Saturday, March 21, 2015

"This chair is my white cane. Where's yours?"

Tonights #FilmDis discussion on Twitter (9 PM Eastern) will be about disability on television. That got me thinking about whether I have a favorite disability on TV scene. I think the Ironside scene above might be the one for me. Its from Season 1, Episode 11, Light At The End Of The Journey. Chief Ironside works with a blind woman to identify and catch a murderer, while fending off her over-protective fiancĂ©.

I could do without the syrupy musical score, but the scene itself is amazingly complex and sophisticated, especially for 1967. For one thing, it is a very rare example of peer-to-peer mentoring. Usually, TV and movies tell us that it takes a non-disabled person to snap a disabled person out of their self-pitying funks. Ironside is tough and confrontational here, but hes got credibility from his own disability. Its also remarkable for a mainstream TV cop show to draw such a smooth connection between the experiences of blindness and physical disability.

The bonus is how Ironside pinpoints the sexism involved, too. He even violates the man to man code and focuses on Norma, showing first disapproval, then open hostility towards her fiancĂ© when he becomes aggressively controlling.

If you watch other episodes of the original Ironside, youll see that while Ironside’s disability is always there, never hidden, it rarely plays this big a role in the story. That also helps make this scene, and this episode, more powerful.



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