Thursday, March 17, 2011

Handi-capable People in Television Shows

This is not an "I hate disabled people" or an "I think that handicapped people should be euthanized" rant. While I am evil, I don't think that I am a dick. Please take into account the message.

I was reliving a fabulous episode of the Simpsons recently where Homer watches an episode of Nightboat (a parody of Knight Rider) whereby the hero solves crimes while driving his computerized talking boat. The thieves always get caught because they foolishly stay too close to a water source that Nightboat can steer into. Exasperated Bart and Lisa say "Every week there is a canal or an inlet, or a fjord. The premise is hilarious in a non serious setting because the idea of a having canal, inlet or fjord to drive into is absurd. But this is exactly what happens in television shows where people with disabilities are involved.

1) Commercials

First off why is every commercial geared toward kids seemingly stuck in the 80's? From their manner of dress to the way they talk. Just watch any Sunny D or Hot Pockets commercial and you'll see what I mean. What you will also see is that Sunny D puts an end to racism and the shunning of others who are different. In every commercial there is a collection of kids of different races who have assembled to play some competitive sport. What you also might see is Johnny Mcwheels in his wheelchair. Johnny Mcwheels is a paraplegic but he isn't going to allow his tragic accident or god given disability get him down. No! in fact, he's gonna be all smiles, you know why? Because he's going to toss in the winning basket, or catch the frisbee or do whatever else he can do without the use of his legs. After he scores, his friends will gather around and say "Great game! how bout some Sunny D."

a) First off, a kid in a wheelchair would have no chance against an opposing team of able bodied kids who can run and jump. Don't believe me? how many active wheelchair bound people are their playing in the NBA today? How easy would it be to reject another player who can only hold the ball four feet off the ground?

b) There is no possible way that the kid in the wheelchair would have (1) so many friends and (2) be well liked and appreciated by his friends. As a former long term cripple I can speak intelligently on the subject. People, especially teens do not want to be saddled with baggage of being friends with a cripple. Cripples are a blight and a sign of weakness in any friend group. I'm not suggesting that I endorse this rule, I'm just saying that is how it is. It's hard enough for teenage boys to get dates and get laid without being friends with the crippled kid. You can't show a crippled kid sitting in a basement playing role playing games with his three dorky friends though, that would be just too honest.

2) TV Shows

Blind people and deaf people. Once again I don't outwardly hate blind or deaf people, I just despise the way they are portrayed and the stories that are created for them on television shows. Why is it that every show that features a deaf or blind person always play up their disability as though it is a skill? In every CSI or mystery type show that uses a deaf person they are never portrayed as someone who is just barely getting by with their disability rather, they become the hero and are lifted to superior heights. 

The blind guy will conveniently find himself in a power out situation and all the lights go off. The only hope is for him to use his keen sense of hearing in order to thwart the bad guy, find the missing girl, or diffuse the bomb. Same goes for the deaf person. At some point in the show the criminal will be near them when they have their back turned. It will put the deaf person in a position of vulnerability. However, at the end of the show they will use sign language to the solve the mystery. The gorilla in the cage at the mansion of the guy who was murdered saw everything, and he knows sign language. Brilliant!

The only time that people on television are depicted with a debilitating disability are the main characters. If one of them gets shot in the back and has spinal damage they will be all bummed out. There's always that one scene where they remember themselves playing baseball and stealing home. Then they flash back into reality and they are in a wheelchair. They give a long look into the bathtub filling up with water and you can tell they are contemplating suicide. 

The definition of disabled is: the condition of being unable to perform as a consequence of physical or mental unfitness.

Why is it so difficult to write a storyline that depicts this subject realistically? People would have more sympathy for disabled people if they were aware of a what a struggle and grind being disabled actually is. Sure disabled people can have rich and fulfilling lives but I bet if you gave a blind man three wishes one of them would be spent on sight.


  1. You have point.
    And I'm trying to think of a tv series that doesn't fit with what you say above ie one where a disabled person is portrayed realistically, all I can think of is Timmy in South Park.

  2. There was this episode in the Crime/Drama program, The Mentalist, featuring a man in a wheelchair. Turns out he didn't really need a wheelchair and no one suspected him for the crime because, he says, that people see the wheelchair and instantly think of trust. I thought that was interesting because it gives a neutral view on disabled people.
    At least The Mentalist isn't pissing on disabled people.

  3. Cool, sounds like an interesting episode at the very least. Kind of reminds me of the movie Primal Fear where Edward Norton pretends to be a simpleton in order to get excused of a crime.

  4. so many people are uncomfortable with anything different, and the masses of turds who are writing and producing crappy t.v. live in the world where it is not cool to be okay with differences, and how dare anyone fat, gay, disabled, dwarf, giant, etc etc -EVER live a "normal" healthy life???
    these turds judge that which they do not know FIRSTHAND.
    and if they did, they'd probably hide it to get in with the guys in the big houses on the hills.
    i say, turn off the t.v., and read a good book!