JellyBaby's Blog

Mixed Views On Glee

Posted on: March 4, 2010

There were mixed views on ‘Wheels’, the episode of Glee shown last Monday on E4. Disability was under the microscope as Will Schuester made the club use wheelchairs for three hours a day to get them to be more sympathetic to wheelchair-bound Artie, played by Kevin McHale.

With a touching storyline and some great wheelchair-height scenes showing exactly how hard it is to get about in school in a chair, you’d imagine it would be popular among disabled viewers, but there was just one problem. Kevin McHale, who plays Artie isn’t actually in a wheelchair himself.

Disability campaigners are angry that the team behind the comedy TV show didn’t cast someone who is actually disabled. Surely there are plenty of talented singer/dancer/actor types who use wheelchairs? Casting McHale meant a talented disabled person might be missing out.

But not everyone thinks this should be the case. After all, acting is all about playing a character. Straight people play gay people and vice versa; Brits play Americans and Americans play French; actors can play cheerleaders, hockey players, writers or models regardless of whether they are themselves. Why can’t an able bodied person play a wheelchair bound one? Glee’s director said that McHale was such a perfect choice for the role that it was impossible to turn him down.

Not so controversial was the storyline involving a down syndrome girl joining the cheerleading squad. Sue Sylvester, the intimidating coach, was no less scary as she coached Becky. This concerned Will Schuester who thought she should show more compassion towards a girl with learning difficulties. Sue’s response? To say that she wasn’t going to treat Becky any differently to the rest of the Cheerios because she had learning difficulties. OK, so bullying’s wrong and Sue Sylvester does go too far but I agree wholeheartedly with this statement. Treating disabled people equally means no discrimination – whether that’s negative or positive.

Personally I loved the episode and liked seeing a mainstream show tackle subjects that aren’t usually shown on TV, especially down syndrome which is an often misunderstood condition.

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