Salon takes reality television way too seriously, and I love them for it. Check out the link below for an intellectual/interesting article about Abby and Brittany:
Willa Paskin writes about the TLC reality TV series starring conjoined twins:
“The show is so single-mindedly dedicated to demonstrating how regular the girls are that it eschews asking hard questions or showing uncomfortable moments. One of the twins’ friends tells the camera that the pair are constantly getting stared at and she is astounded by how well they stand up to that sort of scrutiny, but we never see such a moment and the Hensels are never asked to talk about it.”
I had a somewhat similar impression: the show portrays the girls as normal while alternately portraying them as inspiring. In this sense, the show moves away from making the girls seem actually human (weaknesses and all) and paints them as heroes instead. They’re heroes because they don’t complain. In some sense, they are heroes, and we should look up to them for persevering through a difficult situation, BUT, calling somebody “inspirational” or “heroic” sometimes lets us off the hook so we don’t have to truly understand, engage, or interact with them. If they are “heroic” then we can separate ourselves from them, because average people don’t see themselves as heroic, generally speaking. In addition, heroes in popular culture don’t feel pain or experience resentment or suffering; natch, this is a pleasant fantasy because then we can believe that “freaks” like Abby and Brittany “love’ their lives and we don’t have to wonder about the difficulties of their limitations or the prejudices they’ve encountered. They’re too busy being heroic to experience prejudice!
If we stand back and call the kid in the wheelchair a hero but we never talk to him, um, well, we’re not doing him any favors.