Thursday, October 1, 2009

Maybe it sounded like a good idea at some point

Many called it brave. Others will likely go on to call it offensive.

Yes, featuring a child with a disability as a main character can be a brave move. And quite admirable. It has been done before if I remember correctly, though the name of the show I'm thinking of escapes me.

But cartoons, by their very nature, are caricatures.

And, when you go about caricaturing people with disabilities and then throw in a whole lack of understanding on top of that because not one person involved even knows someone with a disability, well, that's just asking for trouble.

I do remember one guy I worked for, many years ago (not the producer depicted above), telling me that he envied people in wheelchairs. Yes, envied them, because their disability gave them a keen mind. That's why Stephen Hawking is so smart, according to him. Man, what he would give to be run over by a bus...

I integrated that into the panel above of course. My producer isn't actually that insensitive. Not by a long shot actually - he is cursed with a heart of gold, bless his little cotton socks. But he sometimes doesn't quite see how some things that sound like a good idea might actually not be, even though he has the best of intentions. And I just play that up because the pic (and the words with it) is a caricature, see?

Just like making a cartoon show.

Cartoons are caricatures and, while many can argue a good case against pre-emtive self-censorship, some things just don't seem like a good idea to me.


Andy Latham said...

Well when making short films, they do say to make them about what you know. It would make sense for the same to be true of TV shows. I would bet it's rarely the case though.

Humphrey Erm said...

The show you are thinking of is Pelswick, that aired on Nickelodeon.

I found it to be an alright show, but the main character just lacked interest, probably because they were afraid to give him flaws, which invariably made him boring. The only wheel chair characters I've seen done right are Charles Xavier and Barbara Gordon. Naturally, these are superhero comics and thus not as much of a caricature, but nonetheless, theyre intriguing characters that have their stories heightened due to their disability, without making too big a deal of it.

I've got a friend in a wheel chair who does alot of illustration work here in Denmark. He's currently making a poster to raise awareness of not using the handicapped parking spaces if youre not disabled. If you'd like to see how a guy in a wheelchair sees himself in terms of caricatures, check out his site:

In danish unfortunately, but you can look at the pictures :)

Red Pill Junkie said...

>Man, what he would give to be run over by a bus...

I would be more than happy to oblige.

And expanding on Humphrey's comment: to me the appeal of the X-Men Universe is that ALL the Mutants were disabled in one way or another. Rogue couldn't touch people, Beast would never fit among a normal crowd, Cyclops always had to carry his prescription glasses, lest he burned everything in sight, and so on. The interesting thing is that the characters were balanced: for any power they had, they had to relent something in return —their power was also the source of their weakness.

Maybe that moron who envied Hawkins was too much of an X-Men fan ;)

Bitter Animator said...

Pelswick! That's the show I was thinking of. Yeah, I remember being pretty okay.

That's a good point about the X-Men and, in the context of everyone having their own thing going on, that all works very well because they have to become more than their ability or disability.

But when you start a show and you ask what a character is like and the answer is - he's disabled - well, that's never going to be the next X-Men, unfortunately. Or fortunately.

Thanks for the link, Humphrey. That's interesting stuff and some really fun drawings too.

Mr. Trombley said...

Dear Sir,

Ah, Pelswick. Created by John Callahan who is quadriplegic. Apparently he has just enough fine motor control to squeeze the pen between his fingers (he also does stuff for newspapers & magazines). I suppose you can do just about anything if you put your mind to it. I don't recall a single thing about the show, except a gag about a trap door.

Speaking of Hawking, did you hear what some idiot at the Investor's Business Daily editorialized? He claimed that people with progressive terminal diseases like Dr. Hawking's couldn't survive in Britain because the NHS would refuse to treat him. Not a very smart thing to say, considering that it's untrue.

I think Confucius said it best: "If language is not correct, then what is said is not what is meant; if what is said is not what is meant, then what must be done remains undone; if this remains undone, morals and art will deteriorate; if justice goes astray, the people will stand about in helpless confusion. Hence there must be no arbitrariness in what is said. This matters above everything."

Confucius was not pithy.

susan said...

Jimmy and Timmy on South Park are both handicapped. There was quite a ruckus when these two were introduced if i recall.