It’s not really appropriate to call this post Hate Isn’t Funny part three because I don’t think it was really about hate just about clueless people not thinking things through properly. But the two posts I wrote on the same subject in February were about hate and I called them Hate isn’t Funny so it feels right to use that title for this and continue the series even if it probably isn’t the best title for this particular anecdote. /end nonsensical ramble about blog titles.
Back in February I went to see Omid Djalili and his show was quite ableist and frankly in a couple of places full of hate. I wrote about that in Hate isn’t Funny and then had some discussion with him via twitter which I wrote about in Hate isn’t Funny part two. That saga didn’t have the ending I wanted it to have but it had the best ending it was probably possible for it to have if that makes sense.
I’ve been to a couple of musicals since then and one comedy show which was funny and generally not noteworthy at all in terms of disability.
On Sunday my friend Angela and I went to see Showstopper – the improvised musical. Generally I liked it. For me personally it could have been better simply because they asked the audience to list several musicals which would influence the show. The ones chosen by the audience were all older ones – none of which I’d seen and only one or two I’d heard of. So several of the references went over my head which was a shame. Angela said to me afterwards that one of the musicals she thought the cast didn’t know either. But the singing was good and I liked the improvised plot they came up with and how it ended up.
Every so often they would stop and ask how they should show they’d been influenced by a particular musical and for one of the musicals (Tommy) someone shouted out a character should be blind. So for the rest of the show one of the characters was pretending to be blind and frankly overkilling it and coming across and pretty damn ableist. Amongst other things frequently nearly walking into the audience or props or whatever and having to be grabbed. For about the first couple of minutes it was OK and then it got to be inappropriate and ridiculous.
Then it was the interval and they asked that people tweet them with suggestions of how the show should continue. I tweeted:
— Emma (@FunkyFairy22) May 4, 2014
This is somewhat made worse by the fact that a lady I didn’t know followed me and Angela into the lift to go down to the bar and heard me comment about the inappropriateness of the blind bit. She commented that she has a visual impairment and felt like she was being mocked. It’s not my disability so I didn’t feel I was being mocked personally but I thought it was a good description for what it seemed they were doing. We talked to her for a bit and did general interval stuff.
And then we went back in the show and they read various tweets out and continued on and it was mostly good but they really needed to kill the cripping up going on it the blind bit and kill it dead.
As we left and wandered out Angela’s route to her car and my route to my flat both taking us the same way for a couple of minutes I shared with her that I should probably blog about the incident and do something about it (more of a complaint) but I really couldn’t be bothered to. Because it felt like once again something I could fight and wouldn’t get anywhere and I’d waste energy on something unnecessary. Better to just decide that I didn’t want to see them again if they were going to be ableist was my thinking.
Then Monday afternoon I went on twitter and found this tweet in my mentions:
@FunkyFairy22 we are very sorry to hear this & can assure you that the directors of Showstopper are looking into it & will get back to you.
— The Showstoppers (@TheShowstoppers) May 5, 2014
I tweeted them back to say thank you and I appreciated it. I included my email and a day or two later (I forget which day) I got an email from one of their team admitting that when they looked back at the show could see they got it wrong. They’re going to work on it in rehearsal I understand. I thanked them and made various comments including that it would have helped to just stopped the whole blind bit after a few minutes if they couldn’t include it in a more appropriate way.
This was never as bad as the situation I blogged about with Omid Djalili, it was always about someone working in a high pressure situation and getting it wrong and hurting people. And I’m more than pleasantly surprised by the outcome. I wouldn’t go and see The Showstoppers again anytime soon but I’ve taken them off my list of inappropriate shows and my list of shows I don’t want to see again – if they were back here in a year or two I might well go back.
There have been many times I’ve flagged up ableism in various circumstances and not got a good response or been fobbed off by token gestures after long complaints and huge effort. I’m really glad to see one small thing – one tweet – have a positive outcome. And even more glad to hear someone admit that yeah actually they did get it wrong.
But it also pisses me off.
Because why can’t more people do that?