Disabled Lead Characters in the Media: Spotlight on Pelswick and OtherMedia Portraits of the 90swith Any Kind of Disability

Ever wonder what kind of programming might interest your child, teen, or yourself these days? Pretty insipid stuff currently inhabits our television screens, but I’d like to bring back Pelswick, a gem from the 1990s, an awesome old favorite about a boy in a wheelchair. This is supposed to be a cartoon, but many disabled people don’t get the show named  for them, nor do they have lead parts, even in Arthur, the famous PBS show. So Pelswick comes as a bit of a surprise to me.

Pelswick is a teenage boy in a wheelchair living with a single father, a big plus  for the time as mostly mothers had custody of divorce children. He also has a grandmother and sister, but the family is in any case a family full of love and tolerance, and the father wants a girlfriend, of course. But there are dangers as Season 2 episode 9shows us.

In this episode, spoiler alert slightly, Pelswick’s dad finds a lady called Spagna, who seems like a super nice and fun loving woman at first, but there is a big surprise in the episode while Pelswick is doing some detective work of his own to find out if Spagna is worth the family’s time. Watch the episode in a few different ways, and you’ll be asking yourself, what should I do as a single parent with a disabled child and siblings? I can name a real life example that went well for the children in question, and I can probably name other examples that didn’t go so well.

But for Pelswick, spoiler alert number 2, Spagna is overpatronizing. How many of us with disabilities remember how “special” we were meant to be or were looked at as in school or work or with a parent nearby? Pelswick’s dad may not have picked up on the signals that Spagna wasn’t quite right for him because of how she regarded Pelswick, as incapable of practically taking a breath! One might think this episode offensive, but I see it as a teaching tool. She seems so politically correct that Spagna woos the family. They clearly fail to see what she’s really standing for. I was at first deceived by Spagna’s ability to open up, but notice her patronizing way she talks openly about his special qualities. This may be the worst choice of examples, but applying this example to a real life situation is paramount to importance. Single parents should be aware of their girlfriend’s or boyfriend’s signals and any patronizing behavior can easily be picked up by a disabled child. “You’re so special” may be interpreted as “Yuck, you’re incapable.” You never know. Here’s the link for your reference.

Author: denverqueen

My name is Beth. I'm blind from birth and enjoy the blogging atmosphere. I am a creative person, a musician, a writer, etc. This is me. Take it or leave it.

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