"Well, what do you think?" Mister Jones asked hopefully.
Mister Smith, the network programming director, shuffled through the stack of scripts with a puzzled look on his face. This was not a good sign. He finally replied, choosing his words carefully. "It's an unusual idea for a show, but it will never work."
"Why not?" Mister Jones asked. "You said the writing was good, and the characters were well-developed. What's wrong?"
"It's the characters themselves," Mister Smith sighed. "I mean, come on. It's bad enough that your male lead wears glasses; but the blind girls? Two handicapped people in the same show?"
"Their blindness is hereditary," Mister Jones explained. "Caroline could serve as a role model for Rhoda. Besides, I figured that a disability would add depth to the characters, expand possibilities for plots and dialogue, and so on."
"Maybe so," Mister Smith grudgingly agreed. But our focus groups don't like it. People who might watch this show would be creeped out by having two handicapped people to look at."
"Ah, but I'e countered that!" Mister Jones rebutted. "Caroline and Rhoda are always working, smiling, or teaching something. They try to be constructive. What's so creepy about that?"
Mister Smith struggled to excuse himself. "Well, uh, two handicapped females with an upbeat attitude? Yeah, right. Besides, you've made these girls too smart! Handicapped girls aren't going to be popular; but giving them high I.Q.s? That's way over the top. Now, this 'Caroline' character is blonde, right? So make her a bit more dumb. That's funnier. And Rhoda might work, if she dressed up in Goth style, and frowned a little more."
"I know where you're going with that," Mister Jones objected. "Caroline will not be 'dumb.' I want her respectable. And Rhoda may be blind, but she isn't bitter. I don't do that 'Disease-of-the-Week' stuff."
"Can't you at least make them some kind of superhero team?"
"It's been done."
Mister Smith finally cracked a smile. "That's what sells."
"No, that's what you hope sells. What's the point of doing a TV show, if I have to write like everyone else? I might as well Xerox everything."
"My sentiments exactly, Mister Jones. There's no point in you trying. Nobody will believe your show in a million years."
"Oh, sure," Mister Jones rebutted sarcastically. "But put a British geek on a flying broomstick, and THAT they'll believe."
"Fantasy gives younger viewers hope," Mister Smith replied. "But handicapped people are unnerving. Two of them is too much."
e-mail responses to firstname.lastname@example.org
**1. The instant I read the most recent thought provoker, I thought of one memorable Rush week in my sorority house. Two of the girls rushing, both clearly of above average intelligence, had disabilities. One of them had a severe speech disability; the other had a visual impairment. When it came time to eliminate various girls from the potential pledge roster after the week of meeting and greeting, the girl with the visual impairment was eliminated. When I asked on what basis she had been eliminated, one of the girls spoke up and said, "You'r already in our house. We're probably going to admit Carrie (the young woman who had difficulty speaking). "We don't want to be known as the handicapped house on campus."
I never got that remark out of my mind. I hope that as the young women have grown older and hopefully more mature, they have had time to reflect on this at some point and to realize the human potential they so dismissively eliminated from their ranks.
Like the scenario above, the blind script writer has been accepted into his position; yet the addition of even fictional characters with disabilities concerns the television executive. My thought is that the blind writer does need to work on nonviolent communication techniques in order to persuade the TV executive of the validity of his viewpoint. "I understand that many stereotypes exist toward people with disabilities that have the potential to make an audience feel uncomfortable. Here are some ways that discomfort could be minimized or even eliminated." The blind writer could also thank the executive for his suggestions, schedule another meeting with him, then take the suggestions back into a more relaxed environment, at home for example, where he can carefully reflect when a cooler head prevails and he can think of ways to give the executive what he wants while maintaining dignity for the two disabled characters and indeed, maintaining both characters in the script. Sometimes just having that extra think time, which he could have achieved by saying "let me get back to you" would have been extremely helpful in allowing him to gain perspective.
Dr. Kimberly Morrow
**2. A similar situation happened recently in real life. A BBC children's show had a host who was born with only one arm. Parents were appalled that the producers would cast a disabled person for a children's show claiming it would terrify children. Parents went on a witch hunt attempting to have the host fired, but the show, thank God, refused to do so and even had a little boy with the same condition as the host state that there was nothing wrong with them and they are not scary people who should be avoided and locked away in dark corners.
This real story has a bitter-sweet ending, but the fact remains that society at large fears disabilities. We can handle and even love sex and violence, but present us with disabilities and we shutter in fear.
While many accept we can work and live among the sighted world, people who are blind are still considered less fortunate and we are looked upon with pity and sadness. They can not conceive of a life without sight. It would be so difficult and so tragic. Who cares that hundreds of people who are blind function day in and day out and do not even give a thought to their "plight" or are active, well-adjusted citizens. For them life would be horrible and they could not cope. We are not born with a special gene that makes one capable; we just are. We have issued forth from the mold that society placed on us, but they can not understand it. After all what do we know? We only live with it. The producer in this TP is incredulous that a blind person would be happy and content. I mean surely every decision we make is based on our bitter fortune that fate has given to the blind, right? One of the first questions usually asked of me is "Isn't life hard for you"? My sarcastic response of, "Only when I am asked that question", seems to throw people off. I am expected to be either bitter or angelic; above such earthly vices as sarcasm! Let's keep the hope. There was a time when focus groups were claimed to not have interest in ethnic and racial characters. Oh wait, I guess we're still waiting on that too!
Bridgit Pollpeter, NFB
**3. I think that Mr. Smith and Mr. Jones both need a little dose of reality. That is to say that blind people are like everybody else except they can not see. With blindness it seems that, on the one hand, you are expected to be perfect because it's your responsibility to be a good role model for all the other blind people in the world, or your expected to be someone who is in dire need of a good role model. People are People. If blindness is a mere inconvenience, lets please not treat it like all people who are blind must fall into one or the other of these two extremes. I'd love to see a TV show where one of the blind people is an air head and one is a Goth. I think that would be a hoot. Blind kids being just like all the other kids except they cannot see.
**4. Using this term loosely now. But I believe that handicapped persons are what people perceived the to be, but when they're not, all hell breaks loose.
For example, Seeing eye is one of possibly 16 schools that do NOT allow, in a loosely defined sense of the word, puppy raisers and graduates to participate in open ceremonies after we get our dogs. We are not paraded amongst the audience as pawns in a play because it is felt that we have some dignity and should command the respect that is given to anyone else. And, contact is made through letters and correspondences which are sent through the school. Be that as it may, these are harsh words, but true.
A puppy raiser might have an idea of what the quintessential handlers are, but what if they aren't what puppy raisers think.
What if an employer thinks of a blind person as having certain qualities or that they might be able to perform a certain task at a certain speed or that a person who is blind should have a certain look.
Not all blind people climb mountains, play for millions on keyboards, nor can they be movie actors.
Perception may be reality in sales, as the slogan goes. When I worked for AT&T they used that phrase to the extent that it made me want to puke. But, the reality of our employment was that 500 of us were let go prior to a Christmas holiday back, in 2002, and that was not perception, it was a reality, and I happened to be the only one of the group that was blind.
The people in the story were smart. They were positive. They were outgoing and smiling. Most of us are, but then again, most of us are unemployed. Why? Is it that we don't fit the criterion of what employers are looking for? Is it because we don't have the education? The drive? The smile? The look>?
In writing the script of life, there are those who choose, and there are those who are chosen. Those who choose often overlook the good qualities of an individual based on look, voice, appearance, character, and very often, first impressions are what make the difference, and all too often, first impressions are wrong. Peole often don't get a second chance. Whether it's a television script or a hire for a large company, you have to be judged on merit and not disability. We would hope that after the signing of the ADA that things would have been different, but are they truly?
Mike Townsend Dunellen, New Jersey 08812
**5. As long as Caroline and Rhoda are portrayed as good role models for disabled people via teaching, helping others, and just plain functioning like people who are not disabled, I think that a show, whether there are one or two disabled characters in it, can become a hit. Yes, people might get freaked out over one or two blind characters, but as soon as they see that the characters aren't dumb, like Mr. Jones is suggesting for Caroline, the blond, I think that people will, eventually, take to it. After all, if Michael Jackson can break down the racial and cultural barriers in his music and videos, then why can't disabled people do the same thing in TV shows and movies?
**6. The hard fact is that commercial media is just that, commercial media. No matter how strange some of us find today's programming, it has been screened carefully to be certain that it meets the approval of the sponsors and hoped for sponsors. The network programming Director is responding to his conditioning. He is not in this position to care about how many disabled people are in the script, although that is what he uses as his reason for dismissal, nor is he in this position because he cares what the viewers want. He is in this position because he understands exactly what will please the folks with the money. The sponsors. The story could be about two dogs and a cat. He would realize that his sponsors do not like cats and that cat must go. Even if the cat is central to the story. The writers are hired on the basis of their creative ability to adapt to the whims of the sponsors. Get rid of the cat and bring in a white rabbit. Out with the handicapped girl and bring in a buff fellow who works evenings at a orphanage for blind children. But don't show the children. The sponsor wants to sell product, not get involved in some awareness raising Liberal story. Get real.
Carl Jarvis ACB-L listserv
**7. Hi Carl, As usual, right on point here. And, anyone who uses the term "creeped out" draws suspicion in my book as one mighty intolerant so-and-so. I invite anyone who is "creeped out" by disability to crawl back into their Neanderthal whole.
Bob Hachey ABC-L
**8. Oh, you could show the blind children in the orphanage on the Christmas show when the central characters give them a Christmas party. One of them might be asked what he thinks of the party and of life in general and he could say "God bless us, every one". Oops, wrong script.
Chris Coulter ACB-L listserv
**9. I'm unnerved by people who are always working, smiling, or teaching something Why do we always have to be constructive and upbeat. Being intelligent doesn't always help in social relationships, and who says that, once in a while, blind folks can't be dumb. Now I admit this is the opinion of what I as a person who happens to be blind would like to see, both on TV and in the real world. If I'd like it, why is it so far-fetched to think the non-disabled TV-watching public wouldn't like their characters to be real and with a little depth?
Abby ACB-L listserv
**10. It's like I tell people all the time. I'm legally blind, not legally brain dead. Blind characters aren't the mind numbing beauties that give ratings and clothing designers the next idea for their collection. Not sexy, not with it and certainly not having the same priorities as normal ppeople. Their not abnormal? Depends on how you see them. The world needs educating. But we're not going to do that with a world that is focused on youth, sexy bodies and blond jokes. We're too smart for them.
Judith Bron STYLIST, NFB Writers' Division Mailing List
**11. That British geek on a flying broomstick wears glasses because his eyesight is pretty bad. I wouldn't pick on him too much.
Besides, that is fantasy, this is reality. The reality is, people are still pretty much awkward around people with disabilities. They just don't know what to do or how to approach them. Hollywood and TV seeks physical perfection. Even the most beautiful are nipped and tucked. People with disabilities are relegated to minor roles. Sort of like life itself, right? Life can be hard and some people love to make it harder for others. Their perception of how they think it should be often stinks, big time. And, no matter how you explain or tell them it ain't so, they refuse to get it.
I know there has to be pioneers, but.... we are different and we are the ones who have to face reality. Life is hard enough without having to have your life's blood and energy sucked out every time you have to prove yourself. At this stage of my life, I would be content to just feel good about me and where I am at. The rest is too draining and exhausting. Why fight it. The serenity prayer works here.
Really, TP, how do you fight against strong, sighted people who can see your vulnerable spots? A blind person might be lucky to get in one good shot. You might win a battle, but probably not the war. Let's hope those who are young and blind/VI get the education they need early enough to help them tackle life's obstacles.. Maybe then, in time, we will see a TV show like the one in this TP become reality.
Virginia Sblendorio Barnegat, NJ
**12. Hmm, I can see where this is going, I think. The Sighted Public being unnerved by a disability, the disabilities that are seen to scare the Public the most.
What show was there with TWO BLIND SUPERHEROS? That I'd like to watch, but that's me. Maybe add a Superhero guide dog. That'd make for a good story.
Maybe Daredevil does get a guide dog, that his Law Partner bought for him,[Where is he getting a trained guide dog that he had to pay for without going to the school for a month.]
But the dog doesn't run away this time and helps him fight crime in New York as Daredevil!
I can dream of weird plots.
Sean Moore FL
**13. The sad thing here seems to be that, while Mr. Smith the producer guy has the superficial/stereotypical "sweep it under the rug," attitudes of his "focus groups," in the front of his mind, it also appears that Mr. Jones, the writer, will end up portraying pretty stereotypical ideas about "handicapped," people. First, there's the use of that word "handicapped," implying that the Rhoda and Caroline, the two blind girls, have accepted the need to be given a handicap. Then, there's the desire to "use," that handicap to "enrich," the characters; they will be "teaching," and be role models, and "trying," to do things all the time. What if they don't want to be enriched through disability? What if they just want to live their lives regardless of how blindness might make them "richer people?" Why can't they be blind, without one stitch of dialog about blindness? In the end, it may be a blessing that such a show would never fly.
**14. That is why I don't watch TV. I don't even own a TV set. Also, some of you who get the Blind Californian has read extensively about how people with disabilities are not given a chance to be actors and actresses on TV shows. Mr. Smith is another sighted control freak who wants a lousy reality show, not realism about blindness. I don't like people like him.
Marie, Sacramento, CA**15. I love this story. Wish that it ended with the writer finding another avenue to produce the show. Have high ratings and go back to the one who turned him down and gloat.
**16. It's the same old attitude issue. It seems like no matter how hard we PWD's try, it's hardly going to change!
Perhaps, we'll have to do awareness programmes at all levels, & PWD's will have to join hands to set positive attitudes. "But than I have a problem," like anybody can be smoking or drinking alcohol for instance, why should one think that because, we're different we need to be positive at all levels....
Rakesh Chand Fiji
**17. Like it or not, society simply doesn't want to be confronted with or have to deal with even the existance of the disabled -- regardless of whatever their handicap happens to be. After all, talking to the disabled is like trying to walk through a mine field. With each step you take, you're afraid that your next step is going to be a wrong one, and everything is going to blow up in your face while everyone is watching you.
Let's face it, it's better to simply avoid such a situation altogether than to place yourself in jeopardy, especially for something as lame as interacting with the disabled.
After all, we've all heard about people who have gone out of their way to try to help some poor, helpless blind person, only to be rebuffed and told to mind their own business. Well, if the disabled can afford to be so damned rude, and feel they can do everything themselves without the assistance of anyone else, then the hell with all of them. Let them all Do everything all by themselves.
Besides, when talking to a normal person, you don't have to be careful about what you say; you simply talk normally. But when talking to blind people, you're supposed to announce your presence, and even announce when you are going away. And if you're talking to wheelchair-bound people, what was that rule? Are you supposed to look down on that person, or stoop down to their level? Who has time to try to memorize, much less try to implement so many absurd rules. And who the hell came up with those stupid rules in the first place?
So sitting down to enjoy some relaxing entertainment at the end of the day, certainly does not include watching some "I can do anything" handicapped person waltzing merrily through life as though they didn't have a care in the world. It's not just disturbing, it's disgusting. It's certainly not reality. Watching such a show is only going to give people the wrong impression as to what it's really like to be disabled.
And it's that kind of misinformation that makes it even more difficult, if not entirely impossible, to get involved with such people.
After all, remember that person who belonged to that club or something (wasn't it the NFB?) who told you that blindness was merely an inconvenience? How brainlessly absurd was that statement! That's like a politician who tells you that he has no ties to big business; he only represents you, the average citizen. Yeah. right.
So any such TV show is doomed from the start. And who wants to invest in a program that's going to be a loser (like it's characters), and get cancelled even before the end of the first season?
**18. I’ve reread this numerous times, and have inconsistent views about this narrative. After mulling over what I wrote, I realized that I wasn’t expressing myself the way I wanted.
In today’s culture one would believe that everybody, no matter ones race, creed or nationality is an individual.
Blonds are stupid; we have all heard the endless jokes. Our society is saying that if one is beautiful, one lacks intellect.
Mr. Smith the program manager is a bigoted person. Are we to believe that ones hair color, in this case blond, or the fact that someone wears glasses is a direct correlation of someone’s intelligence?
Now we are introduced towards two disabled women. Both blind, heaven for bid. How could they be cheerful with this dreadful handy-cap called blindness?
Something Mr. Jones said also bothers me. “Their blindness is hereditary,” Mister Jones explained. “Caroline could serve as a role model for Rhoda. Besides, I figured that a disability would add depth to the characters, expand possibilities for plots and dialogue, and so on.
There blindness is hereditary, I fail to understand wy this inherent trait would make any type of impact to the viewer.
Now another element is added. Caroline could serve as a role model for Rhoda. Why could she be a roll model? Is there a factor about Rhoda we are not exposed too?
Now Mr. Jones says, “There disability will add depth to the characters, expand possibilities for plots and dialogue, and so on.” My question is why?
There is still something missing from this account. We are told these handy-cap women will enhance this show. I think the word show is the key ingredient that we aren’t exposed to. Mr. Jones states, “This will add depth to the characters, expand possibilities for plots and dialogue.” OK if we the reader was in that room, what question would you want to ask? Obviously these men know what type of show there talking about. However us the reader has no conception of what type of production there discussing? What type of audience are they targeting? I feel these are two important elements that were omitted.
Focus groups would be creeped out, Mr. Smith states. Again I say we aren’t given all the information concerning this article. Focus groups, what audience are they targeting? Without this vital piece of information I can’t expand any further upon my thoughts.
There is so much more that one could expand upon, however dissecting both men I feel isn’t necessary. The underlying premise of this narrative is prejudice.
**19. I think that's a really good idea, two handicapped girls in the same show. Keep the chacters real, and believeable.
**20. I just finished reading the latest Thought Provoker and I must say it affected me. As the parent of a blind teenager, I totally fear the attitude put forth by Mr. Smith. Role models are so important for blind youth and there is such a void. At the same time, I think the general public may actually be accurately portrayed by Mr. Smith’s attitude. Blind people face many more challenges from people’s attitudes than they do from actual life.
**21. This scene probably plays several times a week in the entertainment industry! Good to see that Mr. Jones is a principled person, and he deserves kudos for sticking to his plot. Unfortunately, what Mr. Smith seems to fail to recognize, and for that matter Mr. Jones failed to pick up on, is that shows are already filled with handicapped persons. In my opinion, the writers and actors in today's shows hardly meet the level of intelligence to be considered able to exist independently and not be a danger to themselves or to the public they serve. Take away vulgarity, the word "Dude" and "like" and most of these people could not utter a complete thought. We need more writers and producers like Mr. Jones, and the only way we will probably get enough of them is when the viewing public does what my wife and I have done: Turn off the TV and leave it off until substantive programming is available!
Jim Theall, Longmont, CO
**22. This is a sad commentary on our society.Doesn’t Mr. Jones, the network programmer, want to see disabled, or blind persons as respectable? Or does he not? Is he, as is society, afraid of his own vulnerability, and does disability remind him of that? Is this why basically, they don’t want to see or interact with us as friends? Why can’t Caroline “serve as a role model”? What is so sad is that people today, for the most part, are still “creeped out”. What can we do to change that? People say that we must “educate” the public. What do we do when the public refuses to be “educated”? What is so “creepy about that”? “Handicapped” people arenot dumb. In this case, it’s the sighted guy. And, why do they have to be superhero” in order to be acceptable? I want them “respectable” too. But if I sould bitter, that’s because I am. I can’t wait for some one to say that I have a chip on my shoulder. I would tell them that I have one on each. I’m very well balanced.
**23. There have been handicapped people in soap operas I've seen. in a movie Usually you find one only when he or she is the main character. Unfortunately when blind people have been in situation comedies, they have been figures of fun or superhero sorts. Or like Mary in Little House on the Prairie, used to sitting in the corner and rocking in a chair.
The world needs a little more education than we've given it so far.
Lori Stayer Merrick, NY
**24. I do not think it is too far fetched to imagine a weekly situational comity that has a full cast of disabled characters, of all types. Having them living their life's, having loves and jobs and interesting encounters with people on the street. You know, on some of the more obscure channels on our cable systems of today, there are many weekly shows that sure were not thought marketable in the past- like Weeds, which is about a yuppie housewife/mother who becomes a widow and to support her 2 children, she starts selling pot. And, how about Nurse Jacky? She is a RN, married and a mother of 2 and she is a drug –snorting, take your wedding ring off fornicator who does some on-the-edge med stuff at the hospital where she works. Or, HUNG, a high school coach who becomes a male prostitute. And many other shows that spot-lights other cultural fringe types.
Who would like to step up and write the pilot and promote it?
**25. I read a lot of fiction containing people with disabilities because I am always curious about how writers portray them. I just finished a mystery novel about a quadriplegic investigator and enjoyed it. Most of the time though they either come across as super heroes or just not too believable. I think the characters discussed in this are a little to up beat to be real. We are just human beings and more like people without disabilities than either complete incompetents or so perfect and inspiring. Whether writers view us with pity or admiration, they miss because we aren't either one really. Just ordinary people leading our lives to the best of our opportunities and abilities. When someone tells me I am so remarkable for doing the things that everyone does, it always makes me a little uncomfortable. I almost feel I am a total fraud because I am not that special really. Just myself, a person who has a characteristic that causes me some problems and can be frustrating. No one has it all, so what is the big deal. If my blindness makes some people uncomfortable because it reminds them that they can join the largest minority group around, the disabled, then that is their problem. As to Rhoda and Caroline, I would be annoyed by a portrayal as a dumb blonde or a Goth but I probably wouldn't want them to be too perfect either. Once in awhile I'd like them to have a bad day or blow it if they didn't drift too far toward one extreme or the other. Always teaching and doing would get boring too.
DeAnna Quietwater Noriega
**26. Sadly, this is the reality: No matter how able, blind people are rarely hired for jobs. No matter how able, blind people on TV shows are played by sighted people. No matter the reality, Hollywood insists on displaying blindness, deafness, or other-ness completely unrealistically.
Until Bob was diagnosed in the late 1970s, I thought no blind person ever got lost or disoriented, never bumped into furniture, walked like Frankenstein even with a cane, and could tell exactly what a person looked like by running a hand down someone's face. And of course all blind people were exceptionally handsome or beautiful and always sensed things beyond this earthly plane.
And that's how it will remain until we force education - not on the public, but on the Follywood producers of shows who are determined to keep it unreal.
Carolyn Gold Clearwater, FL
**27. I must admit, I did not know how to respond to this thought provoker upon first reading it. I read it over several times before finally organizing my thoughts and feelings on the subject. I can not understand why it is so difficult for "normal," sighted individuals to "believe," that blind individuals are capable of performing daily tasks. It seems hard for our sighted counterparts to fathom that we can lead normal lives.THOUGHT PROVOKER
Just a few days ago I was recounting an incident to a friend of mine on the phone. I was trying to locate the bookstore on my college campus and having a rough time, when three foreign exchange students walked up and offered their assistance. The mail in the group asked me if I minded him asking me questions, and I gave him the go ahead. He asked how I got around, and if I could see at all. The standard questioning. My friend laughed and said that of all the storries he heard of his blind friends talking about sighted intarigations, he had never heard of a blind person going up to a sighted person and saying: "How do you travel without a cane? I just couldn't imagine doing that. And... how do you read without Braille, I heard you use your eyes? That's amazing, I can't believe how you do that."
Aziza Cano, 17 Southern California
**28. Mr.Smith haven't been around handicap people and does not want to face reality. Unfortunately most of us blind people run into these people every day of our live.I find that they talk to person you are with and ignore you completely if you are blind standing there.
Of course Mr. Smith has to protect his readership. Make one super smart blind person that will get Mr. Smith going.
**29. That's pretty rough. Very few people want to admit that we can do pretty much the same things they can. Wepre are either not capable, or a huge exception to the rule. Either completely useless; put on the shelf, or considered extra extraordinary, and placed upon a pedestal as something to be marveled at.
**30. Interesting. Actually, I think Mr. Lafleche’s ideas were well-worked. I went back just to see if I was right, and I was. To wit, I noticed that of the two characters (Messrs. Smith and Jones), Mr. Smith the producer was the only one who used the term “handicapped.” I actually think that worked pretty well for Mr. Smith’s character because he struck me as a rather narrow-minded, bigoted individual. Someone like this is naturally going to use the term “handicapped” more often than simply “blind,” which Mr. Jones used.
Having said all that, I do think Mr. BurningHawk has a point that these two women should be able to have a conversation without blindness being the be-all/end-all of their existence. But if I might, it seems to me that you sort of have an infinite loop thing going on here. We as blind people want to see the media portray us as average human beings who just can’t see. The sighted public, when they think of us at all, still consider us to be poor unfortunate creatures with a terrible affliction that must be borne with stoicism or overcome by dint of heroic acts. The middle ground is very often not portrayed at all. I believe we can one day accomplish the middle ground – i.e., the blind person just living his life and having basically the same kinds of problems the rest of society has – if we can continue proving to ourselves that this is what we want to achieve, and then going out and achieving it. The next trick is to find a producer/writer, whatever, who’s willing to look at that middle ground and take a shot at educating people. See, we shouldn’t necessarily have to educate people with a heavy hand, I guess is what I’m saying. But if you want blind people to be more visible on television, you then have to realize that like it or not, you’re educating the average person – or at least any average person who’s willing to learn – whether that’s your intent or not. “What? Here’s a blind person living his/her life without being either an object of pity and scorn or a superhero? You mean to say he/she is just like me? I - well - er - never thought of them as just people! Why, slap my bottom and call me Tizzie, or whatever the hell she calls herself these days!”
**31. I usually don't respond to my own stories, but I think I should take the opportunity to further explain things.
One reason I'd want these characters in a TV show is simply to be realistic. There are disabled people of all types, and the entertainment industry cannot continue on its tradition of ignoring them. The absurdity of having an entire cast perform without wearing glasses, when millions of people need corrective lenses, should also be nailed. True, glasses aren't "sexy," but I don't care. I wear them.
As for the "hereditary blindness" angle, I think this is absolutely crucial. I believe that genetic disorders (RP, Usher's, etc.) are increasing. There will be more and more children born with eye diseases, and all Americans must learn how to deal with it. To say nothing about macular degeneration among the elderly. These issues need everyone's attention.
A show with two blind characters can be educational and entertaining. And, yes, it would add depth to the characters, and expand possibilities for plots and dialogue. How? Because blind people have knowledge and experience that the average sighted person would never even think about. And isn't that the whole point of "THOUGHT Provoker"?
The "role model" angle is important. In this scenario, Caroline is a thirty-something schoolteacher, and Rhoda is a fourteen-year-old kid. A real blind kid might catch this program, and be encouraged. "If they can do these things, so can I," she might think. Incidentally, that's why I wouldn't do a superhero show. A disabled child (or adult) must learn how to deal with real issues in a realistic manner. They will not have any super powers to fall back on, like "Daredevil." So, as a personal rule, I never write about things that are impossible. Unlikely at most, but never impossible. Plots could be based on real-life experiences of the blind. For example, I recall a magazine article about a blind girl who was just beginning to learn using a cane. But she was also the target of bullies playing nasty pranks. So I'd write a story based on that, and how Rhoda's brother might deal with it.
I must point out, however, that this show would be an ensemble. The blind characters would not necessarily dominate the show. But they would be involved, sliding in and out of the scene just as casually as anyone else. This is where the objections would come in.
I suspect that some viewers might complain about this. They'd say, "If Caroline and Rhoda are so well-adjusted, then why couldn't you make them 'normal' people? Why did you have to make them blind?" The answer is simple: I want to prove that such a scenario is possible.
In a reverse sense, I came up with this idea because I hate cliches. I've seen too many "dramas" in which the disabled character is a "damsel in distress," or "overcomes crushing odds." Oh, please. Why NOT portray a disabled person as a regular Joe? No doubt some "expert" will see this differently. I would want Melissa Joan Hart as Caroline. The network would probably want Pamela Anderson Lee. (Imagine how "funny" they think it would be, if Lee tried using a cane. It would add a whole new dimension to the word "slapstick." The possibilities for tasteless jokes would be endless.) But I don't like that kind of "humor." I like intelligent women. I appreciate a girl who knows how to conduct herself, and stand her ground in a conversation. That's how I imagine Caroline. What's wrong with that? Michelle Trachenberg would have been perfect as Rhoda, but she's an adult now. Any suggestions? I had an idea in mind, to introduce these characters as "guest stars" in the Nickelodeon series, "I Carly." But what are the odds of a self-trained nobody selling a script nowadays? It's worth a shot, though.
David Lafleche, Woonsocket, Rhode Island
**32. I had to think about this one for a long time. I'm still not sure exactly how I feel about it.
It seems, if blind people appear in television shows, they have to be central to the theme of the show. It's very unusual for a blind person to simply be another character.
If someone could introduce capable blind people in a story line for a show, it would help to debunk the myth that all blind people are either helpless or superhuman. But, this isn't going to be easy to do. Even though we've made great strides in being accepted in our communities, it still happens, pretty much, on a case by case basis.
But, maybe the public really should see us as part of what Hollywood considers to be reality. If blind people were depicted in television shows, on a regular basis, it's just possible that the public would start to get over their discomfort and realize that we are really part of life.
Cindy Handel Willow Street, Pa.
**33. A show that would have samples of characters living real normal looking lifes because the character was well adjusted and very capable like many of us are and most of us could and should be and have them interacting with simular disabled characters who were not adjusted well and were not living independantly, this type of sstory would be a very educational watch, interesting too if you write it right.
**34. The reality check is on target; I often wonder when we will see a blind person on Donald Trumps business show competing like all others or on some other reality shows. No matter how far we come along thinking us closer to equal, we will not be equal in inclusion - I think that because anyone can at anytime lose one sense or another due to age or illness, they don't want to see others that way. I'd like to see a TV show of blind with other disabled people in a reality setting. Can I be first on the list to be called? I am 54, very happily married, earned $106,000 last year, debt free, and have been blind since birth, and developed sight at the age of 3 - I began to see colors and such at 6 and have pretty good vision now.
Renee M. Zelickson
**35. My thought is- if you are talking about a reality check, make this into a reality show. Bring on many different blind people. Show the range of abilities that are out there and hopefully show how the good ones get to be good.
Kelli Carmichael AL**36. To response 17:
To begin, yes society is awkward and nervous around those with disabilities, but that is why we need to continue to get the message out that there is no reason to fear or be nervous around us. Despite what some might think we really are like everyone else just with no sight.
I recently was the matron of honor for my sister’s wedding and during the receiving line no one spoke to me although many asked about me. When I could I spoke directly to them in answer attempting to allay any concerns. The guest needed to understand that I can converse with them and through my manner I hoped to sqwelch any awkwardness.
I understand that the public can be uncomfortable around us, but the more we reveal our abilities and our our willingness to participate the more people will begin to realize that all is okay.
We should always try to be courteous with people and attempt education over rudeness. We all have our days just like anyone else though. I can atest to this because there are those days when one to many people have assumed I need assistance with something that I really do not and it can get to be to much.
The point, though, is that society needs to understand that there is not as much as they think that we need assistance with. We should be the one’s who ask. Being rude is never acceptable, though we are all guilty of it, but we are capable of independence and the world needs to see that.
As for absurd rules… Well it seems like common sense to me. How difficult is it to let me know who is speaking, although I can also ask. And hasn’t it always been common courtesy to look a person in the eye when speaking with them? It goes without saying that one would look down at a person in a wheel chair. People just need to relax and take a deep breath. These “rules” are not involved and complicated.
I find it disturbing that one would find it “disgusting” to watch a show about a “can do anything, without a care in the world” blind person. I agree that we have cares and concerns. We are normal humans with normal emotions and thoughts. However if the cares derive from being blind then I must disagree. My only cares that arise from being blind are that society is still far to ignorant and believes way to many stereotypes. I am comfortable with my blindness and all my other worries and concerns stem from other issues. The price of food, the unexpected medical bill, is my family okay, etc. I think the point of such a program would not be to show perfect, perky blind people, but rather to show us not living the stereotypes; not being depressed by our disability.
I fail to understand why it is “brainlessly absurd” to believe that blindness can be reduced to a mere physical inconvenience. You left out the first part which is with proper training and a positive attitude. I do not usually find my blindness to affect my life so greatly. Certainly not as greatly as some think. How can we have blind people working and living in almost every conceivable place and not believe it can be reduced to a mere physical inconvenience? We currently have tools and methods that have allowed us to accomplish so much and come so far. Technology makes more and more possible. We can achieve so much more, but we are only as strong as our weakest link. It needs to not be about which organization is better and become about about changing what it means to be blind and that means with ourselves as well.
A defeatist attitude will get us no where. It will only be absurd if we make it. We can shape our future, but not with negativity. Believe me, I am a cynical person, but even I understand that negativity never worked to accomplish anything.
If the public refuses to be educated then we just continue living our lives and proving through actions what they will not believe in words.
Bridgit Pollpeter Nebraska
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