A friend of mine told me that this programme that takes a look at how disability is portrayed on TV in the last 50 years. While planning our evening timetable of TV, my beau asked me if this was going to one of those programmes that upset me and would have me shouting at the TV screen. Probably, I replied. I wasn’t confident about the angle the show especially considering it has comedian David Walliams narrating and listed the restricted growth community’s ‘friend’ comedian Stephen Merchant as one of the contributors.
The list of disabled contributors was commendable – actors Matt Fraser, Kiruna Stamell, CBeebies presenter Cerrie Burnell and Para-Olympian Tanni Grey-Thomson to name but a few.
The points made by the disabled comedienne Francesca Martinez got me thinking. Is portraying and making fun of disability on shows such as Extras, on which she featured, really equate to equality? Having the ability to laugh at your own disability as well as how others treat you because of it? Somewhere in the back of my head it makes sense, but I still can’t help but think that the jokes on the person with the disability, cloaked in a shroud of so-called choice and self-justification.
Comments from other comedians such as Jimmy Tarbuck had my blood boiling at times, but what I think these attitudes really highlighted was what era you came from and what was/is deemed as acceptable way to humour a minority group. What I did find interesting was how both Tarbuck and Merchant, comics from two different generations appeared to have very little awareness of what is an acceptable form or way of humouring the disability community, how the joke may not seem so funny disabled person on the receiving end it, nevermind the ramifications such stereotyping has on a particular disabled group when they are left to deal with consequences of such jokes in the wider world.
I’m with the wonderful Kiruna Stamell’s comments for the need for more disabled people in soaps and letting people see the mundane life that we usually lead to help counter balance the prevailing stereotypes that the programme highlighted. Of course in my biased opinion, especially so for people with restricted growth.
It was a good piece of TV and I am grateful that there are more and more positive/evaluative disability related programming appearing in print and on TV. Though after watching this, I can’t help but wonder, if we’ve still a way to go to portray as rounded individuals.
Sigh, I would so love to see a programme that takes an irreverent look at ‘normies’ from a disabled point of view on TV over the past 50 years instead. That would be funny.
Oh and by the way, I did shout at the TV… twice.
Watch while you can here – available until approx. 06/07/10