We last left the “So, Courageous!” argument between the spider and the fly with the spider about to critique the portrayal of peoples with disabilities in the media. Let’s resume:
“Fly, you said you found stories of the disabled in the media truly inspirational, but I think that the media takes advantage of the disabled to sell stories of hope. These are not genuine portrayals of peoples’ lives but rather are personal events edited into a feel-good paradigm. For instance, if this little Russian orphan with no legs can get a black belt in Karate, think of what you the audience could accomplish. There is nothing wrong with hopeful messages. Hope is a wonderful thing, but when the majority of stories about peoples with disabilities happen to fit this paradigm, I grow suspicious. Maybe these are not just random occurrences but a systematic and detrimental manipulation of peoples with disabilities in media.” Said the Spider to the Fly.
“But Spider, media presents many hopeful stories, not just about peoples with disabilities. If people felt these were distasteful, they would speak up, or not desire the programming." Said the Fly to the Spider.
“That's true Fly, and personally I find just about all these hope-filled stories distasteful. They feel like inspirational candy that is overly sweet to the taste, leaving me with a fleeting enjoyment as I ingest it followed by a predictable pain in my stomach and regret for having succumbed to the temptation. Many human stories in today’s world of fast paced media tend to be abbreviated to an artificial level so that they no longer seem genuine, but rather become a tool to sell a newspaper or advertising space. Hope sells because we all want to believe great things can happen, and these stories often reinforce that sense. Peoples with disabilities are a target to fill such stories because the dramatic and unusual challenges they face make their individual achievements even more inspiring. The able bodied population apparently finds nothing wrong when peoples with disabilities are constantly presented as a the final hope inspiring act to close out the 5 o'clock news. The population must be educated to see how limited their experience is of the disabled, and to demand a more respectful way of representing these people in their community. So to address your thoughts fly, that the media present genuine inspirational stories, I say, at what cost? How many peoples’ stories are being manipulated and edited to fit this pattern? Why aren’t other stories of disability being shown?" Said the Spider to the Fly.
This blog is about reconciling the two worlds of disability understanding. On one side are the strong voices of activists in the disability community. On the other is the well meaning but naïve/ ignorant able bodied population who see disability as something pitiable. As an able bodied person who has realized the very compelling and interesting arguments about society and life coming from the disability community, I am compelled to referee the exchanges between the two sides. Often times it seems that everyone is speaking so loudly and with such great conviction that the other doesn't even listen. Since I am not personally motivated by either side, I can weigh both sides of the arguments and hopefully facilitate an open and accepting space for both sides to express themselves and learn about each other. Please join the discussion!