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‘Glee’ Among TV Shows With ‘Conscience’ For Highlighting Disabilities

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An episode of Fox’s “Glee” spotlighting disabilities and a documentary on autism are among eight shows that will be honored this spring for exemplifying “television with a conscience.”

In addition to disability issues, the programs selected this week to be honored by the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences tackle issues ranging from physician-assisted suicide to racism and Alzheimer’s disease. The shows were chosen for displaying the “power of television to change attitudes and lives,” the Academy said.

“Glee” was selected for an episode called “Wheels” where teacher Will Schuester challenges his students to spend a week using wheelchairs in order to better understand a fellow glee club member who relies on one. The episode also features a student with Down syndrome who is selected for the cheerleading squad.

A Discovery Health documentary called “Unlocking Autism” was also selected. The show looks at scientific efforts to better understand autism and examines how the disorder affects people’s lives.

“This year’s honorees have created moving and thought provoking television that not only entertains, but informs the audience of important social issues,” said Lynn Roth, co-chair of the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences committee responsible for the honors.

“CSI” and the ABC drama “Private Practice” are among the other shows to be honored at an event in May.

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Comments (5 Responses)

  1. haddayr says:

    Is this a joke? I’m guessing that not a single disabled person was involved in this decision? That episode of Glee was offensive, ignorant, twee, and perpetuated stereotypes as well as ignorance of basic things like the ADA. Sheesh.

  2. anon says:

    OK this is a really bad move. Just because a show puts a person with a disability in the show does not mean that they can then do and say whatever they want. This show makes short bus jokes. This show didn’t use a person with a disability to play a person with a disability. (wheelchair user) This show used the word “mongoloid”. Who is deciding who gets the awards here? Who is in your back pocket? You need to check with the people before you decided what shows get awarded. If you award this type of show then what is next? Sarah Silverman show? Family Guy? Bad Move. So disapointed.

  3. rsinkhorn says:

    I think it’s a great move. I’m the mother of Lauren Potter who plays Becky Jackson on “Glee” The show shows a girl with Down Syndrome who wants to be a cheerleader, trys out (just like everyone else) and gets on the team. THe coach, who is hard on everyone, treats Becky just like she treats all of the other “Cheerios”. Sounds like inclusion to me! I’ve been Lauren’s advocate for all of her almost 20 years, and would never have let her become involved in a project that portrayed people with disabilites is a negative way. The producers, writers, directors, actors, and EVERYONE involved with the show have been absolutely wonderful. It has been a wonderful experience for Lauren.

  4. haddayr says:

    rsinkhorn:
    I’m glad your daughter had a good experience, and I thought the way they treated her was fine. However, I’m afraid you did “let her become involved in a project that portrayed people with disabilities in a negative way.”

    Because with the sole exception of your daughter’s scenes, the entire episode was rankly offensive.

    For the coach to go and read to her own sister with Downs, FIGHTING TEARS at the piteous state of her sister? That was loathsome. And every decision they made with the kid in the wheelchair from casting to writing the storyline was full of fail. I found myself shouting at the screen.

    I do not hold you responsible for how badly written the piece was, or for their casting decisions with the boy in the wheelchair, btw. And I think your daughter did a great job. But the episode was just shockingly offensive to not only me, but to every single other disabled person I have spoken with on this. Every single one.

    So please don’t tell me that it wasn’t offensive. It was. I know. I watched it. And I’m disabled.

  5. Ness says:

    My daughter (who has Down Syndrome) loves Glee. It’s her favorite show and congratulations to Lauren! I hope she will have a recurring role.

    As a parent, I thought the revelation about Sue Sylvester’s sister provided a realistic explanation of Sue’s character: I’ve met so many family members who become gratuitously aggressive to cope with the constant bias and prejudice they face (hmm, I’ve done it myself).

    The only false note I detected was having Sue read a fairy tale to her sister (the actress playing her is obviously functioning at a very good level). It would have been more realistic to have the two of them reading a vampire romance novel – my daughter’s favorites.

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