Saturday, November 3, 2012

Offensive 2.0

If you've been hanging out here for a while, you may recall an incident a few months ago (March 27 to be exact) in which I was shocked to see one of my favorite characters on one of my favorite television shows make fun of my disability.

I emailed CBS.

And I waited... and waited.  And...


They couldn't even be bothered to send a generic, "I'm sorry you were offended," apology.  Because that would have required someone somewhere to admit to guilt.  To admit that they had participated in the exploitation of a disability for a few cheap laughs.

Apparently they have not gotten the message.  Because this week on Elementary, a show I have been following and liking up until now, they did it again.

Made fun of Tourette Syndrome for absolutely no reason.

And I'm sick of it.  Sick of being the brunt of somebody else's joke.  Sick of being exploited because of a disability.

Tourette Syndrome does not give me an excuse to be, nor does it make me, rude.  And for some reason, CBS is convinced that having Tourette's means that I'm rude and cannot control what comes out of my mouth.  And again, I would like to point out that Tourette Syndrome means I have uncontrollable tics; it does not mean that I lack a verbal filter or am rude.  And I am tired of seeing this misinformation portrayed on my television for a quick joke.

I want you to try something the next time you hear somebody making fun of Tourette's either on the television, in a movie, in person, whatever.  Swap out the word "Tourette's" with any other minority group.  Swap in a disability if you want.  Does it sound okay if instead the butt of the joke is Autism, Down Syndrome, or hearing impairment. Does it sound okay to make fun of somebody who can't see, hear, or walk?  Somebody who has different religious beliefs than you do or whose skin is a different color?  Somebody whose brain, like mine, doesn't work quite right?

Oh.  It doesn't.  Just checking.

What I have is NOT funny.  It is not a joke.  And I dare anybody who thinks it is to live a day in my shoes.  I'll gladly trade for a day.

As I said about 8 months ago, these things do not hurt my feelings.  I could really care less; my day isn't going to be affected because one asshole writer thinks it's funny to make a joke about living with Tourette Syndrome.  Whatever.  What comes around goes around.

But they do make my life harder to live.  They make it acceptable to make fun of a neurological disability (I've done it now... dropped the "D-Word").  Jokes like this make it okay for the general public to make jokes about it too.  And that is what I do not find okay.  That a television show is - without any regard for the people who their jokes are affecting - influencing a group of people.  That they are perpetrating the untrue notion that it is okay to make fun of a disability group.

Because that is what I am.  A person with a disability.  And when you make a joke about Tourette Syndrome, you are making a joke about a disability.  Something that I, and many others, have to fight with every day just to be "normal".  Just to be accepted by everyone else.  And for every presentation I give, I reach 20 people.  I don't even want to think of how many people watched Elementary this week.

I have to be direct and forceful when I give presentations.  I took off my wrist braces this week in a class so that they could see how far back my wrists bend when I tic.  And I saw a few of them attempting to twist their hands like mine, and then wincing.  They winced again when I described how I wake up in the middle of the night to endless charlie horses in my legs.  How I have pinched nerves.  When I demonstrated how I walk on my toe joints and how I turn my ankle inside and walk on the outside of my foot.

I don't do these things to be mean or to garner pity.  I do these things to counteract what the media has done.  I do these things to put a picture with the phrase "Tourette Syndrome".  I am brutally honest and open about my life; I want people to realize that this is not a laughing matter.  I want them to realize that everyday of my life is a struggle that the majority of the population will never know.  I want them to have a small glimpse into the everyday struggle I go through, so that the next time they hear the phrase "Tourette's", they think of me instead of some senseless joke.

And if that isn't enough to convince you, think about the 6- and 7-year-olds who are just finding out what Tourette Syndrome is and what it means to live this life.  Think about how you would feel if somebody made fun of the one thing you were ashamed about on television.  Now imagine you are in middle or high school and this happens to you.

Why do we need to make fun of a disability?  Are the writers at CBS that strapped for comedic material?  Or am I supposed to feel thankful because they linked my disability with a very intelligent, albiet wacky, character?  I will not be as quiet this time.  I am sick of this senseless attitude continuing and I will see a stop to it in my lifetime.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

UPDATED to include my letter to CBS:

On this week's episode of Elementary, there was a joke made in regards to the character Sherlock Holmes having a "form of Tourette's".

As a person with severe Tourette Syndrome, I am once again, shocked that this network is exploiting a disability group for a few quick laughs.

In case you are unaware of what Tourette Syndrome is; allow me to explain it.  It is a neurological disability in which my brain cannot control my motor movement or vocalizations.  I have repetitive tics that occur at all hours of the day and in every situation.  They have destroyed my body and cause severe, chronic, pain.  I have to fight everyday to be accepted by the general public; trust me, a grown woman who looks "normal" is not accepted when she starts hitting herself, squawking, limping, or any of the other dozes of things my brain tells my body to do.

Jokes, like the one on this show, continue to perpetrate the notion that Tourette Syndrome is something funny.  Something that it is okay to joke about.  Just because I have Tourette Syndrome does not make me, nor give me an excuse to be, rude.  By perpetrating this idea, you are making the everyday lives of people living with this misunderstood disorder more difficult.

I look forward to your response; however, I am not holding my breath.

I contacted CBS about this exact same problem in March of this year, regarding NCIS.

You can read more about my thoughts on both incidences at my blog,

And here:

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