Very Special Episodes from Criptiques On Film! by Cheryl Green

Special! There’s a word I don’t like when it’s related to disability. It feels like such a consolation prize. Well, we only recently decided as a nation you should be allowed a public education. So your education will be Special. We don’t think you’re good enough athletes to truly compete. So your competitions will be Special! Access and accommodations? What are those? Do we have to provide them? Not really, because your needs are just Special, not normal!

With so much long-standing, deep resentment and mistrust for the word “special,” it was only a matter of time before Caitlin Wood and I stole it, flipped it on its head, and served it back to the community as a social critique. We’re certainly not the first people to do it. But we do think we’re pretty funny at it.

Allow me to introduce you to Very Special Episodes. First, Very Special Episode is an annoying trope that TV writers use. Here are some excerpts from the trope’s definition. (I’ve changed some punctuation to make it easier to read. But I didn’t change the words.) Read the whole thing here: tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/VerySpecialEpisode .

“An episode…in which the lead confronts some highly emotional or forbidden issue from everyday life. Drug abuse, teenage sex, bulimia…. At the end of the episode, the protagonist is Enlightened….These episodes were far more common in the 1980s. They’ve largely fallen out of favor since then for most shows due, in part, to the increasing number of shows, particularly dramas, where issues such as drug/alcohol abuse, violence, sex, and death are dealt with on an almost weekly basis….It is also a very ripe target for parody; these days, parodies are probably as common as seeing this trope played straight.”

So with that, I offer you my second use of the term “Very Special Episodes.” Although ours isn’t straight, and it isn’t parody. Ours is satire, sometimes subtle but always scathing.

caitlin holding sign reading 'disabled'

[Image description: Caitlin holds a sign up that covers her chin and mouth. She looks off to the side. The sign says “Disabled” in alternating yellow and purple marker. The word floats in a puffy, blue cloud, filled with more blue clouds and blue birds.]

Caitlin and I received a Regional Arts & Culture Council (RACC) grant this year. The goal is to expand the brilliantly delicious, subversive, and critical ideas from the book “Criptiques” she recently edited. So we created video! (OK, we didn’t create “video.” That would indeed be a very special claim to fame. But we created some videos.) We’re excited to present the first two episodes of our web shorts called “Very Special Episodes.” Come to our screening, won’t you? We think it will be a very special event.

Saturday, December 13, 2014
2:00 – 4:00 pm
Center for Intercultural Organizing
700 N. Killingsworth St.
On the #72, near the #4 bus lines
Refreshments provided, including gluten-free, dairy-free, meat-free, and all of the food is free

Tickets: $10 per person, with no one turned away. Buy them here!

Venue is wheelchair accessible. Restrooms are accessible, enormous, and gender neutral.
This presentation will have ASL interpretation, Captions for the films, and live Audio Description

I can promise you a couple things about these shorts. Referring back to the TVTropes.org description above, our Very Special Episodes will definitely tackle some everyday life issues. But there will be absolutely no enlightenment at the end. That’s because people usually assume a story about disability will include either the disabled person becoming more enlightened (and overcoming their “challenges”), or the folks around that person becoming enlightened just by being in the room with someone who’s “been dealt a bad hand but doesn’t let it bring them down!”

In fact, get ready to see disabled characters in a way you’re not use to: totally non-inspirational, not lying in bed, not angelic and sweet, and not talking about impairments or rehabilitation. Caitlin and I are a couple of gals hanging out doing things. Despite that mundane description, we still feel it’s quite radical to have disabled bodies and minds onscreen where overcoming our disabilities is never a topic on the table.

We’re showing just the beginning of our work. The Very Special Episodes will expand in the future. So will the Criptiques On Film body of work in general. It was enough work for the two of us to wrangle ourselves, much less include other people. Caitlin and I have long been very committed to intersectional work. And that means future episodes won’t only look at experiences and perspectives the two of us hold. But for the moment, you’re stuck with us!

This blogpost originally appeared on Cheryl Green’s wonderful website Who Am I To Stop It

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