The problem with the word ‘healthy’ – and why Chris Pratt has got it so wrong

The actor thanked his wife for giving him a ‘gorgeous healthy daughter’ and people are, quite rightly, upset

James Moore
Saturday 06 November 2021 12:51
<p>Katherine Schwarzenegger and Chris Pratt</p>

Katherine Schwarzenegger and Chris Pratt

Chris Pratt is best known for portraying the anti-hero Star-Lord in Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy franchise, but a recent social media post has turned him into a fully fledged villain in the eyes of some.

Earlier this week, the movie star took to Instagram to gush about his wife, Katherine Schwarzenegger. The problem with his otherwise anodyne, lovey-dovey musings was that he thanked her for giving him a “gorgeous healthy daughter”. That would be 14-month-old Lyla.

This was immediately jumped upon because it was interpreted as a passive aggressive swipe at his ex, Anna Faris. Their nine-year-old son, Jack, was born prematurely, and reportedly with some health problems at the time.

Now, it is quite possible that Pratt’s critics are reading far, far too much into his post, although I confess I’m not clued into the details of his relationship with either his current wife or his ex. I do love movies but I’m not hugely interested in the lives and loves of their stars, as reported by the entertainment press.

But Pratt’s post was still problematic, even though the actor is clearly far from the only parent to gush about their wonderful “healthy” baby when it is born, or to express a fervent desire for a healthy baby before it is born. Why? Because there are lots of babies that are not “healthy”, at least so far as society defines “healthy” when they are born. There are lots of babies born with medical conditions, or disabilities.

Does that make their parents bad people? Less worthy of thanks? Does that make their children less loved? Hell no, to all of those.

But how are those children supposed to feel when movie stars gush about their “healthy” kids as if that makes them deserving of a gold star?

The actors and songwriters Riki Lindhome and Kate Micucci – aka comedy folk duo Garfunkel & Oates – zero in on this in their snarky little ditty “Pregnant Women are Smug”. It is mainly inspired by their annoyance at their pregnant friends saying things like, “I don’t know what I did before I got pregnant”. But the song briefly stops for Lindhome to ask a supposedly expecting Micucci if she’s having a boy or a girl. The response? “Oh we don’t care, as long as it’s healthy.”

“Really, because I don’t feel those two things are related. At all,” an irritated Lindhome replies. The song continues: “I can’t wait to hear someone say, don’t care if it’s brain dead, don’t care if it’s limbless, if it has a penis.”

Tasteless? Maybe. But the song has a point. “So long as it’s healthy” implies two legs, two arms, and no physical disabilities. We don’t want them. Penis? Fine with that. Vagina? Ditto. Just so long as the baby is what society considers to be “normal”. If it’s not then you are clearly a BAD PERSON and a BAD MOTHER.

And my, how we love to judge mothers. Pregnant women might be smug, so the song goes, but mothers are invariably dumped upon. Especially if their child is what they like to call “special” these days.

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Disability is too often portrayed as a curse and a blight. It shouldn’t be that way. I’ve a friend with spina bifida. His brother has cerebral palsy. They’re both great people, who their parents are doubtless very proud of. I have Type 1 diabetes. I hope my mother feels I was worth it. She retweets my stuff a lot, so she must like what I have to say.

Disability is certainly a challenge, but that is, to a large degree, because society chooses to make it that way. So are health conditions. And, well, ditto. Pratt might not have intended to take a shot at Faris, but what he said was still insensitive, and not just to Faris.

I wouldn’t write a post like his with my wife’s picture on it because she’s a private person and would likely throttle me if I did. But here’s what I would do if I were going to thank her, bearing in mind that one of our kids is autistic. The latter is a challenge, and probably not what people mean when they say “healthy”,  but it doesn’t change the fact that I feel my whole clan is awesome. So, I’d say something like: “Thanks for my wonderful kids.”

That’s all. No, we don’t wish for them to develop health conditions, or disabilities. But if they do in future, they’ll still be awesome and worthy of thanks. The same holds true for their mother. Perhaps Pratt should say the same? To both his children’s respective mothers?

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