We wrote about Toxic Schlock at NBC just a little while ago and now we’re disposed to do so again. As a blind person who has a sharp sense of humor I wish to set the record straight though I shouldn’t have to. Blindness is in fact funny. But its not funny if the humorous treatment deprives the blind of intelligence. And that’s what this blog finds so objectionable about the recent bigoted burlesques at NBC. Let me for the sake of argument make an analogy. If Saturday Night Live had presented Tina Fay as Sarah Palin and, yes, for the sake of the comedy payoff had Fay-as-Palin appear on the news segment and lets say that as she was attempting to talk she suddenly opened her blouse and began breast feeding a baby–and as she was doing so she lost the ability to make sense, thereby reinforcing the old patriarchal stereotype that women can’t be women and think at the same time, well I think its safe to say that millions of TV viewers would be repulsed. Fay’s version of Pailin was funny because it stuck to Palin’s politics. Period.
Yet these recent NBC presentations of blindness have been entirely predicated on the notion that the blind are clueless buffoons. What’s worse from my perspective is that I heard from a former graduate student of mine that a notable disability studies scholar remarked recently that the SNL skits about Governor Paterson were just fine–as though “the disabled” should be as ready and willing to submit to humorous treatment as any other group, etc.
To which I say: “Ah but Grass hopper! You leave out the distinction between bigoted humor and sophisticated wit. No one would find a black face minstrel show to be in any way funny. No one would think my example above viz Sarah Palin was in any way justifiable. Nor would a person of common sense believe any of it was funny.”
That’s what I would say to the disability studies scholar for whom blindness (about which she knows not a whit) is funny no matter how its presented. I can scarcely go on. And why should I? The 30 Rock episode presented a blind woman as entirely unable to perceive her surroundings. How shameful. And what sophomoric writing! Yuck!