At a time when people with disabilities continue to be underrepresented in TV. Over at Ability Superstore, we looked at some of the most successful TV series that have managed to represent those with disabilities, and how those characters are portrayed.
Game of Thrones
Game of Thrones has become the world’s most popular television show. Sex, violence, twists and of course dragons have become the main focal points to the show’s success. But one aspect that seemingly goes unnoticed in Game of Thrones is the representation of disabilities in Westeros.
However, for the disabled community, one character in particular has continuously provided a benchmark for someone with a disability being in the mainstream media: Tyrion Lannister.
Born as a person of short stature into the wealthiest and most powerful family in the kingdom, Tyrion is everything that a man should be: brave, witty, smart and a gentleman.
His short stature is a thorn in his father’s side who insists that his son’s labour and delivery was so gruesome that it directly resulted in his mother’s death.
But for many of us, we don’t notice that Game of Thrones is a television show which has effortlessly incorporated disability into its plot line successfully. While many associated the victim with disability, Tyrion demonstrates he is not a victim, just a regular person frustrated with his own limitations.
Another one of those consistently critically acclaimed shows that really took the world by storm was Breaking Bad. Complex characters and shocking scenes had viewers enthralled for five series.
Of course everybody remembers the breakfast loving Walt Junior, a role played by RJ Mitte, who like the character, has cerebral palsy himself.
As the series progressed Walt Jnr’s disability went causing him issues to becoming secondary to his character.
When his father went missing in the second series, Walt Jnr went out and handed out flyers like anyone else would, with no emphasis on his cerebral palsy at all, just a son concerned about his father. This is unusual for a television show which often focuses on disabilities to evoke an emotional response.
Breaking Bad not only hired an actor with a disability to portray a character with one, but It also taught us that disability can be part of the diversity of an interesting character.
The new 2003 version of Ironside starring Blair Underwood was a remix of the TV show that ran from 1967-1975 and starred Raymond Burr as Robert T. Ironside.
Ironside is portrayed as gruff, crotchety, and funny, with lots of snappy one-liners. Underneath, he’s moral and kind and disability only rarely seems to have altered who he is or how he thinks.
Disability on Ironside usually fulfils two functions. It underscores the idea that law enforcement is as much cerebral as it is physical. It also occasionally used to set up nail-biting physical risks for Ironside himself, which puts him situations, where even then, the Chief refuses to backs down physically.
The Last Leg
During Channel 4’s coverage of the 2012 Paralympic Games in London, this comedy chat shows became a memorable highlights show which was aired each night at the end of the day’s sports coverage.
Once the games ended, there seemed to be no need for it to return.
When they bought it back, there was barely any focus on disability stories or disabilities in general, which surprised many.
But what channel 4 had actually done was allow Adam Hills and Alex Brooker to be themselves; two talented and funny TV presenters who are fully qualified to discuss anything they like without making any secret of the fact that they each wear a prosthetic leg.
This program has continued the successful Paralympic legacy with Channel 4 marking its commitment to on and off screen representation.
For the upcoming Paralympics, almost two thirds of the on- screen talent are disabled, paving the way huge in the future portrayals of disability on- screen.