Thursday, October 13, 2016

Let's Talk About Speechless 1x04: I-N-S--INSPIRATIONS

This week on Speechless, JJ and Kenneth go out on the premise that JJ will be able to go out and do things he chooses.  Without him, Jimmy, Maya, Ray and Dylan go paint-balling and enjoy themselves tremendously.  Meanwhile, JJ and Kenneth begin to accomplish everything on JJ's list: getting hot dogs in LA, for one:

[Image is: a long hot dog on a bun with lots of ketchup and mustard]
While in line for a hot dog, an elderly woman comments that they should not have to wait in line and waves them to the front.  Another couple offer to pay for their hot dogs because of how "inspirational" they are together. Thus begins Kenneth's quest to take advantage of as many disability perks as he can.  JJ enjoys getting free admittance to a baseball game, and choice seats, and throwing out the first pitch.  (He also demands the player's glove.)  After all these things, JJ prefers to just enjoy the game, but Kenneth is up singing Take Me Out to the Ballgame to the fans.

Kenneth has more plans and ignores JJ when he says "enough."  Not only that, but Kenneth takes JJ's letterboard off his chair for no discernible reason (other than perhaps he does not want to hear that JJ doesn't want to keep getting random freebies.)  Kenneth puts the board in a backpack and leaves the bag in the parking lot before driving away.

JJ is rightfully angry and Kenneth figures out belatedly that JJ's board is missing.  They find it and JJ tells Kenneth "You took my voice.  You don't get to do that."  Kenneth promises to never do it again and then lets him drive the van around an empty parking lot.

I was so beyond disappointed in this.  First, because it's supposed to be JJ's day.  It's supposed to be about what JJ wants.  JJ wanted hot dogs from LA.  JJ wanted to see a baseball game.  Instead, the episode turned into what Kenneth wanted and left JJ to teach him a lesson and then be allowed to do something totally dangerous to make up for it.  It's a disservice to JJ but also to Kenneth.  It seemed vastly irresponsible and out of character for Kenneth to do something as disrespectful as this.

And I don't know about anyone else but watching the DiMeo's have fun without JJ spoke to every single moment I was hospitalized as a child and was sure that in our absence, my family was off having a great time without me.  I understand that JJ was supposedly having fun, too, and it was funny to watch, in moments.  The more I watch of the show, though, the more convinced I become that it's not for me.  It was clearly made for able-bodied people, by able-bodied people.  I'll keep watching because I want to support actors like Micah getting work and representing characters with CP on TV, but I'm going to watch the show without the hope I once held out for it.

Did you watch the episode this week?  Share your thoughts below!

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9 comments:

  1. I liked this episode a bit more than episode 3. I liked that we saw the able bodied siblings having a real sibling dynamic for once and seeing the mom loosen up. The episode also made a comment about "Inspiration porn" whether or not they intended to. However I agree with everything you said about Kenneth and correct me if I'm wrong but wouldn't a chair user like JJ need hand controls to drive?? I am a 90% crutch user and I need hand controls to drive unless I'm driving my mobility scooter LOL. Therefore I found the driving scene inaccurate even though I did get a slight giggle out of the absurdity of the whole thing. The one area where I disagree with you slightly is the family having fun without the disabled kid scenes. I understand why a scene like that might sting a bit given your history but I think that those scenes are saying "We are having fun without ACCESSIBILITY issues, but we love JJ and want him here". I don't think JJ's family or any of the caretakers I know want the disabled people in their lives not to join in but rather that they want to have fun without dealing with the physical and maybe even mental barriers to accessibility that we all face on a constant basis. They even say something along the lines of "It's nice to have fun and not think about accessible space" so I think that is actually the most realistic and relatable part of the episode. I used to work with disabled kids and the parents would eventually get exhausted from care taking and need to take time for themselves to rest from advocating for the disabled people in their life. And that's okay for them to be tired even if we in the disability community may not always want to hear those realities. I don't mind that the writers are able bodied all that much but as a writer with a disability I will admit that when able bodied people write us it does come across as less natural and less accurate in delivery. As a disabled writer I would have personally done something more like "Everybody Loves Raymond" with disabled characters, with the family dynamic and character development coming first and the disability rights as a bit more of a backdrop because it comes across very forced from the cheap gags. So far my able bodied friends and able bodied family members are very bored and do not get any of the jokes so I don't even know if able bodied people who you say this is for can even relate at all.

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    1. Honestly, my grandma says the same thing: she is getting bored! I did enjoy the paintball scenes and the bond between Ray and Dylan but I was just saying it touched a raw nerve. And I definitely agree that someone like JJ would AT LEAST require hand controls to drive. I did not comment on that scene because I found it so absurd.

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    2. Thanks! Yeah,a lot of the jokes seem way over most peoples' heads particularly able bodied, unless they are deep into disability or more likely quote on quote "special needs" activism. It's like the show is desperately screaming "LOOK HOW HIP WE ARE! Now here's the punchline"! again and again. It's annoying! Yeah I can totally see how that whole scene can make disabled people feel like burdens and I don't want any of my disabled friends to feel like burdens!!! I would like to tell you right now,for what it is worth, I am 99.9 percent sure your family did NOT have more fun without you. I have many severely disabled friends and I always have more fun with them than without them!!!

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    3. Just having a tough time reconciling that the show is not what I thought it would be. I have to lower my expectations and that's frustrating - but it is what it is.

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    4. Exact same here. I wanted more from this show but now it's an "eh" in my TV list as of ep 4. Very frustrating. At least it motivates me to write more of my own disability related content in my films!

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    5. Definitely! I find myself wanting to work CP into everything I write now. Seems weird not to!

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    6. Yes indeed! Most of my main characters end up with CP by default because it is what I know best LOL

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  2. Yes, it seems out of character to allow those actions, but they also brought back so many memories of people who wanted to be friends for the "perks" like close-up parking, perceptions that they could get away with something, get in early, or whatever. To turn to the family day away, I'm sure that happened too, but it's also, to me, a metaphor for those same friends--we have fun without you, but we'll be around when we want something. My take on this series has been that it's satirical in a way that many able-bodied people won't grasp. (Opinions are personal and not necessarily those of the group I am logged in as).

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    1. I guess that could be why I have such a hard time relating - because it's commenting more on those outside people than it is about JJ. I can see how what you're saying could totally be true. But it's hard for me to relate in the way that I related to the Pilot, where it felt very validating. Now it feels like JJ is a prop to teach lessons to the able-bodied, not full-fledged character.

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