Glee – where have I been?!

Quick question – am I the only person on the planet who has managed to miss the new American phenomenon Glee?! Of course I’d heard of it, but hadn’t paid much attention until a friend alerted me to one of the characters, Artie Abrams, who is in a wheelchair.

Glee - image -

For those of you, like me, who must have been living under a rock the past few months, Glee is set in an American High School and centres around the Glee club. Created for a mixed-bag of characters who don’t ‘fit in’ anywhere else – the gay guy, the ‘plump’ black girl, the pregnant cheerleader, the guy in a wheelchair – the Glee club is a musical group who have taken their aspirations to competition level.

Glee Artie - wheelchair - image -

With an episode focusing on each character, Wheels honed in on Artie’s story. Problems with funding the transport needed for Artie’s wheelchair leave the group out-casting Artie and asking him to make his own way to competitions.

But teacher Will Schuester shows the students the errors of their ways demanding that they conduct a bake sale (so American!) to pay for the transport, and orders them spend the day in a wheelchair – a genius idea and something a lot more people should try.

Glee disability- image -

The show also features a young girl with Down’s syndrome (Becky Jackson, played by Lauren Potter) who secures a place in the cheerleading club. This is no mean feat due to the elitist nature of the group run by straight-talking coach Sue Sylvester. An unexpected gesture of kindness by Sue, but we later learn that she has a sister with Down’s syndrome.

But back to Artie. I am aware that not everyone has a positive opinion about this character. Maybe this is in part to do with the actor, Kevin McHale, not having a disability.  As I’m not in a wheelchair myself, I can’t comment on how truthfully or negatively the experiences of using a wheelchair are being portrayed. I doubt the directors and writers have this first-hand knowledge either.

But despite the American cheesy messages, is it a bad thing that finally someone with a disability is on a mainstream show? Not only that, but episodes like Wheels highlight the difficulties faced by someone in the wheelchair and how they are treated and included or should I say excluded by others. Surely this will open some people’s eyes to what it is like to be different?

Glee Wheels - image -

So as the last episode airs this week I suggest that reaching a true depiction of those with disabilities on TV and breaking down stereotypes is going to be a long and windy road. Just like the debate around using models with curves instead of stick thin women. But at least it’s a start?!

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June 9, 2010. Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , . Entertainment.

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