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Channel 4

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 Post subject: Channel 4
PostPosted: Wed Apr 18, 2012 8:54 am 
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Not sure if this has been brought up already. I inadvertently caught something called "The Undateables" last night, a "documentary" about people with various learning disabilities and/or disfigurements trying to find love.

They seem to have increasing amounts of this sort of freakshow shite on Channel 4 at the moment. Light entertainment which is patronising at best and mocking at worst, posing as serious investigative programming. See also the gypsy one.

The sentiment of these programs made me think of that Stewart Lee skit where he's describing Richard Hammond's cowardly reaction to Clarkson making the joke about Gordon Brown being a "one-eyed Scottish idiot" - giggling at the joke and then putting on a serious, disapproving face.

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 Post subject: Re: Channel 4
PostPosted: Wed Apr 18, 2012 10:59 am 
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Location: 'An English seaport town, principally remarkable for mud, Jews and sailors' – Dickens
There's an Undateables thread here.

I'd be interested to hear ideas for how to improve the visibility of people with disabilities in the media without being patronising or freakshowy.


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 Post subject: Re: Channel 4
PostPosted: Wed Apr 18, 2012 11:09 am 
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Richard Curtis has a record of writing disabled characters into his films (deaf man in 'FWAAF', wheelchair user in 'Notting Hill') - partly to secure extra funding through 'positive portrayals', partly to depict disabled people as viable characters in their own right.

In American films, I can only really think of Tom Noonan's charatcer in 'Heat' (wheelchair user, not even commented on by anyone else) and William Fichtner's character in 'Contact' (blind) as examples of disabled characters where the disability has not been used as a plot or character point.

But this gets back to my old comment about how it's rare for any character in a British drama to be in any way 'different' without the drama in some way being about that difference.

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 Post subject: Re: Channel 4
PostPosted: Wed Apr 18, 2012 11:25 am 
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When Channel 4 was launched it was very different to all the other channels at the time, Brookside covered issues that no other soaps would tackle, programmes like Dispatches investigated areas that other TV channels tended to avoid, Johnathan Ross started his chat show career on 4 and Mark Thomas also did some ground breaking programmes mixing stand up with investigative journalism. If you look at Channel 4 today it really is no different to any of the other channels most of the investigative journalism seems to have been dropped, the lunch time news programme has gone, much of it's comedy output is now fairly mainstream and the documentary shows are now just fly on the wall programmes which seek to sensationalise issues or treat people who are different as freaks.

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 Post subject: Re: Channel 4
PostPosted: Wed Apr 18, 2012 11:29 am 
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Location: 'An English seaport town, principally remarkable for mud, Jews and sailors' – Dickens
There's also the coroner in CSI:Las Vegas. Artie, the wheelchair user in Glee, is a bit more complex: his disability is used as a plot and character point, but then that's kind of the point of Glee; and of course the actor playing Artie is not a wheelchair user irl. But as you say, America's different. There was a good film a few years ago called The station agent whose central character was a dwarf.

Andy McDandy wrote:
But this gets back to my old comment about how it's rare for any character in a British drama to be in any way 'different' without the drama in some way being about that difference.

Indeed. I was thinking more particularly about non-fiction, though — about real people with disabilities in documentaries, news media, etc. I think the primary difficulty is that so few disabled people work in the media; everything gets mediated through able-bodied eyes.


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 Post subject: Re: Channel 4
PostPosted: Wed Apr 18, 2012 12:26 pm 
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ezinra wrote:
There's an Undateables thread here.

I'd be interested to hear ideas for how to improve the visibility of people with disabilities in the media without being patronising or freakshowy.

Duly noted!

I think picking up on what someone said in that thread, the way these sort of programs are titled and marketed makes it worse. I found the production values in general, even things like the choice of background music etc. of The Undateables, just makes it comical when it really shouldn't be.

Going back to how they can improve the visibility of people with disabilities, Channel 4 can be hit and miss with this sort of thing. I thought they did a brilliant portrayal of Bipolar with Karen Maguire in Shameless, without resorting to the usual caricatures of that illness. I think they got some sort of commendation from Mind for that storyline if I remember right. But for every one of those well-made programs they seem to have about 10 point-and-laugh freakshows.

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 Post subject: Re: Channel 4
PostPosted: Wed Apr 18, 2012 12:29 pm 
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ezinra wrote:
I'd be interested to hear ideas for how to improve the visibility of people with disabilities in the media without being patronising or freakshowy.


Don't have "gimick" illnesses. Show mainstream disabilities, not incredibly rare conditions. If you can teach general acceptance of disability it will have cross-applicability.

It's no surprise the man on the undatables with Tourettes Syndrome happened to have the rarer swearing kind. It's funny because he swears, and it just wouldn't be the same if he just clicked or whistled. :roll:

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 Post subject: Re: Channel 4
PostPosted: Wed Apr 18, 2012 1:08 pm 
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Location: 'An English seaport town, principally remarkable for mud, Jews and sailors' – Dickens
Agreed. At the same time, he was really likeable (or perhaps made to look really likeable). And his narrative was presented as a fairy tale: we were willing the relationship to work, hoping that the woman would be able to look past his disability, but anxious that she would not. I was ambivalent about that. We never saw the couples talk to each other about the disabled person's disabilities, or the able-bodied person's reactions, anxieties, prejudices. It was very much 'Don't mention the war'. I think the problem was that the series just concentrated on the difficulties in getting a date, and getting through the first one, rather than following any of the relationships that developed. It ended up being rather like a first date: superficial, awkward and a bit inconsequential.


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 Post subject: Re: Channel 4
PostPosted: Wed Apr 18, 2012 1:25 pm 
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When CBBC hired a presenter who was missing an arm (whether this was accident or birth I cannot remember) or when 'Record Breakers' had a wheelchair user as a presenter, the reaction from the usual suspects veered between "Ugh, put it away, you'll frighten the children/I'll have to explain to my kids what disability is" and "Oh of course, they're wonderfully brave but do we need it shoved down our throats, political correctness etc etc etc". So, pretty much what you'd expect really.

BBC news has a political reporter who's blind. Other than him, can't think of anyone else. Oh, comedian on 'Mock the Week' who was missing a foot, and used that as part of his routine (saying "As soon as you mention it, people want to see it").

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 Post subject: Re: Channel 4
PostPosted: Wed Apr 18, 2012 1:35 pm 
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Andy McDandy wrote:
When CBBC hired a presenter who was missing an arm (whether this was accident or birth I cannot remember) or when 'Record Breakers' had a wheelchair user as a presenter, the reaction from the usual suspects veered between "Ugh, put it away, you'll frighten the children/I'll have to explain to my kids what disability is" and "Oh of course, they're wonderfully brave but do we need it shoved down our throats, political correctness etc etc etc". So, pretty much what you'd expect really.

BBC news has a political reporter who's blind. Other than him, can't think of anyone else. Oh, comedian on 'Mock the Week' who was missing a foot, and used that as part of his routine (saying "As soon as you mention it, people want to see it").

They have a reporter in a wheelchair aswell actually, he's on the lunchtime news quite regularly

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 Post subject: Re: Channel 4
PostPosted: Wed Apr 18, 2012 1:41 pm 
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Just as an aside, the Cbeebies presenter with half an arm missing always seems to get lumbered with doing play acting stuff that involves using two arms.


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 Post subject: Re: Channel 4
PostPosted: Wed Apr 18, 2012 1:45 pm 
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Yes, I believe he may well be the war reporter (Frank Gardner?) who got a bit blown up. Although that probably translates into 'I'm hard' credentials for a war reporter and possibly leads us towards the entire area of honourable/dishonourable wounds, and if taken even further, good/bad AIDS.

It should be added that if you apply for a job with the BBC, you're invited to answer questions based on a series of training films, which do a good job of portraying people of all shapes, sizes, colours etc as just another spod in the office.

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 Post subject: Re: Channel 4
PostPosted: Wed Apr 18, 2012 2:24 pm 
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The business with Cerrie Burnell on CBeebies was pathetic. The most pathetic of all complaints was 'how am I supposed to explain this to my child?'. What do you say to someone as stupid and lazy as that?

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 Post subject: Re: Channel 4
PostPosted: Wed Apr 18, 2012 2:33 pm 
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A good friend of mine was born with a right arm that ends at the elbow. When I first met him, I asked him how it had happened (i.e. was it lost in an accident or had he been born with his arm like that etc) and he said he was relieved I'd asked, as he was fed up with people 'just pretending' everything about him was fine, when it was obviously this huge elephant in the room. Everyone could see he didn't have the normal complement of arms, but by not mentioning it out of politeness they just made him feel more uncomfortable.

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 Post subject: Re: Channel 4
PostPosted: Wed Apr 18, 2012 3:08 pm 
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Andy McDandy wrote:
A good friend of mine was born with a right arm that ends at the elbow. When I first met him, I asked him how it had happened (i.e. was it lost in an accident or had he been born with his arm like that etc) and he said he was relieved I'd asked, as he was fed up with people 'just pretending' everything about him was fine, when it was obviously this huge elephant in the room. Everyone could see he didn't have the normal complement of arms, but by not mentioning it out of politeness they just made him feel more uncomfortable.

I used to have a teaching colleague with one arm which ended just below the elbow. He delighted in making up far fetched explanations for inquisitive students, bears, sharks, crocodiles, wolves all had their turn at copping the blame. My favourite though was the Pythonesque "eaten by a tiger whilst on safari in Africa": "A tiger?!!? In Africa?!!?" "Yes, it had escaped from a zoo apparently. Million to one chance. Bloody bad luck really." That one we kept going for more than a term.

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