I watch a lot of crap reality TV (Bachelor Ben, what were you thinking with Olivia??). I freely admit that and have little to no shame about it. Sometimes I just need to turn my brain off. Unfortunately, some moments will come up watching fame hungry, rich, often vapid people on TV, that remind me of just how bad those shows can be and even worse, how much of a mirror they can be to some bigger flaws in our society as a whole.
Tonight I was watching an episode of the The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills and one of the new ladies on the show, Katherine, was talking about how she had nearly lost hearing in one ear. Lisa Vanderpump jumped in, laughing, asking her if she got “one of those placards” so she could “park wherever she wanted?” The ladies continued to laugh and go on about it, with Katherine admitting she tried to get one (thank you State of California for not giving her one).
I was floored. Firstly because these women were making a joke of real struggles that actual real people have. I know I shouldn’t expect much from the cast of a reality TV show, especially this one, but I can’t help that it still upset me, and I think I have every right to be upset. Lately it seems people have had this fixation on being disabled meaning close parking. I could devote an entire blog just to that topic because trust me, I would much rather not have to deal with falling, or the stares, whispers and people asking me about my limp 24/7 and have to park 3 blocks away from a place.
The second, much larger problem for me is how much their behavior is a mirror to what’s still going on in our society. These ladies have cameras on them all the time so they’re going to get caught having offensive conversations and saying stupid things but I guarantee you if you filmed most of the people of the world hanging out with their friends in private, this kind of behavior would be pretty common place. Somehow we are not only still second class citizens but people who have no idea what it’s like to be disabled, physically or mentally, still think it’s funny and completely acceptable to make a joke out of it. It’s just “all in good fun” when in reality, it’s really damaging.
I know in recent years there has been a lot of policing of political correctness but this is about a lot more than just political correctness for me. This is about the lives of actual people living with disabilities. One of the biggest problems with the lack of accessibility across the globe and the inability of us to be seen as equals is because of a lack of understanding. Comments like Lisa’s perpetuate the lack of understanding that much more. Sitting around laughing about it instead of actually trying to understand what it’s like or trying to help does nothing to further our cause or to help anyone. Just because you don’t understand something or will never have to deal with it yourself doesn’t give you the right to laugh and joke about it in any context whatsoever.
If the world spent half its energy trying to understand its fellow human beings instead of expelling energy on so many other useless things and on spewing hate (I know, I know, this probably includes reality TV), just think what kind of change could come as a result?