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  • Holywood’s At It Again

    Posted by deann-r on October 21, 2022 at 8:44 am

    Remember Halsey’s awesome article about the need to stop stigmatizing tracheostomy tubes as bad? She referenced a commercial using a trach as a scare tactic to quit smoking. Hollywood’s at it again with their recent commercial. This time using the threat that if you don’t take care of your diabetes, it might “land you in one of those,” or worse, death. A menacing shot of a wheelchair flashes on the screen right before a monitor with a flatline. Yup, apparently only one step worse than a wheelchair is death.

    I get it, requiring a wheelchair isn’t optimal. Newsflash, your life isn’t over if you need one. In fact, they can go a long way in enhancing your life. I still remember the excitement when my first electric wheelchair arrived. Freedom and independence are at my fingertips. Having never walked, maybe accepting a wheelchair is easier.

    Scare tactics like this are partly to blame when someone is having a hard time coming to terms with needing a wheelchair. It’s so frustrating that they can’t be seen in a more positive light. When I get looks or comments about my chair, my response is that it helps me get where I’m going.

    Do you have ideas on how to shift this Hollywood stigma?

    deann-r replied 1 year, 6 months ago 3 Members · 4 Replies
  • 4 Replies
  • micaela-macdougall

    October 21, 2022 at 1:59 pm

    I really feel this.  I’m currently reading My Body Is Not a Prayer Request by Amy Kenny, and this kind of misrepresentation is a major theme of the book (highly recommended for any Christians out there).  I definitely get sick of disability being portrayed as inherently bad, and you are totally right that this portrayal leads to people having such a hard time coming to terms with their disabilities.

    That said, I don’t know how change the narrative of these ads.  In this particular context, we’d have to find a way to articulate why smoking, diabetes, etc. is bad, without relapsing to a “disability is bad” narrative.  I think that is possible (I might go in the direction of differentiating disability and disease), but it would take a fairly philosophical and nuanced conversation – and short ads that are going for quick visceral impact don’t have room for nuance.  It’s a bit of a chicken and egg problem.  We need to have nuanced conversations on a societal level in order to change the emotional impact of our media narratives, but changing our narratives is often what motivates people to start having those conversations.

  • alyssa-silva

    October 25, 2022 at 1:22 pm

    I don’t know how to change the stigma but I think it starts with awareness. The more awareness we generate the more we educate. But it shouldn’t be up to us, the disability community, to change the stigma. We need non-disabled allies too.

    Something similar happened recently in Hollywood with Matthew Perry, the actor who played Chandler in Friends. He had a life-threatening drug and alcohol addiction for decades and just recently became clean. It was awesome to hear but he basically said his motivation for cleaning up his life was not wanting an ostomy bag for the rest of his life. It just rubbed me the wrong way because there’s nothing wrong with having an ostomy bag!! But society continues to perceive it that way.

    • micaela-macdougall

      October 25, 2022 at 3:32 pm

      That’s another really good example.  In my mind, the important task (for us and non-disabled allies) is to come up with a new strong narrative about why things like addiction are bad, so that people will find a motivation to change without being afraid of becoming disabled.

  • deann-r

    October 30, 2022 at 11:05 am

    I like your idea of changing the narrative Micaela. It is a tough one though. What if we try to acknowledge the bad but focus on good instead? I’m envisioning a commercial from a drug company because let’s face it, they have the resources. Pan to a parking lot where a car is parked in front of the access ramp. “Having xyz can be challenging, but with the right tools and support you can live your life to the fullest.” Pan to the car being towed and friends including the person in the wheelchair entering a fun venue.

    Maybe it’s silly, I don’t know. What would your commercial look like?

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