I'm not new to Family Guy, I understand that the premise of many jokes runs on off-colour humour but this reasoning does not settle well with me. There are a few problems with this joke:
- The woman in question was part of a cut-away gag, a cheap flash of a joke that is not intrinsic to the overall storyline.
- The woman was presented as unfathomable, unrelatable and frightening.
- Her only purpose for existence was for the 5 seconds of humour. The basis of a real human is reduced to nothing.
Okay, but this is a cartoon, you say! Fine, okay, perhaps you could argue that I'm over thinking a silly TV show. Fine. If you think that what is shown to millions of people is not relative to anything tangible, fine.
Then how about the example of Heidi Crowter, a young lady with Down's Syndrome who was shamefully portrayed as an extremely unfunny meme on the internet? An image of her as a young child was taken from a support group and warped into a ridiculous outlet of 'humour', for the sake of a few cheap laughs.
The portrayal of disability online is tedious, ignorant and truly upsetting to those affected or to those who know anyone affected with it. Rather than shown as an amazing defeat of hindrances, becoming less able either physically or mentally is thrown away as an easy target to make faceless strangers on the internet giggle. They are shown as stupid or completely alien to 'normal' people.
Well, welcome to the internet, you snort and pat yourself on the back for such an original and insightful statement which suddenly makes all low-brow, offensive jokes acceptable.
Let's take it further: real life. My mother suffered from Cerebrospinal Meningitis when she was 2, rendering most of the right hand side of her body unresponsive. She cannot use her right hand, her speech is impaired, she has problems walking. Despite these problems, she grew up into the strongest woman I know and love, the greatest mother anyone can ask for. Any reasonable person would agree.
Children mocked my mum when they saw her in the playground. I heard every abusive term under the sun about her, some that I repeated to my mum in confusion who had to explain that some people can get nasty when they don't understand something or someone. Mum could not even say to me, 'Well, they are children, they will grow up and understand better.'
Adults behaved the same too.
Holding my mum's hand, as we did simple tasks such as going to the shops, I encountered some of the worst behaviour from supposed 'grown ups', such behaviour that upset and disgusted me even as a young child.
Getting on the bus, my mum would ask, 'a child and an adult ticket please'. The bus driver laughs in her face and does nothing. Mum's face flashes with annoyance and repeats herself. Bus driver laughs again. Seven year old me has to step in and talk on behalf of my mum, because apparently it is not clear what an adult and a child wishes for when getting on a bus. This event happened every week.
- There are over 10 million people with a limiting long term illness, impairment or disability in the UK and disabled people are significantly more likely to be victims of crime than non-disabled people. (Source: British Crime Survey 2009/10).
- 20% of repeat victims of anti-social behaviour are disabled people.
- There were 1,569 recorded disability hate crimes across England, Wales and Northern Ireland during 2010, an increase from 1,294 incidents occurring in 2009, according to recent figures published by the Association of Chief Police Officers. (Source: http://www.scope.org.uk/campaigns/disability-discrimination/disability-hate-crime)
I believe that such mockery and torment of the disabled that appears as an outlet for 'comedy' is just the foundation for something more extreme and horrifying. If you can dehumanise somebody into a joke or a meme, you can take that further and dehumanise them completely in order to attack. I don't want to police anybody in what's funny or what isn't, we should all be able to understand what is right and wrong but by laughing at such humour against the vunerable, you're giving the thumbs up to the misery and humilation that disabled people face on a day to day basis.
What we need is a vast increase on education, not only in schools but the workplace and on television, too. When we stamp out ignorance, I honestly believe we'll be able to give the disabled a slightly more comfortable living than what they are used to.
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