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Neighbours Forgets The Ability in Disability… again!

January 29, 2008

First we had Mrs Cammeniti’s… outdated reaction to the very idea of her daughter, Rosie, marrying Frazer Yeats who, at the time, was in a wheelchair. He was miraculously cured, just in time to walk down the aisle on his wedding day. How convenient. Thank goodness for Rosie’s sensitivity in defending Frazer instantly.

However, just when I had finally forgiven the producers of the second-best soap opera in the world (the first is a post in itself, which I will write someday when I get some time) for their outdated attitudes to disability, along comes a car driven by Susan Kennedy which runs over Bridget Parker. Bridget Parker then goes into a coma for all of three episodes. Her parents are told she will wake up with brain damage. So… she wakes up and is told that she’ll need a wheelchair. So there was I, looking forward to the sight of a wheelchair on Ramsay Street again. But… wake up, samedifference1, this is Neighbours we’re talking about! Bridget Parker decides she’d rather have a crutch, and discharges herself from hospital after one session of physiotherapy, which was actually more like hydrotherapy, but anyway… So I had to satisfy myself with that significantly milder form of disability.

And… I was satisfied. Until today, when Bridget Parker’s understandably worried parents were discussing adaptations to their home and her life. Overhearing their conversation, Bridget walked in to the room as fast as her crutch would allow her to and firmly informed them that she’s not a cripple and she didn’t need handframes, velcro shoes or toilet rails, because they were for disabled people! She then told her closest female friend on Ramsay Street that she just wanted to get back to ‘normal.’ Whatever that means, because I’ve never seen it.

So every disabled character we ever see on Ramsay Street is either insulted by Monster-in-Law or in denial. Most of them end up miraculously cured, the rest mysteriously disappear after an episode or ten. (Think Anne Baxter, the swapped, biological, blind Timmins daughter)  The real question is still the same. What kind of message are the scriptwriters of Neighbours trying to send out to their mainstream viewers? It seems like they think that insulting disabled people is a ‘normal’ part of being a ‘normal’ person. Those viewers of Neighbours who are DisAbled had better all hope that we find friends, husbands or wives like Rosie, because unfortunately for us, we can’t be cured as easily as their characters can. That is if they even want disabled viewers in the first place, which it doesn’t look like they do, because we are totally under-represented and, when they do try to represent us, they always find some way to insult us in the process.

I would like to tell the scriptwriters of Neighbours that while, like it or not, they will have this disabled viewer forever (as much as they do make me want to break my TV screen in frustration at times when they try to represent disability) I do wish that they would remember that the attitudes to disability that they show very often belong in 1988 more than they do in 2008. But since I just can’t stop myself from watching Neighbours, I’ll just have to limit my rants to this blog. Thanks for reading. Rant over. Roll on, Bridget Parker’s miraculous recovery. Meanwhile, I’m off to make sure that tomorrow’s episode is saved in Sky+… 

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