About the Documentary
Disabled But Able To Rock follows the life of Betsy Goodrich, a high-functioning autistic woman and her singing superhero alter ego, Danger Woman. As Danger Woman, Betsy fights the Tri-phobes: Race-ophobia; Homophobia; and Disable-phobia, with her high-octave voice and her eccentric group of friends from the underground subculture of Atlanta. Danger Woman has made a cultural impact in her hometown by assisting in the founding of the comic convention DragonCon, recording 6 full albums, and performing at various cultural events. Her exploits even inspired the rock band, The Aqua Bats, to write a song based on her titled “Danger Woman.”
Perhaps even more than when she is playing the part of Danger Woman, however, the real Betsy struggles to fit into normal society. As Betsy’s home life is revealed, it becomes obvious that dysfunction is prevalent: the house is unkempt, disorganized, and unsanitary; Betsy’s older brother, Jebby, is severely autistic and schizophrenic; her mother, Susan, is a depressed, obese diabetic that wrestles with the burden of caring for two disabled children on a daily basis. Betsy uses the glamour and allure of Danger Woman as an escape from her domestic life and to spice up the banalities of her everyday existence as a book clerk. Her hard working job counselor has been assigned to help Betsy stay mostly gainfully employed but, finds that Betsy’s acclimatization into a normal working schedule is exacerbated by her difficult home life.
Suddenly, Betsy’s life is rocked by the death of her mother. Suddenly alone, Betsy and Jebby are saved by the arrival of their long-absent cousins, Paul, Dean, and Brenda. The cousins’ crash course in Betsy and Jebby’s lives is rife with the sobering complexities of being the guardians of disabled adults. They turn to Jewish Family and Career Services (JFCS), a non-profit organization for disabled people and place Jebby and Betsy in separate group homes with other mentally disabled people. Though Jebby suddenly begins to thrive, the cousins soon realize that, despite her abilities to function like an adult during some situations, Betsy’s strong desire for independence combined with her trusting inclination make her vulnerable to the predatory elements of society. After a lifetime spent under the disciplinarian eye of her mother, the cousins try their best to balance Betsy’s wishes for freedom with the need to protect her. This does not sit well with Betsy and she hires a lawyer in an effort to establish her mental competency within the Georgia legal system. This effort wins the respect of the cousins and ends with an arbitrated agreement that maintains their guardianship while protecting Betsy’s right to vote and to marry upon their approval.
Despite her victory, Betsy’s new life in the JFCS group home brings forth a new set of challenges. Though her mother could be protective, she did allow Betsy much more unsupervised freedom than her guardians at the group home. For the first time in her life her internet contacts with the ‘Normal” outside world are monitored. She has a set bedtime. She longs for a “normal” boyfriend to marry and to one day live on her own, but in many ways feels even more trapped than before.
Using home movies, interviews, old photographs and performance footage the film will take the viewer on a journey beneath the veneer of her disability and examine the hopes a dreams of woman who gets older, but cannot grow up.
The director began what has become a near decade long journey with very little knowledge of filmmaking, but with a burning fascination and admiration for his subject. Shooting over a span of eight years on multiple formats and with hundreds of hours now shot and logged, he- and the film- have matured. Characterized by raw, immediate visuals and a homegrown touch, the film has grown as the filmmaker has grown, and has become much more than the chronicle of an entertaining street character. It has become a study of a mentally disabled adult trying to make her own way in the world.