A discovery this past week has made me realize that we’ve got a regular feature here at Eliminating the Impossible. There are not one, not two, but THREE reality tv shows presently featuring disabled participants. To save you from having to actually watch the shows yourselves (or maybe you just having snark to add along with me) I’ll be commenting on the shows and whether or not they actually make some progress for the disabled as a public display, or if they insist on being exploitative.
We’ll begin with the show that started all this: Push Girls!
Two episodes have aired since my first critique and I have to say that the show has improved a little bit. There’s still an enormous amount of rhetoric which I’m immensely uncomfortable with, but on the whole, I think it’s gotten BETTER.
In Episode 2, we see Auti compete in an able bodied ballroom dance competition. It’s something we don’t see very often, disabled people competing with the able bodied. But it is just as much of a triumph as it is when she WINS the competition, we see all of the hard work and emotion that she puts into it. Her body gets pushed to its very limits, and I think this is a very important thing for the audience of this show to see – being disabled means you work twice as hard sometimes, to accomplish something which could have been done by an able bodied person in one fell swoop. Within the competition storyline, her dance partner says “I don’t just want it to be us doing cool stuff with your chair” which seems to be the most intelligent thing anyone has said during this series. He wanted to showcase her as a dancer, not showcase her as a woman in a chair. Exciting, no?
However, there’s an issue I have with the filming crew. We’re in the second episode, and it is the first time we’ve ever seen the ramps in Tiphany and Angela’s house. It is the first time we’ve seen much of an adaption to their surroundings, and I don’t understand why. Are we supposed to be unaware that they have a disability?
The biggest issues I have with the show still remain – The show is focused on their relationship problems (all of which are very real problems disabled people live with) Mia’s boyfriend says “Nobody ever sees themselves as the guy dating the girl in the chair” but follows it up with the fact that Mia is “awesome” so it’s OK.
Mia seems to have most of the issues I’m interesting in discussing. Her mother is not a picture perfect disabled mom – and I begin to question whether anyone is ever going to show us disabled parenting done right. So frequently in fiction (or in nonfiction) the parents of a disabled child reject them, or act as though they should just get over it. This is the case until Mia’s mom comes to LA, meets the Wheelie Beauty Squad, and declares them “inspiring”. Five point word right there! She also comments on the fact that most people don’t
Furthermore, their friend Chelsea seems to be OBSESSED with image. She says “They showed me that you can be beautiful in a wheelchair” during a scene where they try on high heels. Glamorizing the life of a woman in a wheelchair is hard to do, but this show seems to have done it. Mia’s mom even says it at the end of the third episode “I was amazing by how glamorous they were.” But there’s so much to life that isn’t glamorous.
Onto our next disability, in Masterchef!
What I thought was interesting is that they did exactly what I hoped they would do in this show. They equalized the playing field. There have been no ridiculous “Chop this many onions for an hour” challenges. Just cooking. And they gave Christine an aide so that she would be able to find things in the pantry. it is fascinating to see a woman with a cane just wandering after the rest of the cooks, charging into the pantry. She’s cooked some pretty delicious food, and while her last dish was “Sub Par” according to Gordon, it seems like she’s doing OK. I love that there has been NO blind snark shown between the contestants. I’m glad to see we’re not feeding off that drama.
And Finally: The Glee Project
Like Masterchef, we’re actually seeing the adaptions that are necessary to even the playing field for Mario, our blind singer and dancer! In the first episode, Mario teaches Zach Woodlee, the choreographer how to use the white cane, and see see him learning dance moves through physically being moved!
In episode two, we see him using sheet music in braille (which is awesome!) I love that they’re giving him such an opportunity, and that it seems totally fair and balanced.