Driving to work this morning, I had the displeasure of being confronted by this poster, not once but three times:
(Apologies for the photo quality – I will attempt to replace it with a better one tomorrow, but it’s clear enough to get the idea)
I…just don’t know where to start!! *explodes with fury*
Actually, yes I do. Let’s start with the word ‘prejudice’:
n. An adverse judgement or opinion formed beforehand or without knowledge or examination of the facts; a preconceived preference or idea; the act or state of holding unreasonable preconceived judgements or convictions; irrational suspicion or hatred of a particular group, race, or religion.
Maybe the Channel 4 weekly ‘Pick a minority group and exploit them’ meeting was over-running a bit because of all the work they are doing to make My Big Fat Gipsy Wedding the ridiculously sensationalist tripe that it is, so they decided to pack as many as they could into one programme. The ones that (to some) are still acceptable targets for mockery and humiliation. Do you think they’d have dared to include ‘Fat, black, gay…’?
I will say at this point that I don’t know what this programme is actually about. I am not criticising the programme though (yet…although I suspect it may be only a matter of time, based on the advertising campaign).
What I AM criticising is an advertisement, displayed prominently in very public places, that blatantly encourages lazy stereotyping and…let’s be clear about it…bullying. Stripping away the dignity of not only those featured, but those who also face the same conditions and challenges, and validating the behaviour of those who mock them, look down on them or laugh at them is truly sickening.
I mean, if they want to make a freak show, why don’t they just have done with it and include an elephant man and a bearded lady?!
I admit, I do have a personal interest in this, having an autistic son myself. From a brief Google search, I understand the autistic person featured has Asperger’s Syndrome, the same condition that my son has.
My son is 11; he’s funny, sometimes affectionate (as much as any 11 year old boy is anyway!), very bright, witty and good looking. He is in mainstream education (with a small amount of assistance), has friends that accept his differences and little quirks, and is academically (according to his SAT grades) ‘beyond expectation’ for his age.
This is him (dressed as a pirate but ignore that part!):
Does he look or sound like he will be undateable? Should society be encouraged to think of him that way? Should his friends be given unnecessary ammunition to taunt him? Should he grow up being told that he shouldn’t expect to be loved or cared for because he was born with a condition that already makes life a bit of a struggle for him?
Perhaps it IS more difficult to find love if you have a disability/condition/characteristic that makes life in general more of a challenge. A sensitively-handled documentary exploring the issues that people face may actually be interesting and enlightening, and perhaps help to mitigate prejudice rather than reinforce it.
Look at the poster again. If you honestly think this will be a touching story of triumph over adversity, then by all means watch it.
But if you think it’s nothing more than a cynical, juvenile attempt to exploit vulnerable people in order to gain ratings, then please switch off.
You have to fill in your details on each, and give a brief description of the complaint. I would suggest something along the lines of:
“My complaint is about the billboard advertisement for the Channel 4 programme ‘The Undateables’. I feel it encourages the stereotyping of minority groups who have physical or mental challenges to overcome, treating them in a disrespectful and undignified manner, and perpetuating the prejudices they already face”.
If I get a response from Channel 4, I will post it here.