What is it about?

The rollercoaster adventures of parenting three kids, dealing with disability and mental health - and discussing disability discrimination and how to tackle it.

Wednesday, 25 November 2009


Yep. It's been quiet here.

Not because we had nothing on. Quite the contrary.

In the school holidays, we took the kids to the movies. Or, well, Boo Boo and Beaver to the movies. Possum is not much of a movie-goer, he gets scared easily by the stories and doesn't like the darkness and the noise very much.

Anyway. Beaver likes movies that have singing and dancing in them. So we took him to see "Fame". You remember that? It follows the stories of some kids at a performing arts high school. It's inoffensive drivel. There is lots of singing and dancing, lots of self-affirmation and growth though overcoming adversity and hard work. All that. All fine.

But on the way home it struck me. There were white and black kids, and Asian kids. There was a token overweight one. A nerd, a cool kid, a Jew, and a gay kid. But not a single disabled one.

Young people with a disability clearly have neither talent nor ambition.

We often watch High School Musical, Camp Rock, some Hannah Montana (notice a theme here?) And it's the same there. All sorts, but no disabled. Surely movies with music as a theme can fit in a piano player using a wheelchair or a blind drummer? Many other movies too could surely accommodate a disabled character - say a deaf baseball player, a blind dancer, a teacher using crutches? And no, I don't mean a baddie with a disability as is traditionally the case. I mean just someone in the crowd. One of the minor characters.

It can be done. There are examples. Did anyone see that cheesy show British about the church choir? One of the sons was clearly on the Autism Spectrum (although it was never mentioned beyond him being "different") and a small person. They were just part of the characters. Nothing special. Just like in real life, they were simply "there:.

You know, it's very odd for disabled kids not to see themselves on TV. Not to have their hopes and lives and dreams reflected. To only every feature as "baddies". What sort of signal does that give? Can you imagine a show, any show, or any movie, that would not have a black or Asian character in it?

I am fed up with disabled people being invisible. I've written about this before. About how different races and different religions and sizes are nowadays well represented in popular media. Adds, books, movies, TV shows.

Well, I've had it with disability being invisible. With my kids being invisible. It's time for action. I'm starting a campaign right here, right now, to make disability visible in the media.

Just like once was the case with black people, I want to see a "token disabled person" in eveyr movie, TV show and book illustration - everywhere - in my lifetime. Whaddaya think my chances are?


Amanda said...

Have you seen the new show 'Glee'? Lots of amazing singing and one of the students just happens to be in a wheelchair! I think the episode 2 weeks ago was based around him and his disability. Great show :)

beauty obscure said...

I was also going to mention Glee. The movie Saved also has a character who uses a wheel chair. There is also the (not quite the same as fictional characters but still cool) documentary 'murderball' about a wheelchair rugby team.

Erin said...

Yeah. I was also going to talk about 'Glee'. It's one of my newest obsessions and it's very interesting to me how the character in the wheelchair is portrayed. I do agree with you though. You bring up a very valid point.

Anonymous said...

This recent post is pretty good:


Heike said...

Yes, Glee. Good start. There are some others that "got" the idea. But why do we all point to the same show. I want ALL of them. Not asking much, me...

Big brother, Little sister. said...

I also thought of Glee but not necessarily that positive about the whole disability issue as such. I also thought of Packed to the Rafters.
Cooper loves it when he is watching playschool and someone happens to have a wheelchair or walker or when Sofia does a show! Another kids show Yo Gabba gabba often shows kids with disabilities but you are right in that there needs to be WAY more representation - I was also thinking even something basic like catalogues Target.Big W etc never show disability. I hope oneday it is seen as part of normal life which of course it is.

Anonymous said...

Have you thought about writing to Mia Freedman on www.mamamia.com.au? She often has 'guest posts' to raise awareness about issues not potrayed in the media. It has a huge following (mostly mums) so would be a good start to give this the voice it needs.

OhWheely . . said...

Good campaign. I'll join.
There is a drama series called Cast Offs that started on UK TV Tuesday night about a group of disabled adults sent to a remote island for a fictional TV show.
The humour may be a bit too adult for the children but it looked very funny.

Try here
Not very good at links so hope this works.

Also a new film coming to cinemas called Avatar with one of the main characters in a WHEELCHAIR. Don't know the age it's aimed at tho.

Jacqui said...

Agent oso has characters with disabilities. I think the wot wots have cool powerchair's too. As for other representations, how about the character in private practice who uses one of the sit to stand powerchair's. I think it's getting better though I do think that accurate represntations of disability come from having an actor play the part who has a disability (glee - the actor talked about is able bodied).

Katie said...

Do you get Tracey Beaker over there? BBC Childrens' drama about Tracey, who lives in a children's home with several other unwanted (but cool) kids. One of them has CP... Look it up.

enablescotland said...

haha- cast offs is awesome, although not really suitable for kids. There is a great character i Tracy Beaker (Jaqueline Wilson book adapted for BBC) who has cerebral palsy though- definitely not a token disabled person.

Shannon said...

I just did a bit of research on disability in children's lit (for a multicultural lit class that DIDN'T COVER DISABILITY). I know that population make up is different in the US, but children with disabilities are the second largest minority population when you look at birth through age 19 here. We all thought of ONE show (don't get me wrong I'm lovin Glee) that is including a participating character who is disabled. One is not working for me either. I'll get on this bandwagon :)

Catherine M said...

I also enjoyed the music and the diversity of that cheesy BBC Church Choir show. I think the warmth of Sarah Lancaster also helped. The Kristen Scott Thomas Movie "I've loved you so Long" also had wheelchair users in street scenes and University lectures

Catherine M said...

I enjoyed that BBC Church Choir Show as I think Sarah Lancaster is a good actor with warmth. She was great in Rose & Malony". I enjoyed the music and the diversity. A movie that also depicted diversity was the Kristen Scott Thomas feature "I've Loved you so Long", set in France (in French) wheelchair users are seen in street scenes and in University lectures.