Last week I happened to see this teaser trailer for BBC Three’s “season featuring disability” entitled Defying the Label. Wanting to get excited, I watched the trailer numerous times trying to get a hold of the upcoming programming and the BBC’s aims. I’ve gotta tell you, I’m nervous, very very nervous.
I don’t know why, but programming with features any form of disability in the UK seems to depend on sensationalism rather than great writing and performances. Apparently the season is going to feature programming with titles such as Don’t Take My Baby, Me and My New Brain, and The Boy Who Wants His Leg Cut Off. In addition to these titles lacking in any sort of creativity (hmmm…. The Boy Who Wants His Leg Cut Off what on earth could that be about?), they sound like bylines for the Jerry Springer Show.
The irony of these disability led programmes having to fit under their own season and then naming the season Defying the Label seems to be lost on those at BBC Three. If the goal is to present individuals with disabilities who “defy labels,” why are we labelling them by creating a separate season? Why not integrate these programs into the mainstream shows. Why is it that in 2015, programs that feature disabilities (an issue that affects us all) still have to come with warnings?
I’ll be watching as much of the season as I can and writing about it here over the next few weeks. Perhaps BBC Three will prove me wrong (I hope so!) but I am skeptical. Special programming and circus sensationalism will never be an adequate way of incorporating diversity into mainstream media. Such behaviou only serves to re-establish persons with disabilities as “The Other,” a monolith in need of special programming and special considerations. My only solace is that BBC Three won’t be around too much longer to make this a habit.