Recently, I got an email through my cerebralpalsynetwork Yahoo group about a new "faith based reality show" about people with disabilities. Naturally, I was interested...until I clicked open the email and saw that the title of the show was "Special People, Normal World".
The name alone made me want to bang my head against the table. It's obviously a horrible play on the name of the popular reality show "Little People, Big World" which deals with disability issues sometimes, since both parents and one of their four children are little people. Now, don't get me wrong, I love "Little People, Big World"; it's one of my favorite shows. But "Little People, Big World" doesn't focus entirely on disability. And it doesn't try and hide it, either. Disability is simply THERE, and if it comes up, it comes up. I like that. This new show doesn't seem to have any of those qualities I just mentioned...it's completely focused on disability. Which is not necessarily a bad thing, if disability is portrayed in the right way.
I want to talk more about the name. The word "special" makes me cringe. I know I've talked about this on this blog before. One of the definitions of "special" from dictionary.com is "extraordinary; exceptional, as in amount or degree". This makes me so angry; it's exactly the opposite of what disabled people have worked to achieve. We're trying to NOT stand out in society, we're trying to fit in! We all have our differences, true. But, in the immortal words of my favorite Trisha Yearwood song: "With all these ways to be different, then maybe that's how you fit in". When people call us "special", they're singling us out. We might as well have a big blinking neon sign above our heads that says "freak". And the contrast of the name-"Special People, Normal World" seems to imply that we are NOT normal, and we never will be. The word "normal" is disturbingly subjective. In my opinion, I AM normal, in my own way. CP IS normal for me. The title of this show seems to be pointing a finger at us, telling us that we're not normal, and it's not right for us to not be normal.
So with all that in mind, I proceeded to go to the website and watch the "sneak peek" of the show.
Kristi, the host of this show, starts off the sneak peek with a description of her own experiences raising a child with a mitochondrial disease. She says: "Doctors were telling me to take my angel home...and love her for the way that she was...I refused to accept this for my daughter." Obviously she didn't mean the comment to come off this way, but it seems like she's saying that she cannot love her daughter the way she is...with a disability. Once again, there's that feeling that there's something inherently wrong with being disabled. There's NOTHING wrong with being disabled! To quote the great Neil Marcus, "Disability is not a 'brave struggle' or 'courage in the face of adversity...disability is an art. It's an ingenious way to live." Whatever our disabilities may be, it's just the way we are.
One more thing about the sneak peek upset me. One aspect of the show consists of Kristi meeting other families who have children with disabilities. She brings up the example of "Garrett...a little boy who refuses to give up on his fight with cerebral palsy". I hate the phrase "fight with cerebral palsy". I don't know how it is for other disabilities, and I cannot speak for any CPer other than myself, but personally, I don't feel I'm "fighting" against my CP. My CP is part of me and I love having it. I wouldn't trade my CP for anything. I do not have to "overcome" my disability (another word I despise). What I'm fighting against, what I have to overcome, is people's misguided attitudes and stereotypes about me.
What really annoyed me were the comments on Special People, Normal World's Facebook page. Everyone seems to be praising this show without a thought to how disabled people are portrayed on it. The Facebook page proclaims "It's about time!" for a show like this. Yes, it's about time that a show focusing on people with disabilities is created. But "Special People, Normal World" is propelling negative attitudes and stereotypes about people with disabilities, and that's not right. A show that spouts that kind of misguided crap is worse than no show at all. And that's why this new "faith based reality show" is worthy of my BADD post. This show is blatant disablism, whether the creators of the show realize it or not. I will not support the show just because it is about disabled people. When it starts portraying people with disabilities in a more truthful light (and quite possibly get rid of that godawful name), that's when I'll say "It's about time".