Lillie Lainoff - Washington Post - September 12, 2014
I saw this article only minutes after posting my piece yesterday on upcoming new TV shows with disabilities themes, in which I expressed some cautious optimism about "Red Band Society”. After reading the article, I’m a bit less optimistic, but I will still be looking for positives I think may be there.
One problem may be the rather hard to define but in some ways crucial difference between chronic or terminal illness … like cancer or cystic fibrosis, and disabilities … like being an amputee or a paraplegic. As I mentioned yesterday, the line is blurry. However roughly speaking, one group copes more often with active pain, illness, and unpredictability. The other group has to focus more on adaptation and social integration. One group may or may not survive. The other probably will, for the long haul, while their disabilities will always be with them. It looks like this show will mainly be about illness, not disability. My interest is partly in seeing how the two kinds of situations can be both different and similar.
I agree with Ms. Lainoff that another big problem is how the hospital will be portrayed. I think they might get away with giving us such a happy, nurturing hospital with so much freedom granted to the patients, if the show made clear that it is some kind of special, innovative institution designed specifically for seriously ill teens. Maybe they talk about that in the Pilot, but Ms. Lainoff didn’t mention it, so I’m doubtful. It’s okay to show an atypical, idealized setting, as long as there is some explanation for that. Otherwise, it’s just rose-colored glasses.
As for how Red Band Society’s characters represent chronic illness or disability, again it makes a difference which thing they want to represent. A cheerful representation of chronic illness will seem more fraudulent than if they really mean to portray disability. Maybe the writers and show runners are confused. Non-disabled people who create movies and TV shows are very easily confused about the ideas and ideals they think they are presenting.