Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Good News from Good News Week

There was a little storm in an Australian autism tea cup this week, centred around a variety/celebrity show called Good News Week.

Someone made an autism joke, which sounded a bit like it was supposed to be an epilepsy joke, but none the less it was tasteless. There were complaints, mainly because it was a pre-record of a live event, and the network could have chosen to edit out the joke. They didn't (clearly) and cited the fact that the host of the show made a kind of admonishing rebuttal as the reason why.

While I totally get that comedy is comedy, I don't really see autistic kids as funny fodder.

Do I think there are funny things about autism? Yes. Absolutely. Having your child bowl up to a complete stranger and quote a TV ad or a stretch of David Attenborough is really quite funny. Especially if said stranger has no experience of autism. Seeing your child shuffle down the hallway having completely missed the part of leaving the toilet that involved pulling up undies and pants... it's funny. Those things are funny in a sight gag, OMG is this really my life, kind of way. And I know we're lucky to have the sort of relationship with autism that gives us the chance to giggle occasionally.

Seeing your child laughed at by others... that's not so funny. Seeing neuro-typical people mock something they can't possibly understand... definitely not funny. To me, at least.

And that's what happened on Monday night's Good News Week. It's not like poking fun at Queenslanders or pointing out the stupidity of people's fashion choices... it's like giving people permission to see difference in the behaviour of a child, actually my child, and saying 'Go ahead, laugh at him, he won't be offended...' Queenslanders or people in bad pants can fight back, rebut the jokes... my kid cannot. By the very nature of his disability, he cannot.

It's a cheap shot, really.

Anyhow, I wrote an email to the Executive Producer, saying I get where you are coming from (comedy and all) but I'm not sure encouraging people to laugh at autistic people and their behaviour is a good move for anyone.

And, he wrote back.

He apologised. He said in retrospect he should have taken the line out of the show, and he made the wrong call. He didn't need to do that...

I'm seriously impressed.

TV, not surprisingly, is not known for its sensitivity, or for taking responsibility for screwing up. It's usually full of bravado, smoke and mirrors. And I'm not slamming it just for fun, I'm one of them. It's where you'll find me when I'm not here crapping on about my homespun theories on autism and everything.

So, thank you, EP of GNW. Apology completely accepted.

We're all human.

Even the autistic among us.


DQ said...

Thank you for writing to them. I was so mad. The first comment about the drum made cross, but the second comment, where Russell Kane pulled a dreadful face with his eyes rolled up to the top of his head, started rocking and repeating that his team 'needed more information' because one of them was 'autistic' made me furious. What made it worse was when the audience started laughing then applauding.
I was so mad I could not even summon the direction to complain. So thank you for being that together.

Ro said...

Spoke to Bill Shorten and he got the media on to it, then several of us were interviewed and then the blanket apology was offered.
Yay to the power of us Mummy bloggers!

carriemumof2withasd said...

Hi Valerie, Well done so proud of you for sending that letter! I too write letters like that and never send them so snaps to you girlfriend. I love your blog.

carriemumof2withasd said...

I also would like to add, although it was distastful he has now given the Autism community a way of raising awareness.

These comment's/jokes are now all over them media and that gives us a platform/a way in to tell it the right way and raise awareness for our children.