Episode 169 – 11th January 2013

A scientific study into internet comments, celebrating the London Underground at 150, how the BBC are regurgitating press releases, why sociobiology is mad, and find out about THE LEVESON DEBATE!

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Internet Comment Polarisation (2:00) by Liz Lutgendorff (ft Dominique Brossard)
Screening Vultures (14:45) by Max Davie
The Tube At 150 (19:37) by Liz Lutgendorff (ft Christian Wolmar)
The BBC and Police Press Releases (31:47) by Michael Marshall
Sociobiology (41:21) by Carl Packman
Disability on TV (48:51) by Christian Hofstader (read by Tannice Pendegrass)
The Leveson Debate (54:51) by James O’Malley (ft Helen Lewis)
The sketch at the end is by David Lovesy & Brian Two

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2 thoughts on “Episode 169 – 11th January 2013

  1. I’m glad nobody holds it against Marlee Matlin for starring in that film most despised by Skeptics, “What the Bleep do we Know!?”

  2. I listened with interest to Christian Hofstader’s commentary on TV representations of people with disabilities and their sexuality. Although I don’t self-identify as disabled, I’m more generally invested in questions of media depictions of underrepresented groups, so it was valuable to hear Mr. Hofstader’s frustration at the desexualization of the few characters with disabilities on TV.

    I was surprised that his research did not turn up three disabled characters who I find notable, and whose sexuality is treated in complex and compassionate ways. The first is Dr. Kerry Weaver of the NBC drama E.R., who walked with a crutch. The exact nature of her disability was not discussed for many years of the show – it was left as one of many mysteries about Weaver’s past. The actress who played Weaver, Laura Innes, does not have a disability.

    While Dr. Weaver is not as sexually active as other characters on the show, she has one serious romantic arc and one casual sexual encounter in the earlier seasons in the show. After that, she has a crisis of sexual identity when she falls in love with a female colleague, and she comes out as a lesbian. After this revelation, Weaver’s romantic and sexual life becomes central to her character’s narrative, and her identity as a lesbian is often seen as complementing her identity as a person with a disability.

    The second character who came to mind for me was Jimmy on Degrassi: The Next Generation, a Canadian drama aimed at a teenage audience. The character was played by Aubrey Graham, who would later gain fame as the hip hop musician Drake and who does not have a disability. Jimmy begins the show without a disability – he is, in fact, the star of his high school basketball team – but he is shot by a classmate and suffers a spinal injury that leaves him paralyzed from the waist down. Subsequently, much of Jimmy’s arc deals with his acceptance of and adjustment to his disability. Jimmy has several girlfriends following his injury, and one episode addresses his anxiety about his ability to have sex despite his lack of sensation and mobility.

    The third character who came to mind for me is on a current TV show and is played by an actor with a disability. On The Good Wife, Michael J. Fox has a recurring role as Louis Canning, a devious lawyer. Canning, like the actor who plays him, has a degenerative neurological condition that affects his movement and speech. Canning frequently uses his disability to evoke sympathy from judges and juries. While his sex life was not mentioned in his first few appearances, the most recent episode of the show introduced his wife. It also led into an expanded narrative arc for Canning, suggesting that we will see more of him – and of his personal life – in future episodes.

    Thank you again for a thought-provoking piece that drew attention to the paucity of roles like the ones I’ve discussed above.

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