Hello Beautiful! Do you know how much I love you? You are what makes me so excited about this blog. Your comments, your questions, your sweet sentiments just make me so happy! I was recently asked by another anonymous reader a question for a "From Where I Sit" piece. I think it is awesome that you feeling open enough to ask those tough questions. We're all friends here.
So this question is about how people with disabilities are portrayed in pop culture and if I am offended by any of it. I was so excited over this question because I think some of my thoughts on this topic you won't expect coming from a person with a disability. So let's dive right in. . .
Q. How do you feel about portrayals of handicapped people in popular culture like Joe Swanson on Family Guy or Timmy on South Park? I have to admit I find it funny when Coach Sylvester refers to Artie as a cripple on Glee. I almost peed myself laughing when Steven Hawking was having wheelchair sex with his wife on that episode of Family Guy where Brian went back to college. Some people have said it was un-PC but I think we take ourselves too seriously these days and need to lighten up. What are your thoughts?
A. I think these shows are HYSTERICAL!!! One of my very favorite shows is Glee (I'm a little obsessed actually) and Family Guy is another favorite for both my hubby and I.
Kevin McHale, for an actor who is not disabled, does a very good job in utilizing a wheelchair correctly in a show that is very " show/performance" oriented. When Sue chimes in with her "cripple" comments I laugh because that is just Sue. She cuts on everyone. Remember the episode where she was making her own Glee club and stealing all the minority kids. I loved her line, "Santana! Wheels! Gay kid! Asian! Other Asian! Aretha! Shaft!" It's great comedy.
OK, Family Guy. To me, if anyone is too uptight about darn near anything, they should not be watching this show because everyone and everything is made fun of. It is a cartoon people, and obviously things will be taken to the extreme because, well, it can be. I think it is too funny when Joe's wife is changing his diaper and their babies diaper. Maybe I can laugh at this because I don't have those restroom issues, but again, it is a cartoon. Laugh people!
Recently my hubby and I had the wonderful opportunity of being in the major motion picture film Dolphin Tale, a commercial for the Disney parks and another for Universal Studios Orlando. For the two commercials I was the only person with a physical disability. I was curious to see how the director would handle this. Would I be sent to the back corner of the shoot to not be in the main scene? Would I hardly be on screen period?
In all of these experiences I was treated with the utmost respect. I was even approached by the director on the Universal shoot on the great job I was doing and how happy he was with my "performance".
I bring these topics up because here I was getting a first hand account of how a person with a disability (me) was going to be portrayed in these different media pieces. In each one, I was treated no differently and my disability was not accentuated at all. They focused on me the person, not me, the wheelchair girl.
Getting back to the initial question of how I feel about portrayals of handicapped people in popular culture. . .I feel that for the most part I am on board and OK with it. I will say that sometimes I feel like a person with a disability is more times than not used as a charity case or the sad sob story. What pop culture really needs are the strong willed, independant and totally awesome individuals that have disabilities to portray exactly that. To show the world that their disability does not define them. Now that I want to see because I think those roles are somewhat lacking in pop culture. I would totally be up for that role! I'll be waiting for your call Hollywood!