We need to talk about television 

Tuesday 4 July, 2017

As you know, I am an entertainment consumer buff. If I’m not watching films, I’m watching TV, if I’m not watching TV, I’m playing games, reading books or listening to audiobooks. I go through cycles and phases but I am always consuming media of some sort. When my health craps out, when I have the flu, when I’m brain tired but not body tired, I watch television. I don’t want to sound like a hipster, but I was marathonning tv shows before it became ~cool~, before the Netflix generation inherited the earth.

Here’s the problem, television keeps dissappointing me. It might just be me and maybe I have high standards, but there’s not many television shows made in the last 10, even 20, years that I have watched from start to finish, without either losing interest half way through or suffering through mediocre plotlines and self contained episodes until I can’t suffer anymore.

I could give you a whole list of the shows that have lost me or dissappointed me in my entire life time, but, in all honesty I just tried and I derailed and ranted and remembered how dissappointed in House I was and that spurred a very long entry on it’s own, and then had to go for a lie down.

So I’m going to just mention the last few series I had high hopes for, and try to keep it to the point.

But saying that, shall we get it out the way first? House. You know how I feel about this show and it’s downfall. It was the best thing on television… for all of 2 and a half years. It was everything I wanted from a show, I didn’t even realise it was what I wanted from a show. Murder mystery in a medical setting, because the disease is the murderer. House, like Holmes, has to work out the intricate web of lies and livestyles to figure out why the victim is the target, and who is trying to murder his patient. Sometimes he went wrong, and killed them faster, but usually, the man and his ducklings came through and saved the day. What more could you ask for!?

Well, consistency would have been good for a start. Then longevity. And a little less of the producer’s own fantasy wish fullfilment. I think it should have finished at the end of series 3, when something shifted the focus away from Patient of the Week and Clinic Patient of the Week, on to character drama. Yes, okay, we could have had a bit more about Wilson’s brother in the first series, but there is a middle ground between the strict procedural that left us wanting it was in the first series and the soap it turned during series 3.

I said I wasn’t going to go on about it, and I won’t. But I just really wanted to get that out. I loved House, then House changed, I feel not for the better, and then it dragged us through 5 more series until it ended.

Shortly after that was Alphas. I know, it was generally disliked by the masses. It was like X-Men, it was stereotypical, it had problematic casting by casting a british non-disabled guy to play an American 20-something autistic guy. But… for the first series it was quite good! It had me hook, line and sinker. I do love me some mutant powers and hey, X Men 3 was a botch-job, I had to get my Mutants Saving The Day fix somewhere. And then series 2 happened, and one character’s own personal problems and a love triangle drove one half of the plot, and the other half of the plot came from a personal vendetta characer arc that dragged on for far too long. It just lost what made it enjoyable in the first series. It did not surprise me that it didn’t get renewed for a 3rd series, though I am annoyed they messed with the airing of the second in the UK off the back of that decision. It also could have improved for series 3, with the feedback of what failed in series 2.

I was briefly into Rizzoli and Isles. I seem to be a sucker for any show that is even remotely Holmes and Waston-esque. Here we have Jane Rizzoli, a streetwise hard boiled egg of a Police Detective with her friend and colleague, Dr Maura Isles, an intelligent but socially-blind Cheif medical examiner, working together to solve Murders of the Week. It works very well, and should have remained a strong series despite set backs and personal tragedies, but the writing team behind the scenes changed hands and took the show in a different direction. Apparently, in response to the fan reaction supporting the idea of Jane and Maura becoming an item, they promptly wrote in male love interests for both characters to prevent anyone from doubting the two main character’s sexualities or romantic interests is anything but straight. Nothing is confirmed but the implications have been noted by better notekeepers than myself.

The introduction of the love interests wasn’t as much of a problem for me as obvious signs that the new writers had no idea or care for what came before their involvement. Jane had a dog called Jo Friday, the dog dissappeard off-screen, and eventually we got the bizarre explanation that Jo Friday wasn’t Jane’s to begin with and has been returned to her real owners, which the Mum keeps in touch with. Thank God that explanation was scrambled together, otherwise we might have thought they’d killed off Jane’s beloved pet dog in an arson attack on her flat. The same arson attack that led to her moving in with Maura, which fuelled the relationship rumours the writers became concerned about.

Maura had a tortoise. I don’t know what happened to the Tortoise.  Then we have Jane’s brother Frankie, which is short for Francesco. But you wouldn’t know it from the once-proud Italian-American mother suddenly calling her Italian-American son “Frances”, which just would not have happened in the earlier series. And all  sorts of other little details that were retconned or ignored or over-shadowed in favour of lazy writing, which was clearly starting to affect the actor’s ability to act.

One day I just stopped putting myself through it. Much like what I did with Person of Interest. Talking of…

Person of Interest was a flash in the pan in my eyes, but that might be due to the binge watching. I came to this party very late in the game. It was already on hiatus in America, and it was on Hiatus, from what I can gather, because it lost thousand of viewers over the course of series 4 and something was aired during a mid-season break that got higher ratings so the cast were waiting both to see if the first half of series 5 would be aired, and if it was, whether they would be in the second half. Added to that, the writer’s had admitted to losing interest in the show and did not want to complete it.

Going from series 3 to eventually seeing most of series 4, I can see why it lost viewers. This show, which started off brilliant and almost flawless, and with characters you can believe to be real people, changed into something else. It was a procedural with heart. Finch was the leader, a bruised and broken genius who lost his best friend before the start of the show. He follows the intel a highly intelligent machine gave him, and gave orders to his second in command, John. Along the way, after a lot of pain and anguish, they make trusted acquaintences with two new york coppers, Joss Carter and Lionel Fusco. For the first 2 series, Finch’s greatest enemy is a megalomanic sociopath with computer skills to rival him, she goes by the name of Root and she kidnaps him and terrorises him. John’s ability to take down the enemy for Finch and save people because that’s what good poeple do, Finch’s determination to save people because nobody else can, along with the goodness of Joss Carter and Fusco’s redeption of wanting to do good for Selfless reasons drove the series.

The series all fell apart when the writers dissolved the friendship between Reese and Finsh almost over night during series 3. I don’t like to talk about queer baiting because I still don’t really understand the phrase, but all the work put in to Finch’s past, the relationship parallels between a normal couple of Finch and Reese’s friendship, not to mention the looks between them that don’t seem within the normal paramaters of Friendship, it really feels like a plot bomb that was dropped was the end result of queer baiting and everything was retconned rom there. Then they turned Root from a very scary Baddie, to a redeemed saviour who had all the answers. Suddenly she was better at programming than Finch, a better shot than Reese, and it didn’t matter that she was practically sexually harassing late-joiner Shaw, she was what Shaw was somehow missing after years of working for the ISA. What the Machine was at the start was always going to change, but there’s very little reasoning as to why it had to involve Root being the Machine’s mouth piece over the more logical choice of Reese. Her redemption makes no sense either. It wasn’t like Fusco’s, slow, well written, with acknowledgement of his earlier wrong doings. Root’s is “Well she’s good now because that’s what The Machine wants, let’s forget she spent 2 whole days terrorising Finch, that’s all in the past now~!”

I stalled during watching series 4. I’ve now got 2 episodes of series 4 to watch before I can start series 5 and I just don’t really want to. The procedural element went, there was a lost plotline to do with a third party team getting revenge, and that didn’t really go anywhere, and it does seem to be the “Look at how brilliant Root is at everything” show. That’s not what I signed up for when I started watching the show.

The most recent dissappointment was The Flash. I really liked the first series. I’d been meaning to watch everything Super-hero related everything anyway, I was just waiting for the time to become available as well as the DVDs, then a friend lent me her boxset of The Flash. I watched all of the first series in 2 and a half days. I thought it was Brilliant, and it wonderfully filled in the holes that Person of Interest was leaving me with. It ended on a cliffhanger and I was dying to find out what happened next.

Series 2 did not have the same effect. It started off well enough but somewhere along the line, I think maybe with the Wells we grew to love to hate (and love again if you’re into that sort of thing) going, the dynamics of the show changed. It didn’t quite make the new mark, and the ending annoyed me. This show is superhero procedural with an over-shadowing arc with a Big Bad, much like Buffy the Vampire Slayer was, and as the procedural element was being drowned out by personal drama as the character dynamic shifted and changed, the over-shadowing arc dragged on rather than shone. And then Barry pulled a Barry and left us all wondering why we wasted 23 hours of our lives watching series 2, specifically the Ross and Rachel plot line of Barry and Iris. And then series 3 happened. I won’t get too far into series 3, I think spoiler warnings can sometimes extend to a whole year! But I think it started off weak, everything was a mess canonically and it didn’t make for good watching… besides Julian. That was a nice little gem on an otherwise pile of bricks. I know the fandom loved the Musical episode. I was impressed by the singing, I wasn’t impressed with the execution or arbitrary plot developments leading up to it so that they could have it in the first place.

“Once More With Feeling” it was not.

And the big bad of the series? Called it. Though not the reasonings behind it, because I couldn’t have guesed that mess in a millon years. To me, that part of canon made very little sense whatsoever.

What has happened to this show!? I can only hope, without sounding like i’m mis-quoting D:Ream, things will get better. Before the last episode, I thought if the ending crapped out, I wouldn’t be watching series 4. I’ve heard that Arrow fell in a similar way and redeemed itself during series 4 and came back stronger, so I’m willing to give the 4th series a go. But it has until the 3rd episode to pull me in as much as the first series did, an if it doesn’t, I’m out.

It seems to me that most of these series start with a very strong recipe. They know what they want out of the show, so they know what to put in the show, and then suddenly what they planned ran it’s course. So they throw in personal drama, they change the dynamic, they hope it’ll make their characters grow but put hardly any of the groundwork to make it work like it did in the first series. They guess their audience and half the time they guess wrong.

I’m show hopping right now. I’ve found watchable shows to watch, such as The Blacklist, but nothing that has grabbed in the way that House/Alphas/POI/Rizzoli and Isles/Sports Night/The West Wing/Sherlock/Breakout Kings/Law and Order: Criminal Intent did before their inevitable downfalls.

And that’s what I think about Television now, and televsion shows. It’s only so long until the new shows of today have their inevitable downfalls, so is there really any point in investing time into watching them?

I want to end this on a special mention of the series of long, film length episodes: Hornblower. That show, though it changed over the years, and one of my favourite characters got killed off, never dissappointed me. Upset me, yes, but not dissappointed.


I survived, and to prove it I’m here

Monday 12 June, 2017

To follow up on my last blog post, I have to say that though the response I got from it was minimal, the responses I did get was appreciated. The relaxation techniques were tried (and then subsequently thrown back out the window – Sorry, but breathing calmly does not stop my head being as loud as Lime Street station on a busy day), and the more practical ones about revising did help a lot.

So, how did I think I did in my exam? Well I’d say it was an exam of two halves, which is an achievement in itself considering it had 3 questions. The first one I think I did okay with. I structured part A like an essay, I made and followed an essay in a good order, with all the revelant information I could think of, and part B was writing a short script, which I had fun with whilst trying to show I did understand the stuff I’d written about in part A. The second question started to lose me a bit. I structured it like an essay but half way through my brain shut down and I was struggling for information and coherency. It was my shortest answer and I’m just hoping that through showing what I knew about the metta sutta the length won’t be too much of a problem.

It all fell apart on my 3rd question. I hadn’t been well the week leading up so I wasn’t at my best because of that, I was also on antibiotics for it, which were not playing nice with me at all. I did take a small break to eat which perked me up, but it didn’t take away the wave of tiredness I was hit with or the grinding I was feeling in my ear. My third answer was word vomit of all I could dredge up on the topic of religious Touristification. There was a weak plan, and no structure to the essay. No introduction, no clear conclusion. I forgot locations, so I had to work around it by describing where I meant. I forgot specialist terms, and had to give a roundabout definition of them in the hopes the markers understand I did know what I was trying to say, I was just failing to do so. It was my longest answer and I felt I did as best I could do in the circumstances, but I’m not confident that I did well enough. I’ve said it once and I’ll say it again, I will be glad if I scrape a pass. I’m not asking or expecting anything more than a pass.

But, I was relieved it was done and leaving the room made me feel a bit better almost instantly.

As soon as I was able to, I went on facebook. And boy was that a mistake. I’m sure in a few years time, I’ll look back and find it funny, but right now the feeling of my heart in my stomach and panic induced nausea is still a bit too fresh.

The normal finish time of the exam was an hour before I finished, so there was already a discussion about who answered what questions and how we felt about them going. I added what questions I answered (2, 8 and 12) and how I felt about them. Under my reply, someone else replied saying they did the same questions as well, “but part b”, they added “was awful!”.

My heart sank, I was devastated. I didn’t do part b, because I didn’t see part b. From what I could remember, in my panic induced haze at the time, the question I did started near the top of the page and ended just before the bottom of the page, and the next page was the last page with “END” or “LAST PAGE” written on it. There had been no more. I’d had nightmares about a similar scenario and I felt like it had come true. I couldn’t get past the idea that I had missed the queston in my eagerness to leave. I also tried to imagine the page was folded badly by the invigilator, or the pages were printed out of order, or left out of the pack altogether, something to make it not my fault, but those ideas didn’t stick. The one where it was all my fault and that I’d failed because of my own incapability stuck, and I was so disappointed in myself. How could I? There is always one person who misses out a question, why did I have to be the one to do it? It was such a “me” thing to do, wasn’t it? The scatterbrained disabled person. Just so typical.

I couldn’t face being on Facebook anymore right them. I went to the loo, I tried and failed to eat an apple, and I waited for my taxi to arrive.

Shortly after getting in the taxi, I got a direct reply to my comment so I risked another peek on the group. What can I say? I didn’t think anything could make me feel worse at that point, so there was no reason to avoid it any longer. It had happened, I couldn’t do anything to change it, I needed to accept it and enjoy the summer holidays.

I spotted a bunch of replies to the reply underneath mine. They were all panicked “WHAT PART B” type questions. “I didn’t do part b either!” were heavenly words to my eyes. A bunch of us had missed part b. I can’t be that much of an idiot if we all missed part b, right? We weren’t All in it together, but some of us were, and that was enough for me.

And then the person who originally wrote the comment replied, with an apology.

“Oh my god guys!”, she said, “I’m so sorry! I meant question 10, not 12!”

I was torn between relief sobbing and flinging my phone out of the taxi.

To summarise to those who might have missed that. I didn’t miss “part B”, because there had been no “part B” to the question I had answered. We were all fine, and I imagine all equally relieved.

 

I don’t plan to do another exam for at least 2 years and I am hoping by then the Open University will see sense and reintroduce EMAs as an equal method of testing students on their knowledge, because I don’t think I want to go through any of that again.

But ultimately I did survive and now I am trying to enjoy my summer. And with summer comes film reviews, so watch this space!


Impending Exam: I am worried

Tuesday 2 May, 2017

This is a personal blog, which I haven’t written in a while.

I have an exam in a month’s time and I am very worried about it. I do not have the best track record with exams. I struggled to revise for my GCSEs, when I tried I did not take anything in, and when I didn’t try my mind was filled with everything but important information. When it wasn’t instinct to me, I did badly. When it involved maths, I did very badly.

My A levels, it didn’t matter how hard I tried, how many different ways I tried to revise – group revision, flash cards, write and recall, I went in to those exams knowing I knew this stuff in the back of my mind but couldn’t get my answers into order, and subsequently came out with a Two Ds and an E.

I swore off taking another exam again after that. I am no good at them and in my mind, I’ve recognised a limitation and done my best to stay within it. I don’t know what it is about them, or about my brain, but we have never worked well together and my results almost always reflected badly on my capabilities.  And now I have more health problems than I did back then, so I have more to battle against, in exam conditions. Which I will be sitting on very little sleep because I know for a fact I’ll be kept awake all night thinking through what questions I might face and going over how I might answer them, and all the things that might go wrong.

So when I say I am worried about this exam coming up, I’m not saying it lightly. This isn’t a plea for complements about my level of intelligence or knowledge on certain topics. I don’t want to hear “it’ll be fine” or that I “can do it”. I don’t necessarily want to be told it won’t be fine or I can’t do it, but I want acknowledgement that it might not be fine, because when it comes to exams, it just never is. I don’t want people to act as if I have nothing to worry about and that I’m being silly. I don’t care if this is a new me and a new course, and that my last experience with exams was years ago. If anything, that’s more reason for me to worry. My last exams were years ago, I was in the settings of exam preperation for the last few months of of 6th form and I don’t have that now, here, on my distance learning course as an adult and I can’t replicate it.

And if I don’t pass this exam, it’ll be two years worth of work on the line and I will have to take a resit in September, and if I fail the resit, the last two years will have gone to waste. Because whilst you can retake the year, I sure as hell am not repeating this module just to meet another exam at the end of it, and I’m no way dealing with the SFE for any longer than I have to.

You might be thinking, “AFJ, you’re putting the horse before the cart” and that might be so, but it’s hard not to when I’ll be sitting the first exam I’ll have sat in years and my health is nothing like it was back then, and I can’t see me passing this exam in those circumstances. I have memory problems from being tired all the time. I have always been bad with numbers, now I’m worse. I forget words in the middle of sentences. Because of me being tired, I don’t deal well with early mornings anymore outsde of insomnia bouts, and I flag again by either mid-morning or early afternoon. Just the travelling to the exam centre is going to have a toll on me.

I can construct a hell of an essay with the information I have learnt to hand, to read and double check details, and when it’s a good question to answer, I can do it quickly. But this will be an exam, I won’t be able to edit as I go along to re-structure my essay, I won’t have any resources to hand to refresh my memory and just the stress of having an hourly deadline will the situation harder for my body to deal with. I will have to dictate my answers to an ~emmanuensis~ which I haven’t needed to do since before my GCSEs (Or possibly during, I can’t remember if I had any scribes during my GCSEs but I remember my hand writing going very downhill during my geography exam) so that’s an extra element. And I know for a fact that even if I last the exam and I give decent enough answers, I will have to face the fall out my body will feel due to putting myself through that.

There is nothing good about this up and coming exam and I can’t emphasise this enough about how worried I am about it. I might know my stuff because I’ll have learnt it, but I might not be able to recall it on demand. I know for a fact that anything interesting I tell people, I sound like a fool who doesn’t know anything because my brain “vagues out” on specifics like dates and names of people.

And now for the biggest source of my frustation:

The Open University is meant to be the ~maverick~ university for those who, for whatever reason, can not or would prefer not to attend a regular “brick University”. It was meant to be open for everyone, no matter their personal circumstances. But in the last few years, they have been bringing themselves in line with other “mainstream” universities, it also means switching the EMAs to Exams. (Not to mention the expense, no more Educating Rita at the Open University!)

I have believed since I was 16 and sitting my GCSEs that all exams are, are memory tests. And they’re not even accurate memory tests, because evidence shows that stress affects memory and ability to convey information as accurately as we have learnt it, and exams are that stressful hardly anyone is able to do as well they would be able to in, for example, a relaxed conversation about the topic. So I really think switching EMAs to Exams really pull the rug out from under disabled students in a variety of ways, but especially for those of us who are unable to sit for long periods of time and have memory problems, whether nuerological or tiredness-induced. An EMA, which allows for well constructed arguments to be made when the student is at their best and a deadline of two to three weeks, I think is far superior to testing to see whether a student has grasped the concept, but hey, what do I know? I’m just a student.

If you have any practical advice, please feel free to suggest it.
If you have platitudes, you might mean well but I don’t want them.

 


Snap General Election

Tuesday 18 April, 2017

May has announced a Snap General Election to be held in June:  http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-39629603

Please, if for some bizarre reason any of you voted conservative, maybe family loyalty, maybe as a one issue voter, do not vote for them again. They have killed so many people with their policies, to vote for them Yet again after what we know from the Coalition would be saying to me “Yeah I don’t care if you suffer and die”.

At this point, I don’t care if you didn’t realise it would be this bad last time now, despite everyone who would be affected screaming their lungs out trying to inform you all, but if you see all of this chaos around you and think it’s what we need more of, then you are part of the problem.

Think of the future, don’t vote conservative. Preferably, vote Labour. I know, I know, they’re not perfect but they’re the only ones outside of Scotland who care even a tiny amount of the issues real people have. Under Jeremy Corbyn, they are the only ones who have fought for disabled people and carers. They have been infiltrated by Blairites and they have caused the problem, but look at the fundamental issues of the real labour members. They aren’t perfect, but they’re our best bet to get perfect.

The last election, out of the people who voted, Conservatives got in with about a third of the turn out. The rest was made up of people splitting themselves between the rest of the parties. If you add up all the left wing parties who were voted for, you get just under 60% of the vote, but because that is not how the system worked, Conservative got a single biggest chunk of the pie, so they got in.

Don’t let the break down of the voting pie go the same way. Labour have historically given more to the majority of the people, see the social security and the NHS as evidence.


Fashion Whilst Disabled

Friday 3 March, 2017

I’ve had this entry in the back of my mind for ages, but I’ve never really been able to put it together coherently. But last week was London Fashion Week and it prompted a twitter thread, and I’ve decided to use that as my basis.

My biggest problem with this issue, is that I’m not really into fashion. I’ve never really cared about what’s in and what isn’t, I don’t follow clothing trends and I think anything beyond function and colour is frivelous. In fact, I am very against the concept of the fashion industry, because almost every time I need new clothes, the exact things that I am looking for are no longer “In style” or “in season”, so they are impossible to buy.  Mixed in to this problem is “vanity sizing”, so not only do the fashion lines that make it into the shop become stock-only sizes where one shape is meant to fit all, the sizes they use don’t even match up to what people were.

Every time I have complained about this, I become very mindful of two fundamental problems: There are not enough disabled people included in the industry, and most disabled people who are involved in the fashion industry are, I’m sorry to say, able to pass for able-bodied. I don’t mean to slight those who are in the industry, but it’s true. They don’t cater for *me*.

Just recently a disabled fashion designer realised that standing mannequins don’t do much to show wheelchair users what clothes would look like on people who sit down, so she designed a wheelchair using mannequin. Unfortunately, all it looks like is a mannequin sitting down. The body is proportional, the body sticks to modern so called beauty standards, there is nothing besides the wheelchair (rather than the mannequin in it) which makes me think that the fashion industry is actually trying to reach out to people like me. I’m short, i’m not thin, my bone structure is awkward, I’m almost always cold, and my joints can swell up a lot on bad day. Size 10 skinny jeans that thin down to a size 8 in the shin, without any space in the seat to sit down in (You know what I’m talking about!) don’t cater for me, and neither do sheer fitted blouses. Guess what’s all I ever see in shops these days?

I am not the only person who is not in proportion, but shopping makes me feel I am. When I wear fitted women’s clothes, my hips are at the part that goes in for the fitted waist (or there abouts-ish). Fitted clothes are not forgiving to my back. Average beauty standards means they go out where I either don’t, or I go in, and vice versa. I’m finding a lot of cuts these days have sleeves stitched quite low on the sides, and I think if the tops fit the body, they would fit the arms on other people, but they don’t fit me. I can’t wear dresses and I can’t wear swimming costumes. I’m currently in dire need of new long sleeved pyjamas and despite wearing a size 10 or 12 since I was 15, recent changes in styles and sizing mean that I can’t find any that fit me. I had fun two years ago when I found a size 10 set where the bottoms were far too tight, but the size 12’s top was so low cut I might as well not have been wearing it. I did not have the baldface cheek to swap them and try and buy them without the till worker noticing.

My complaints about these issues are mainly met with dismissive attitudes and the suggestions that I must be looking in the wrong places, I must be looking at the wrong sizes. The problem can’t really be that bad. Also, that if it really is that bad, my best bet is buy what I can and then get them altered.

It is that bad, and there’s no high street chain that this doesn’t apply to. And why would there be when the problems come from the root? That there is no thought put into the design stage that not all people will fit into them? We see a lot of movement when it comes to “plus size clothing”, we see a lot of shops only selling up to size 14, and the cost sky rocketing when it goes past that, but even then I would say there is a standard that most people will meet for plus size clothing when they are provided, and when those clothes are of good quality. Disabled people are only catered for right now by small independent online companies, usually owned by other disabled people or loved ones of disabled peopel, and almost all based in America. It can be a lot of hassle to face trying to ensure correct size, shape and cut, and it doesn’t do much for the social aspect of shopping. Yet again, disabled people’s problems don’t make it out of the echo chamber.

Give me clothes that cater for humps, twisted backs, shortened trunks, flared ribs, short limbs and wide pelvises. Give me unmistakably disabled people included in the deisgn, in the whole process, and normalise catering fashionable items for people of body shapes outside of the so called norm.


The Undatables: A Failed Journalist’s Opinion

Wednesday 25 January, 2017

(I originally wrote this at some point following a bunch of conversations I was part of over twitter and facebook. Much thanks to Good Pal Lynsey for reading my word-vomit and editing it up for me so it was more coherent. I’ve become aware that sometimes my long winded sentences only make sense to me, and not much to other people!)

**

I’m going to talk about the Undateables. Why? Well, it’s come up again in the disabled community and I’ve had these thoughts floating around for a while, and I thought it was time to put all my thoughts about it in one place.

I think it wouldn’t surprise anyone to hear (or read) that I do not like the show. I don’t like the premise and I don’t like the tone. Yes, I have seen one episode of it, and I’ll never watch it again. No, that’s not because I’m as romantic as a rock (I can be romantic, I just never am. Let’s not go down this road. Anyway…)

The reason why I don’t like the show is because it is a beacon for inspiration porn. What is inspiration porn, you might ask? Well, it’s using the existence or circumstance of a disabled person to inspire able bodied people to feel better about themselves. It comes out in many forms and disabled people see, hear and feel it every day. When someone on the bus congratulates a wheelchair user for getting out and about, that’s inspiration porn. When someone shares a picture of a disabled bride walking down the aisle, that’s inspiration porn. When someone shares a picture of a bride in a wheelchair going down the aisle and the words “good for her!” are the caption, that’s inspiration porn. When a big fuss is made of an able bodied person going to the prom with a disabled person, that’s inspiration porn. When a Paralympian athlete is photographed at a training session and there’s a big caption over the photo saying “If this person can do it, you’ve got no excuse!” that is inspiration porn.

Yes, some disabled people indulge in it, but I’d say the majority of us dislike it and want rid of it. It’s only inspiring because these things are seen as exceptional, but when you come to understand disabilities beyond the “disability binary” then you come to realise that most wheelchair users can get up and walk (a bit, relatively speaking. When I get out of my wheelchair, it’s usually to make it easier to put my coat on or to go to the bathroom with crutches). You also realise that a lot of wheelchair users get on the bus to go about their fairly unexceptional day (when there’s not a sodding pram in the wheelchair space!) and a Paralympian athlete is just like any other athlete. They are fitter and stronger than the average joes of the world. Do people point at Jessica Ennis-Hill, Mo Farah, Gregg Rutherford or Rebecca Addlington and say “If these athletes can do it, you’ve got no excuse!” ? No. Because first of all, people would probably assume you’re implying that black people and female athletes are somehow less capable in the first place than white male athletes, and also implying that having ginger hair impedes a person’s ability to be good at sports. Second of all, because in this enlightened day and age, you know that these able bodied athletes are at the top of their game, because that’s where their training and hard work got them. Disabled athletes train to be athletes all the same. You’ve got “no excuse” regardless of whether Tanni Grey Thompson is doing a marathon or not. We are not a measuring spoon for how capable able bodied should feel about themselves.

So that’s inspiration porn summarised for you.

And that’s what Undateables wreaks of. That show is presented so that people go “Look at all those disabled people, bless em, they want true love, isn’t that sweet?”.

My other problem with it is this “have your cake and eat it too” notion from the makers of the show. Channel 4 have said this show is to highlight disabled issues, and to normalise disability. They say it’s a show for disabled people to connect with, but if you ask on Twitter, most disabled people will reply saying they’ve felt alienated watching the show by the way the editing process and undertone treat the people who go on it.

Normalising disability actually means treating it as if it’s so unexceptional that you take it as just as normal as seeing able bodied people everywhere. We once thought the Spork was amazing, now it’s an everyday item we eat salad with, and new generations wonder what all the fuss was about back in 2003.

Channel 4 are not going to achieve “normalisation” with a whole show dedicated to only disabled people in a dating show, usually being set up on dates with other disabled people, edited to highlight how bizarre and weird (*cough* undateable *cough*) a person’s disability makes them. There’s a thin line between recognising perseverance through adversity, and pointing at the freak of the circus and saying “Dear God what is that thing!”, and I think this show skates firmly past the line into the latter.

I think if Channel 4 really wanted to achieve normality for disabled people, they’d ditch the show and accept more disabled people on to their other dating shows. I believe there’s a show called First Dates, and that that has, on the odd occasion, featured a disabled person looking for love. Now I’ve not watched that show and I don’t know how they treated that person, but I imagine there was less of turning a disabled person into a freak show and more of drink, food and awkward conversation that the rest of the participants also go through.

Keeping disabled people to a speciality show is segregating us from mainstream programming, it is that simple. People will categorise it as a special needs show, and they’ll either not watch it because they don’t want to watch disabled people, or they do watch it because they want to get teary-eyed and warm-hearted over it. It is plain to see who these shows are made for, and it is for the able bodied community. It is a narrative of disabled people skewed so people can lap it up and weep over. And you might ask yourself what the difference is when people do that for the Undateables and when people do that for First Dates. The answer is tone.

Which brings me on to my third point. The show makers keep defending that the name of the show, the “Undateables”, is irony. It’s a nod to the culture that says disabled people aren’t dateable by showing that is an untrue stereotype. As in, they’re not undateable, because they’re on the show to go on date! (YAY~) Skimming over that, I just don’t see them destroying this stereotype via the content of the show. It’s obvious that the subtle irony is lost on most people who watch it.

Look on Twitter, look on Facebook. Read the reactions. It’s The Feels coming from a place of ~Feels~. Because, again, if dating and disability were normalised, I don’t think we’d see as much of a maternalistic reaction as we do now. How do I know that? Because First Dates doesn’t get those same reactions.

And worse is the mockery. There’s a meme that goes around on Facebook and Twitter where people announce that they’ve got through the selection process to appear on The Undateables, with the joke being that of course they’re not “retarded” to go on “that show”. There’s people who live tweet and make horrible comments and jokes about the participants, about the way they look and how they act. There’s people who call other people names of memorable participants. And it doesn’t matter what defence they use, they follow the same formula, and don’t let pathetic reasons tell you otherwise. They’re not calling someone Tourettes Adam* because of a facial feature or personality trait that they admired in the participant who had tourettes, they are using tourettes as an insult towards these other people.

Americans love this defence, it’s called the “But it means something different here and they’re not even disabled”. It doesn’t matter what you say your intentions are, if you are making fun of someone by using an aspect of disability (such as retard, spaz, mong), then you are making fun of disabled people. You are saying that this aspect of disability is bad, it’s something to mock. And the same goes for when people on twitter call their mates “Tourettes Adam*”. They aren’t making fun of JUST their mate, they are making fun of someone with Tourettes.

And for the record, Retard, Cretin, Spaz, Mong, and other such words, were born from use against disabled people. It doesn’t matter if your chair is fire retardant and that that meaning is something different in that context, no one is telling you not to call your couch fire retardant. We are telling you that using the word retard (or the other words) in a context where you are making fun of someone for an aspect you would find in a disabled person, who is less able than you in some way, or not as smart as you academically, then it goes right back to the disability slur. Yes, even if it’s because your friend got a D in their Maths GCSE when you got an A. There is no defence in using these words.

So, back to The Undateables. With all those reasons combined, Channel 4 are not kidding me, nor many other disabled people.

It’s up to you if you keep watching, but I hope after you read this you question why you watch it. I hope you compare it to other dating shows and see the differences that we can see, and think about how each show makes you feel. If you know there’s a difference in how you feel watching it, then you know there’s a difference in how and why they make it.

And I hope you come around to our way of thinking and realise that the show, and the way it makes you feel, is hurting disabled people. It is not helping us, it is definitely not normalising dating and disability, and with that in mind I hope that you eventually stop watching it.

This has been AFJ.

Please come back soon!

*- Tourettes Adam does not exist, as far as I’m aware, however I have seen a similar nickname be thrown around on twitter and I did not feel right about using it.


Who Says No To Mentos? Sensible people, that’s who

Wednesday 30 November, 2016

I’ve been meaning to write about adverts for a while now, but I’ve struggled to pull a post together in a coherent manner. I can’t stand most adverts and some of them just make me want to rant and go off on one, and I can’t see that being a worthwhile read, so you can understand my problem.

Until now. Now a new advert has come out and this post all fell in place.

It’s about an advert for Mentos: the lovely sweeties that are not quite fruity softmints that actually had a mass recall about 10 years ago now because of import related reasons. They taste lovely and they are great to put into bottles of coke.

It starts with text on the screen saying “When did we forget how to connect with each other?” and follows up with children directing adults in conversations. It’s meant to be cute! It’s meant to remind us how easy it was to connect with strangers when we were all children!

You know, when we were all ignorant of how terrible people of the world could be.

There’s one guy going up to a woman who is sitting down, asking if he can sit down and tell her a story. There’s a woman asking another woman if she wants to go with her to her house, and it ends with one guy asking another guy for cuddle, and that same guy asking two other people if they want a mento.

The problem is, in this world of children communicating with a child’s mind with the view that adults work like children, it sort of works. In real life, these things are big No No Klaxons. These are the exact things we should be telling children “If someone says this to you, you shout as loud as you can and go to the nearest familiar face.”

This does not work out of the world of children.

In real life, women already have men sitting down when and where they are not wanted and asking if they can “tell them a story”, with the belief that they won’t be told no. If women are asked as politely as “Chris” asks his target and are turned down, the scene can change from nice stranger to Nice Guy (TM) who demands to know what is so wrong with him that he’s not allowed to sit down and be nice to someone and engage them in a Nice conversation.

In the case of the two women, where one thinks the other is hitting on her, it is no wonder considering what we can expect from people in this society today.

And the third one involves one man asking another man if he can have a cuddle. Are you kidding me!? Are we only meant to be weary of this question of it’s asked by someone wearing a trench coat!? If someone came up to me and said “can I have a cuddle” and they weren’t Tom Fletcher from McFly, I would tell them where to go and what they can do with that cuddle.

And lastly, if a random man came over to me and offered me a sweet, I have enough reasons in today’s society and social climate to be weary of such a question to just flat out turn it down and move away. I don’t know where that sweet has been, I don’t know if there is an ulterior motive at play or a catch if i except. Call me paranoid, but if women can’t even allow men to open doors without there being repercussions afterwards, and the potential blame put on them should something happen in a bad turn of events, then  nobody should be shown accepting anything from others they don’t know in this sort of context, whether it’s food or contact or otherwise.

And the very fact that this advert includes children, I can’t believe nobody has thought this through! The defence is that these adverts are on late at night when there’s less chance of children seeing them, but I don’t believe these measures truly work.

Who says no to mentos? Hopefully everyone, if it’s from someone you don’t know or can’t trust.

In other advert-related rants: For similar reasons, I really dislike the Avon advert where women get a mystery package through the post. Let’s think this through. Treating this advert in earnest, this mystery package is supposedly full of make up items but the models don’t know where it’s come from, and they don’t know what the items contain.And yet, throwing caution to the wind where the products might be filled with dangerous chemicals due to the items possibly being fakes, possibly having an allergic reaction to the new mystery products they don’t know the origins of, and forgetting the anthrax scare we had about 20 years ago (and if I’m old enough to remember it, so are the people on the advert!), they cake their faces in the stuff. And only afterwards is it revealed these are Avon products.

Again, I can’t think of any woman who would just open a mysterious box that was posted through the door if they haven’t ordered anything, and I certainly don’t know anyone who would be as careless to actually use make up that they can’t put a name and ingredients list to.

A few years ago there was that spree of “Should have gone to Specsavers” adverts which really got my goat. Specifically, the one set on a rollercoaster.

In the scene, we have two pensionrs, apparently walking down a pier and then sitting down to have a rest and eat some food. Except they’ve sat down on a rollercoaster, they still have their bags with them, they have sandwiches in their hands, and then the chest strap comes down before the rollercoaster speeds off.

I had so many problems with this advert that I couldn’t believe such glaring oversights would be ignored to save face.

First of all, you can’t just accidentally wander on to a rollercoaster! It doesn’t matter how blind you are because you don’t have glasses on or the right prescription, there’s sounds, there’s people, there’s staff members. The design of a fair ground just doesn’t allow for it.

Secondly, they’re holding their bags and their sandwiches when the chest guard comes down. I know rollercoasters and engineers have had some well deserved negative press lately, but I don’t know anyone who has ever sat on a ride without someone going down the row of seats to make sure everyone is strapped in safely and correctly and ready to go. If by some freak happenstances that led to two pensioners sitting on a rollercoaster in the belief it was a park bench, staff would see them with their sandwches and their bags, see them trapped uncomfortably by the chest guard, and (knowing of the staff that I do and not the poor quality staff who have led to terrible tragedies) sort the situation out before it went further.

And then perhaps the biggest insult to my intellect was the pensioners going from trapped by the chest guards to holding them in a safe fashion like you are meant to. How could that happen!? In real life, it certainly wouldn’t have.

It wasn’t your sandwich, mate, it was poor story boarding!

And finally, I pretty much hate every perfume advert out on the market.
Why are scantily clad women writihing on silk and satin sheets holding perfume bottles?! What have those elements of the advert got to do with perfume? These adverts are clearly for the male gaze and they tell me nothing about the product.

It’s not so much “Sex Sells” because if sex really sold, women wouldn’t have to put up with adverts for products aimed at them, aimed at men. It’s that the sexualisation of women sells… to men, and tells women that they need to be like those women on screen… for reasons I don’t understand…

Do you know what would make sense for perfume adverts? Exploring what scent can mean in the greater sense. Scent can be a great memory reminder. Imagine, instead of women draped in figure-implying sheets, glowering at the camera, we have happy smiling women spraying perfume into the air to ground a memory into their mind, and then at the end of the advert, them spraying perfume into the air and the memory being recalled.

That would be lovely. That’s what I want out of perfume adverts.

But I suppose until women are in charge of broadcasting and asexuals in charge of advertising, the television will continue to concentrate on the male gaze, people (mostly women) will continue to be sexualised, and adverts will be made which do not share themselves well to real life circumstances.