Wednesday, February 11, 2009
THIS JUST IN...
FROM THE NETWORK THAT BROUGHT YOU DATE MY MOM, FROM G'S TO GENTS, SUPER SWEET 16 AND A SHOT AT LOVE WITH TILA TEQUILA, NOW COMES AN TOUCHING, INFORMATIVE SERIES ABOUT PEOPLE WITH PHYSICAL AND MENTAL DISABILITIES. THIS IS NOT MEANT TO BE OFFENSIVE FOLKS, WE JUST WANT TO "PROVIDE A POSITIVE EMPOWERING VIEW OF LIFE WITH A DISABILITY!!!"
Sure you do.
Recently I received a vague message from the Williams Syndrome Regional Chairperson to tune into MTV on Sunday night because there would be something about Williams Syndrome. Now, a rationally thinking person would have thought, "what the heck could MTV possibly have to say about Williams Syndrome?" But as we all know, I am a parent, and when it comes to your children, parent's don't always think rationally. The fact that MTV isn't necessarily known for its journalistic integrity eluded me as I sent text messages to everyone in my address book to tune in at 10:30.
I'm not completely dense, I assumed it would be some sensationalized documentary about a teenager with WS who was looking for a prom date or some young 15-year-old parents who had a baby with a genetic disorder, but I was still surprised to find that the show, called "How's Your News" is a news show where all seven reporters have different disabilities such as Bobby and Sean who have Down Syndrome, Larry with spastic cerebral palsy, and Jeremy, Lucas and Brendan who all have Williams Syndrome.
The HYN website states:
"How’s Your News first began over ten years ago at a summer camp for adults with disabilities in Massachusetts. We were working in video class and searching for a format which could include as many people, with as wide an array of disabilities, as possible. So we began making our own news shows."
Apparently, the show started as a documentary which was financed by Matt Stone and Trey Parker (creators of South Park), has won several film festival awards, and has been broadcast on HBO and PBS. In 2006 they pitched the idea of a series to some networks which is when our beloved MTV decided to finance a pilot and 6 episodes.
The first show featured the HYN team on their tour bus doing interviews with the band Plain White T's, picking up John Stamos as a hitchhiker, interviewing residents on Venice Beach and approaching celebrities on the red carpet at the Grammy's. Jeremy Vest, who has WS got a lot of airtime in the episode. He was really cute and funny. He's a drummer and asked all the celebs he talked to about the drummer in their band. When you think about it, a beat reporter/interviewer is probably a great career for a person with WS, whom often have little social inhibitions and flowery conversation.
So as a parent with a child with WS, what do I think? If this show was on any network OTHER than MTV, I might be more able to accept this. But when I look at MTV's Sunday night lineup, and see that How's Your News fall somewhere between The Girls of Hedsor Hall (where America's rowdiest girls will be sent to prim-and-proper England for a complete transformation) and Real World Brooklyn, well, I start to question their motives. If the show was on let's say A&E, PBS, maybe Bravo, HBO or even a prime network, although I'd still be skeptical, I'd be more likely to believe that the show is actually meant to bring about some kind of understanding and acceptance, instead of just making fun of people. I don't want to stereotype, but when you think about MTV's target audience, its hard to believe the same folks that are into Real World/Road Rules Challenge, are going to be the ones donating to the Williams Syndrome Association. Just saying.
For now the jury's still out, I've only seen one episode, but watch the show and let me know what you think. Next show is Sunday at 10:30pm. Right after Nitro Circus (a stunt show modeled after Jackass). Ha.
Let me clear this up...Its not the show or the group that I have issues with! In fact I think that the group is phenomenal. I LOVED Jeremy Vest in the episode I saw. I was very emotional and literally crying tears of joy, seeing a kid with Williams Syndrome on TV. That part I think is amazing.
I guess I was feeling more like MTV was using the group and the show as purely comedic and setting it up to have people view it in the wrong context - one where people would be laughing at their disabilities instead of appreciating the differences. As a parent of a child with a disability, that bothers me somewhat. On one hand, yes I think its terrific that networks like that are having shows with different kinds of kids and adults, on the other hand, like I said before I question the motives of a network that is kind of known for sensationalism.