On Saturday night, SNL portrayed New York Gov. David Paterson in a four-minute “Weekend Update” segment as confused and disoriented — often looking in the wrong direction and mistakenly walking in front of the camera when it was not his turn to speak. The skit includes Gov. Paterson saying, “Come on, I’m a blind man who loves cocaine who was suddenly appointed governor of New York. My life is an actual plot from a Richard Pryor movie.” After watching the skit, Gov. Paterson said it went too far, saying such “third-grade humor” only adds to negative stereotypes. But I’m starting so see a trend here: Disability humor is now up for grabs along with the more traditional racial and ethnic jokes. There was the New Yorker cover depicting Barack Obama as an Islamic, and the movie Tropic Thunder that parodied actors who tried to “act” disabled or black, giving us the infamous “R-word” that led to disability advocates boycotting the movie. Disability is starting to become a mainstream minority, and that’s actually a good thing. Because once the disabled are recognized as a minority group that collectively brings intelligence, talent and perspective to the table — the more likely we’ll see disability employment rates go up, more stereotypes broken, more national coverage of disabilities in the media, and a larger understanding among abled-bodied people of what it’s really like to be legally blind. Yes, it includes not knowing which direction to look in, and not being able to judge body language during a conversation. If a blind person is talking to someone who walks away without saying goodbye, he may stand there waiting, which makes him look foolish — not because he’s too dumb to realize that there’s nobody there anymore, but because he can’t see, and the seeing person didn’t know how to properly engage in tactics that are necessary for blind people to succeed. If anything, that SNL skit should be replayed in Corporate America to give more people an understanding of what it’s like to be blind, and how the abled-bodied can help — rather than hinder — the professional accomplishments of people like Gov. Paterson.
Disability (Finally) Parodied on SNL
December 16 2008 | by Suzanne Robitaille