Thursday, February 26, 2009

Real Reality TV

Take a good look at yourself in the mirror.

No, really... take a long hard look.

Do you like what you see? Do you think you measure up sufficiently to the standards of those around you? Do you think they would approve of you being seen in public?

You probably don't have the faintest idea what I'm talking about.

Following on from my recent post entitled Lepers, Shades and Pariahs; it wasn't long before a very real and disturbing example of the kind of prejudice and discrimination I was talking about, surfaced on the news...

CBeebies TV presenter Cerrie Burnell, was the unfortunate target of some pathetically bigoted parents here in the UK. What was her crime?

Cerrie was born without the lower half of her right arm.

This doesn't in any way affect how she does her job, but some "worried" parents voiced concern that her appearance might disturb their children, stop them getting a proper night's sleep and terrify them.

Shall I tell you what terrifies me?

The fact that there are adults out there who share that opinion. Sometimes there is nothing as bigoted as parents who are full of their own self righteousness.

It's people like that who have in the past helped to neutralise my own sense of self worth. You see, I myself have a slight disfigurement - a scar on the centre of my chest... but I'm extremely lucky "tis but a scratch!" I can cover it up... the convenience of that fact is quickly substituted for cowardice and without exception I hide my scar away.

The fact that there are people out there such as Cerrie, who not only cannot hide their differences, but furthermore say "why the heck should I hide?" is a source of great inspiration. I do not believe she chooses to do this to provoke a reaction or make a point, she just does what feels natural and comfortable to her... and that is the real point.

Children will not be terrified - true... some kids who have been raised poorly (and sadly there are a number of them), will mock, but the vast majority of children will probably insatiably curious at first (as children so wonderfully are), and then they will just shrug and get on with it. Children don't start out with discriminative attitudes... these are learnt as they grow up.

I never used to be bothered by my scar as a child, but it all changed when I grew up and I never really understood why... it was a puzzle to me. However, it's through this recent turn of events (which I am reliably informed by a transatlantic friend has now hit the US national news), that I think I have finally grasped what a significant part of that puzzle might be...

As a child, I thought like a child. I didn't care about adults opinions of what I looked like, I just wanted to have fun and... be a kid. However, when I grew up... suddenly the opinions of adults started to matter a lot. I've talked recently about the danger of being defined by others views about yourself... and I know I promised to return to that subject (I haven't forgotten). It's yet another example of caring too much what people think. I don't think the timing of this is entirely coincidental for me, as I'm on a part of my journey where I will perhaps have a chance... no, maybe even a necessary opportunity to challenge that.

There's a certain level of unfair expectation on television here in the UK. People are known to get their noses out of joint even when presenters retain their regional accents (I was very surprised when my current favourite weather presenter was criticised for this... even though I think her accent is slight). Society is enthralled by so called "reality TV", but if we are genuinely serious about reality on our televisions; then surely true reality is not merely showcasing ordinary people in extraordinary circumstances, but breaking down barriers and allowing people who don't fit the traditional stereotypical roles, to be extraordinary people in ordinary circumstances.

Humans come in all shapes, sizes and designs... why shouldn't they all find equal representation on the glowing magical box in the corner of our living room.


  1. The Savior's example is so perfect. I hunger and thirst after the kind of life He led.
    Our physical differences make no difference to God, our color, our stature, our ethnicity, our hancicaps, if we are "beautiful" or "ugly" by the worlds standards.

    I can't tell you how much it means to me to know that God thinks I'm beautiful without makeup!!! That's amazing to me!!

    It is not given for us to judge others, God only knows what they have been through or what their life growing up was like.

    One thing I always find amazing is, the Savior loved and served EVERYONE while never compromising His principles or diluting His beliefs. It's like you have said before, hate the sin, NOT THE SINNER. and so we must LOVE THE SINNER and not the sin.
    It's vital we make this distinction.
    How applicable is Alexander Pope’s classic “Essay on Man”:

    Vice is a monster of so frightful mien
    As to be hated needs but to be seen;
    Yet seen too oft, familiar with her face,
    We first endure, then pity, then embrace.

  2. I know I kind of changed topics mid-comment there. I actually have a terrible habit of that. It just made me think of "diversity" by God's standards and the "diversity" by the worlds standards. Hense my reason for the second half of my comment...even though it probably didn't fit with the main idea of this post. Somewhere in my crazy head it fit. :)


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