31 January, 2013

After much thought I’ve decided that the best way to spend my twenties is by watching live action tween shows on the Disney Channel. My favorite show is called ANT Farm. It operates under the dubious premise that an 11-year-old would be forced to attend high school just because she is a good singer, and that people in San Francisco use cable cars to get to and from places.
If you can believe it, this is actually a better concept than most of the Disney shows and I'm pretty into it. There are a lot of references to Internet memes, which are presumably intended for older geeky family members, unless 11-year-olds are just a lot cooler than I think they are.

But let me tell you what happens every time I watch the show.

I notice this character using a mobility scooter. Then I notice myself noticing him and I realize that I never see people using scooters or wheelchairs on TV, especially not the kind that I usually see people using in real life (i.e. electric ones, instead of the hospital wheelchair that sad disabled people get pushed in on TV, or for the occasional supercrip character, who is always paraplegic from a spinal cord injury, a manual chair that he pushes with muscular arms).

When I see this character, I think, how weird to see a disabled kid on TV. Maybe things are going better than I thought.  After this initial reaction, which takes about half a second, I remember that this character isn't disabled--he's lazy and geeky, and one of the jokes of his character is that he uses a scooter because he's too lazy to walk around. It doesn't really surprise me to see jokes about scooter users being fakers since that is an idea normal people are really in love with, but I am a little surprised to see it on a kid's show since it's just so mean spirited. Other times when I've seen something like this on a Disney show, I've looked it up and it looks like there has been some reaction--for example when they made a joke about someone having an eating disorder. But apparently even Disney is allowed to make jokes about people using mobility devices they don't need.

What always strikes me isn't the existence of the joke, but just the fact that this is the only kid getting around like that on the Disney channel, and probably one of the only ones on TV. More than anything else, the joke makes me notice what isn't there.