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Monday, December 27, 2010

Glee and the Glorification of Walking

I read many blogs on a regular basis. One such blog is Wheelie Catholic. Two fascinating posts made me think and get mad. The first dealt with the question of walking. People who cannot walk ask people such as myself who are paralyzed if they wish they could walk again. I answer this question with a resounding no and try to appear pissed off (an easy thing to do). I find the question itself insulting. It assumes the answer will be yes. That I desperately wish I could walk when that has not nor has ever been the case. Sure shortly after paralysis I wanted to walk again but knew such hopes were futile. Such hopes or dreams about walking are akin to wishing one would not age. It is just not possible and not worthy of thought. It does not take most newly paralyzed people long to move on with life--all those I know who are paralyzed are quite content. Yet popular culture via the mainstream media glorifies the small number of people that want to walk again. These people are often desperate, willing to undergo questionable surgeries, hold fund raisers for these efforts and do not question the overall significance of their actions. I have written about this before and gotten a few extremely critical replies. I do not mean to intentionally upset people that want to walk--I just reject their efforts as dehumanizing to the vast majority that do not share such a goal. If they want to waste their time on an unrealistic, though noble goal, fine for them. I just ask them to do so with a modicum of thought as the the bigger picture.

The second post I read at Wheelie Catholic had to do with a show I do my best not to watch--Glee. I do not at any level understand the shows popularity. I am usually offended by the character Artie who is portrayed by an actor without a disability. Artie and the show's writers are obsessed with walking. This works out well since they made sure not to hire an actor without a disability. Anyone familiar with paralysis and wheelchairs knows Artie is a poser--a bad one at that. He is also a sad sack--the show always has him wishing he could be, dare I say the word, normal. As Wheelie Catholic perceptively pointed out

"Participants emphasized that myths and assumptions about disability continue to be perpetuated in the popular show. Instead of using the show as a vehicle to turn this negativity around another generation is being honed on plots that include ablest notions. For example the Christmas show portrayed walking and a cure as every disabled persons wish. The plots include Artie wanting to play football, wanting to dance and do other things but never deal with the fact that sports and dancing are done by people in wheelchairs. Rather Artie is portrayed as depressed because he can't do these things.
It's a real slap in the face to those of us who live with a disability to see this kind of thing week after week. It completely ignores our disability culture and reinforces old and backward notions about disability."

A slap in the face--perfect words for what Glee represents. The Christmas show was particularly offensive as they had Artie using an exoskeleton to walk. I find such an invention a preposterous waste of time, resources, and labor. I showed the exoskeleton to my son earlier this year when the contraption appeared in technology magazines and he burst out laughing. "Dad" he said "obviously they never talked to anyone with a disability to come up with such a stupid design and idea". My boy gets it. And this as Wheelie Catholic points out is the real tragedy with Glee. The message sent remains the same--walking is Artie's goal, his dream to do things "normal" people can do like dance, play sports, and dance. Let me clue the writers in to a basic fact: people with disabilities do all these things, and quite well. I am a decent skier. I am a good kayaker. I am and always have been a bad dancer. I know some superb skiers, some can walk some cannot. I have seen some amazing dancers that could not walk as well. Just try a google video search if you doubt me. Or better yet watch the X Games or the Paralympics. I do not see any of these people wishing they could walk sporting a silly exoskeleon. Too bad we cannot make Artie as cranky as me. Imagine the scenes possible? A scary though my son just chimed in! Imagine this: "Artie don't you wish you could walk again?" Artie replies "That is ableist propaganda. Walking I will have you know is highly over rated. My wheelchair rules. I can sing, I can dance, I can do anything I want and none of it involves the ability to walk. You are a bigot!" When that sort of dialogue appears on a mainstream television program I will be living in the utopia of nondiscrimination. I doubt I will ever live in such a world but will always work toward that goal


Becs said...

Exactly why I stopped watching Glee. Artie is always marginalized. (And oh, dear Lord, please tell me they are not aiming for an "Artie's Miracle" episode. (Face palm))

Ruth said...

Thanks very much for your faithful readership and thoughts on this, Bill. Wishing you the best.

william Peace said...

Ruth, I always leave your blog enlightened. Your take on Glee was spot on. Best wishes for 2011.
Becs, I don't understand why Glee is popular and that extends beyond my criticism of Artie. Artie is indeed marginalized as ore others on the show. The entire show is based on gross stereotypes.

Unknown said...

I am not too sure what "Glee" is but please don't join that show and bring in the New Year as the New Year's Baby!
It's cold!

Unknown said...

Try to Keep the Holiday Spirit
Each family has at least one member who has more than the average amount of foibles.
Many years ago when my daughter was about age 6, we were invited to a family dinner. I was informed not only to bring about $80 worth of assorted junk but we all were to pay $2 a head since the host/hostess was serving roast beef.
I sent my husband to the store with a twenty and told him to pick up some decent fruit.
We all assembled at that household. Apparently they didn't pay their heating bill. It was freezing.
In keeping with the spirit we each plunked $2. down on the sideboard for "roast beef". Guess they didn't have enough electric to cook the cow. That cow wasn't just mooing but ready to get out the window and join the herd!
As I was thinking, "why didn't we bring a Bunsen Burner, my husband sat with a piece of cow on his for and asked, "Does anyone have a Bic Lighter?"
Apparently most were more than 3 sheets to the wind.
Forgot, dinner started with a cold fruit cup encased in ice and ice in it too!
Our poor daughter sat with her blond, curly pony tails behaving while everyone piled food onto her plate. "Try this! Aunt ____ made it", "Try this! Aunt _____ made it", and so on.
Mounds of food were dumped on her dinner plate past the point of her field of vision. My purse was overflowing with napkins into which she stuffed the food she hated and to appear as if she was eating.
Her breaking point came when someone said to her "Try this! It has dill in it!" She firmly stated that she didn't like dill.
All in all, a good time was had. Despite freezing with had the opportunity to spend time with people we hadn't seen in years.
We thawed out in the car going home.
That is part of the story of our $2. dinner and we have fond memories of it.
Peace to All

erika said...

I never really understood the popularity of Glee, but I just chalked it up to being an un-gleeful European. Now, a grumpy-Artie character would make the show way more appealing :)

Unknown said...

Who gives a horses patoot about "Glee" and other such shows. Isn't this the season of the year to at least try to make a fresh start?

william Peace said...

Ginger, Glee is wildly popular with teens, especially girls. The show annoys me to no end. This annoyance is easy to avoid, I only watch the show when pushed by others. As for family, I accept my sibling for who they are and this is easy as I have as many if not more flaws.
Erika, Can you imagine a TV show with a parent with a SCI. There is so much fodder for advancing not only great humor but a civil rights approach to disability.

Unknown said...

Appreciate your clarifying "Glee". For shows like that, I use my off button. Any successful show includes parents and other generations.
There may be a sit com which includes disabled people.
We never know!
Happy New Year!

Unknown said...

This a book which might be of interest to you. Of course it is of medical nature but includes the human aspect and the generation gap. "Tales From Inside The Iron Lung", Regina Woods, David E. Rogers.
Medicine sure has come a long way!

Unknown said...

Then, please go to youtube and listen to Itzhak Perlman, world famous violinist stricken at age 4 with polio, play Chopin Nocturne in C sharp minor.

Unknown said...

I'm afraid you do have certain things to learn about disabilities other than yours. When I wrote about the $2 Dinner, I was tired and did not include the part where a polio victim, myself, wearing metal braces, cannot take the chance of snapping any part of the brace due to cold temperatures. Also, extreme cold against flesh is extremely painful.
Am sure you will understand.