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Josh Blue and Britain's Missing Top Model

chelseam's picture

I really enjoyed the videos and images we looked at in class last week. After Anne posted the link to "Britain's Missing Top Model" (the source of the photograph of the group of disabled women in pink dresses), I spent a little time surfing youtube and trying to get a feel for the show. The clip embedded in the website didn't play on my computer, but I found a promo for the show (see link at bottom of post). A few things stood out for me. The contestant featured in this clip said, "We're disabled young women, but we're just normal young women at the same time." I was struck by her use of the word normal. In any context I find the word a bit disconcerting, as we discussed in class there are times when we want to be "normal" but others when we do not. In the context of this show I was even more disconcerted because it seemed to imply that for this group of women to be "normal" they needed to be models - to be spectacularly beautiful and sexualized in a way that is not "normal" for most women and doesn't necessarily seem good. It seems that instead of celebrating the people that these women are with their disability, the show asks the audience to see who they can be inspite of their disability. It seems that they are simply being objectified differently, the emphasis being shifted from their disability to their bodies as sex objects (This reaction strikes me as a bit extreme, but to some degree I think its true). I have similar issues with similar shows such as America's Next Top Model, which is not to say that I am above watching them! It seems that these shows allow their contestants to have only a few dimensions. They can be beautiful. They can go far in a profession that relies heavily on physical appearance. While a show like Britain's Missing Top Model seems to be trying to say that "Disabled women are normal (beautiful) too," I worry that this may not be a productive take-home message. 

Its interesting to think about the Josh Blue clip in contrast with Britain's Missing Top Model. There is no emphasis on Josh's physical appearance - he is not sexualized in the way that the modeling contestants are. However, like in the photograph and the promo for the show, Josh's comedy routine places a lot of emphasis on his disability. I didn't find all of his jokes funny, but I appreciated the fact that he was in control of the way his disability was framed and that he was able to remove some stigma around it by putting it out in the open. I know that my gut reaction is sometimes to ignore physical differences and disabilities instead of talking about them. Josh was able to both frame the conversation and make his audience acknowledge his disability. I did find it uncomfortable that most of his jokes in the clip were about his disability and would like to hear him make jokes about other parts of his life. However, I do think that there is value in making people acknoweldge difference and helping them become more comfortable with it. I think that to some extent Josh Blue was able to do that.