Is it OK to laugh at people with disabilities? A new documentary series, How’s Your News?, that premiered this Sunday on MTV asks that uncomfortable question. It features a bus of people with disabilities who roam the country as reporters, asking folks confounding questions and eliciting laughter in many, and perhaps, horror in some.
When I say that the show is “new,” that’s kind of a misnomer. I saw this in doc feature form — with the same title on the same subject — the night before September 11 (yeah, that 9/11) at the Toronto Film Festival. I was drawn to it because I went to grade school with Arthur Bradford, who is the man behind the film’s genesis. Arthur had been working at a summer camp for people with disabilities when he introduced a video camera to them. And then things took off.
But I guess it’s taken almost 10 years to get to MTV. I wonder why now is the time. Are we in an age when people with disabilities can be shown on TV, celebrating their differences without exploiting them? This show could be revolutionary in how it creates greater familiarity with people usually kept outside of the frame. But when MTV sells it as “From The Creators of South Park,” and I consider the comedy of Johnny Knoxville and co., I have to wonder if the wider audience will get it. The South Park guys have been behind the show for awhile, so I assume their hearts are in the right place. But when you look at the show in the context in which it’s being marketed, will the audience be laughing with people with disabilities rather than at them? Or maybe it doesn’t matter. I am not sure.
I wanted to post this because I just noticed that the show was starting this week. I’ll try to catch up with Arthur to see if he can answer some of my questions and shed some light on how the film turned into a series after close to a decade. But, for now, check out the show on MTV or at www.howsyournews.com and let me know what you think.