muralist Diego Rivera, had a disability. In one vivid slow-motion sequence, we see a young adult Kahlo in a bus accident which caused to her be impaled by an iron handrail. The rail broke her spine in 3 places and exited her vagina. She had numerous surgeries and was in pain for most of her life following the accident.
For years she painted while laying flat on her back in bed, using a reflection in a mirror attached to the ceiling to guide her hands to her work.
After watching the movie a few months ago, I searched the Internet to learn about this impressive woman.
The first biographical sketch I found mentioned that Kahlo contracted polio when she was 6 years old, which resulted in her having a "withered leg" and "left her with a limp". The Web site went on to say that she complained about it causing her much pain and grief. (In fact, a close look at her "Self-Portrait with Cropped Hair" below reveals the smaller right leg.)
The movie mentions nothing about Kahlo's polio. In fact, mid-way through the movie we see Selma Hayak, the actress who portrays Kahlo, dancing apparently without pain, and climbing an ancient Mexican pyramid.
Writer and disability rights activist Marta Russell, a long-time Kahlo fan, also noticed this strange omission.
"Historically incorrect (surprise) what does the omission say about disability?" Russell asked in a piece in Sunday's CounterPunch. "Why did the filmmaker decide to obliterate the polio?"