Like pretty well everyone who went to high school in the 1980s, I liked Michael J. Fox. Not in a screamy, crushy, posters-all-over-my-wall, die-for-him way (uh, that would have been the guys in Duran Duran), but in a he’s-cute, he’s-funny, I’m-proud-he’s-Canadian way. This was a star who deserved his success. He packed a huge comic talent in a compact frame, with so much energy bristling off him that you could almost see it, the way people’s hair stands out around their heads like a halo when they’re full of static electricity. He’s the little guy with a big personality, who often gets in over his head but, with sheer moxie, manages to haul his cute butt out of every scrape. There is simply no way you could overlook him, and that’s what carried him on to success beyond the usual teen-idol crap. On Spin City, he was the manic glue that held City Hall together. As Marty McFly, he went Back to the Future not once, but three times–each movie eagerly anticipated almost before the previous one was out–thus proving to be a real-life time-traveller. On Family Ties, he humanized Alex P. Keaton–a character who was so arch-Republican that he would have been a complete and insufferable snotball, like Tucker Carlson, if anyone else had played him. No one else could play him! Fox’s Alex could take a serious pratfall and actually learn from it. It was that rare ability to make and keep Alex real that kept me watching what would otherwise have been just another forgettable ’80s sitcom.
Now he’s battling a chronic, degenerative disease. Talk about taking a pratfall–only this one’s not an act, and it’s probably a helluva lot harder for him to pick himself up when his limbs don’t quite want to co-operate. But the inner grace that made Michael J. Fox so easy to like, even when he played smart-ass Alex, has served him well, and now that everyday life is full of unintended pratfalls, heaven knows he can use it.
And he does.
He uses it to raise awareness of Parkinson’s Disease. And also to garner support for the most promising avenue of future treatment, not just for Parkinson’s but for a vast number of previously incurable conditions: stem-cell research. And though he shouldn’t have to use it the way he’s most recently had to–namely, to overcome the dirty campaigns of the far-right opponents of anything to do with stem cells and reproductive freedom–he’s using it there, too, with all the characteristic aplomb of old. If anyone deserved to have the hope of being cured and going back to using his talent the way he did before he became ill, Michael J. Fox is surely that one.
Which is why it’s truly disgusting to hear the way Rush Limbaugh slammed him this week, claiming his jerks and wobbles were just an act to gain sympathy–or that he’d deliberately neglected to take his medication in order to look sicker. This obviously is not the case. And that is why it’s good to hear from Fox himself what’s really going on. You come away with a greater sense of why he’s doing what he does–and why what he really wants is not anyone’s pity for his victimhood, but a cure. And most of all, you want as badly as he does for the research that could help him to go ahead–not just to see him cured, but so he and and everyone else in that situation can have a complete, healthy life. As he says, that’s the REAL pro-life position. And it is unconscionable to let any ideology lay waste that hope.
So, here he is in his own words, talking with Katie Couric:
Hey Rush, how’s it feel to get the smackdown from a little guy with more grace in his shaky pinky than you have in your entire corpulent carcass?