Reality TV: Is the world ready for us?Jan 23 04:01
Last week a historic precedent was set: The first reality show to feature the lives of female wheelchair-users (four women in LA trying to make it in showbiz) was green-lighted by the Sundance Channel. Women with spinal cord injuries have been on TLC’s “Paralyzed & Pregnant” before, but never like this, on a regular reality-show-format basis. Love or hate the idea, or reality shows in general, “Push Girls” will definitely make the world more aware of young people with spinal cord injuries. But will it be a realistic portrayal?
The four women in the show are all faces you may have seen if you’re active in the disability community. Auti Angel, 42, who was paralyzed in her 20’s and is a paraplegic, is on the show. She was a rising hip-hop dancer before her injury and has perfected the art of wheelchair dancing, with her another cast member part of the Colours hip-hop wheelchair dance troupe. The show also includes Angela Rockwood, 36, a model and actress, Mia Schaikewitz, 32, a swimmer, and Tiphany Adams, 28, a “flirty” model and actress. They’ve done some “four-some” work together before, with their group Chairlies Angels, but Push Girls is awesome big-time exposure. In fact, I can’t think of any other reality show that even features a regular disabled cast member (other than "Little People, Big World" of course).
Since the show has been announced, the web has been buzzing with some lob-headed remarks. How can she move arms if she’s a quadriplegic? I saw someone comment, after seeing a pic of Angela (who is is a C5 quad). A lot of people really know nothing about SCI and the show will help change that. That’s the reality of the situation when you put yourself out there: People will watch and they will judge you. Some will love you and some won’t be able to stand you. Most people who seen the show’s promo image (a glamorous shot of the four ladies), say showing skinny sexy women in wheelchairs isn’t helping disability awareness, but only “Barbie-fying” women but in a less obvious way.
Here's my take: Television is not an educational textbook that minds it’s P’s and Q’s. Television is pure entertainment and even reality shows must take that into consideration for ratings. Would the show have been sold if it featured four boring, average-looking women from Ohio living with disabilities? I'd like to say yes, but definitely not as likely.
And the mainstream publications who've written about the show have said some ridiculous things. The NY Post article that came out on Push Girls last week refers to their legs as “beautiful but useless.” Was that carny sales pitch really necessary, Sean Daly? We are still a long ways off for disability sensitivity to reach more than 5%. The show will reveal it, then hopefully change perceptions for the better. If it takes drama, tragedy and makeup to make people tune in (and to see we can still lead fulfilling lives), I‘m all for it.
I hope through the glitz and glamour, Push Girls shows it all and doesn’t sugar-coat the reality of living with a SCI. Show the girls entering a club looking flossy, but also show the world that includes rough mornings, flat tires and inconsiderate strangers.
The Sundance channel has ordered 14 episodes of Push Girls. Look for the show’s premiere this April.
- UK Daily Mail article: "Meet the wheelchair-bound stars of the new groundbreaking reality show" ("bound?" really?)
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1. Tokengimp | Apr 08 11:08
That's a great idea and good start. I've had an idea for a TV Show in my head for many years, more than just a Beanie & Cecil cartoon too!
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Tiffiny Carlson is freelance writer and writes the “SCI Life” column for New Mobility. She's also a C6 quad from a diving accident that occurred when she was 14 years old. A lifelong resident of Minneapolis, Tiffiny has been a writer in the disability community for over 10 years and writes for several publications and blogs, as well as her personal blog BeautyAbility. Her work has also appeared in mainstream publications such as Nerve.com and Playgirl.