Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Let's all dream on

Artie walked last night on Glee. He even danced on two feet.

I knew it was coming.

In an episode entitled Dream On (with Neal Patrick Harris guest starring), Artie went through all kinds of changes about the possibility of curing his spinal cord injury. He tried to get up on crutches to walk and fell. He researched treatments and wound up in the counselor's office, where his hopes were greeted with the fact that it's research and years away.

What Artie took away from that is he decided to sing rather than dance in a Glee number, saying that his partner deserved better and that anyone could dance better than him except Finn. That may be true, but it's not because he's using a wheelchair. It's because he doesn't know how to dance in a wheelchair.

First of all, it's difficult for me to wrap my brain around a nondisabled actor playing a disabled guy in a wheelchair who gets out of the wheelchair in a dream sequence to pretend he's nondisabled - because that's his dream. Say what?

The problem with all this is that children and teens, who still buy into the fantasy of the entertainment world, are watching Glee in large numbers. Meanwhile, kids I love are being excluded in real life from class trips and social and educational opportunities, mainly because of how society thinks about disability. Just think about the messages sent in last night's episode:

You can't walk, so you can't dance.
You can't walk, so you can sit over there and wait while I get you a pretzel upstairs.
You can't walk, so sit in one spot and hold this for me.

And then:

I can't walk, so get another partner.
I can't walk, so I can't dance, I'll just sing.
I can't walk, so I can't realize my dream.

Message after message of what Artie, the kid in a wheelchair, can't do. No wonder kids with disabilities are still excluded from opportunities. It's not because of their wheelchairs or because they can't walk far enough- it's because of how we think about disability. How teachers, educators and peers think about it. How they themselves are taught to think about it.

Maybe we advocates need to start breaking into song to show that to "dream on" only about walking or being nondisabled is a silly ableist fantasy.

And to let people know that we can do what they can, in a different way - and sometimes we can do even more.

9 comments:

Penny L. Richards said...

Here's a reality: I took my son to a teen dance the other night. He wasn't pining in a corner and he wasn't waiting for a dream sequence. I didn't see him or his wheelchair most of the night, only glimpses of a blur that was roughly the color of his chair... ;)
http://www.flickr.com/photos/11418107@N02/4617045858/

Suzy said...

Thanks for this, sis! SO TRUE! And as you know, your nephew WILL be just fine, with or without going on the class trip. This morning he was quoted: "I wonder what those losers are doing in DC,getting bossed around for the next 3 days by all those teachers!!" LOL
Everyday he teaches me more about finding the good in every situation. Strength. Its a beautiful thing.

FridaWrites said...

Gasp: you mean disabled people don't spend all their time pining for their ability to walk?

I haven't been able to bring myself to watch more episodes. Good that disability is in the forefront, which may teach some people to be more compassionate (unlike the--oh, I so want to use several bad words--woman in WalMart). It does make me cringe, but I need to watch more so I can comment intelligently about it to people who watch it.

Ruth said...

{Due to a blog software issue, I had to cut/paste this comment-]


FridaWrites:

Gasp: you mean disabled people don't spend all their time pining for their ability to walk?

I haven't been able to bring myself to watch more episodes. Good that disability is in the forefront, which may teach some people to be more compassionate (unlike the--oh, I so want to use several bad words--woman in WalMart). It does make me cringe, but I need to watch more so I can comment intelligently about it to people who watch it.

Greg said...

your post is spot on

william Peace said...

Great post. The episode unlike others was simply dreadful. You inspired me to write a post and i quote from your entry. I assume you don't mind.

Ruth said...

Thanks Bill for linking to my post.

Penny - what a great picture :)

Suzy- he's such a great kid!

Sasha_feather said...

This post has been included in a link roundup at access-fandom.

Matt Trott said...

Well said, thanks.