Comedian Jerry Lewis will receive this year's Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award at the Oscars ceremony inside Hollywood's Kodak Theater. Outside, however, he may find himself the target of vilification by disability activists. For years Lewis' Muscular Dystrophy Association telethon, broadcast every Labor Day, has drawn criticism as an exploitative "pity show" relic from a bygone era. In 2001 Lewis dismissed his detractors with a line that has since become legendary:
"Pity? You don't want to be pitied because you're a cripple in a wheelchair, stay in your house!"
Writing in the Progressive,
Chicago activist Mike Ervin complains that "the damage Lewis has done
to the disability community goes far beyond name-calling. He and his
telethon symbolize an antiquated and destructive 1950s charity
promoted by TheTroubleWithJerry.net unsuccessfully requested the
Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Science to cancel its award to
Lewis. Today the group began a schedule of weekend protests, starting with a planned rally this afternoon at the
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Picture Academy in Beverly Hills. Saturday will see a noon protest
gathering outside the Kodak Theater near Hollywood and Highland (where,
ironically, Lewis' star is located), while Sunday, the day of the
Oscars, activists will assemble at Hollywood and Vine at 2 p.m. The afternoon could go down as the day Jerry's Kids rebelled.