Based on a true story, the movie “Radio” follows a young man named James Robert Kennedy. It opens up showing a bit of insight in his life as he walks through town with a cart avoiding eye contact, insults, and speaking to others. He gets called a moron by a man, and children are shooed away in the first few minutes. It is clear he is different from the people he is around as he walks daily with a cart full of his things and his radio.
Walking past the football field like usual, he one day stumbles upon a football thrown over the fence, and when he doesn’t listen to a players demands to return it he again gets insulted called “dummy” He makes gestures by waving his hands in the air, specifically his right one, and makes no eye contact. He acts as if he cannot hear what he has been told and makes no effort to talk. He shows obvious signs of an intellectual disorder. The first incident that happens in the movie is when he is bullied and taped up, thrown in a shed by the football player who called him a dummy and some team members.
When the football coach, Coach Jones, finds him he’s terrified and runs away from the crowd as fast as possible. He displays more traits of his disorder by appearing a bit socially awkward. As the movie progresses Coach Jones takes him under his wing, inviting him to practices and even noticing his infatuation with radios enough to give him the nickname Radio. Radio visits daily practices and games, and becomes a friend of much of the team. Coach Jones gets him to talk more, interact, and even begins teaching him at school in a classroom. Radio is ecstatic about sports and shows his love of his friends and school.
However, Radio’s stability is questioned by residents of the town and his previous bully’s father when the death of his mother strikes and he is left alone in the home. The connection he has come to share with Coach Jones is proven after Radio’s mother dies and the coach is the only one there to console him. Towards the end the parents hold a meeting to discuss allowing Radio to be a part of the school and sports. Coach Jones and his family attend and stick up for Radio against those parents who believe he is too risky to always be around the school.
Certain people could not understand why Radio was different at first, but at the end he had come to be adored by so many people, including his original bully. Overall, the story of Radio portrayed a young man with an intellectual disability that was never given a specific label by doctors. He adapted well socially to being in a school environment around other students and staff, and despite a few downfalls he was accepted by mostly everyone, and spent the rest of his life in high school and as a football coach doing what he loved. As for Radio’s disorder, it was described to be something that had never been given a name.
After some research further into the movie I found out it was a genetic disorder that was likely passed down from his father. The book Special Education in Contemporary Society explained, for intellectual disorders there is not much research that has been able to fully define what an intellectual disorder is or how it happens. There are many different interpretations, and each case comes to be very different. In Radio’s case because his seemed to be genetic, there wasn’t much research the doctors had done with it either, and instead he was just labeled with a disorder.
He had however been able to learn things like how to navigate to and from home, about radios, he recognized faces, and spoke minimally. His cognitive functioning was very low for his age, and he did not know how to write his name when being taught. Although, these are obviously common traits of an intellectual disorder, he was able to learn many other things too. He mimicked the coaches and player, he picked up how he could coach the team, he was able to recite the menu for lunch to the entire school, and also hold a converse so much better.
Radio’s disorder was stimulated by the people he came to be around all the time. The students and coaches taught him new things and gave him a sense of importance, which brought him out of his nonverbal shell that the coach had met him in for the first time. Also in the movie was a series of pranks and mean things said by people in order to portray the people who were not understanding or accepting of Radio’s disorder. The movie’s portrayal of these things was to show they can occur in everyday life because people with disorders cannot always stick up for themselves.
Radio was very easily influenced from the boys on the football team because he wanted acceptance. He felt that he was one of them, and they were his real friends. In the movie, when the boys told him a coach needed help in the girls’ locker room, he was aware that he was not supposed to be in there, but was not keen on disappointing her or the boys. Also, he was called multiple names during the movie and even labeled as mentally retarded out of someone’s ignorance to his disorder. Another problem that was brought up was Radio’s mother’s concern for how he manages on his own when she is at work.
She said she constantly worries about if he is okay, and if he will make it back home safely. In the world of people with diseases and disorders these are very real daily life stressors that they and their family have to deal with. My personal reflection on this movie is that is gave a very strong message out to its viewers. I think it did very well to open people’s eyes that there are disorders out there, and though people may not develop like the rest of us, they are still functioning people in our society. Radio was able to be part of something much bigger which was a community.
There were many problems with him fitting into society and many skeptics but the movie brought all of those events together to lead up to his happy ending where he became loved by hundreds of people in the school and town. The actor playing radio especially did a wonderful job in capturing the role of someone with an intellectual disorder. I would definitely recommend this movie to anyone who wants to learn more about how people can function with intellectual disorders and the problems associated with it within a good story.