The Good, the Bad and My Disability

by Rob Targos. Originally published Feb 20, 2018

With the diversity of TV options ranging from network TV to cable and streaming, there are many ways to view shows like The Good Doctor, Breaking Bad, Speechless, and Marvel's Daredevil. Other shows like This Is Us has handled depression and anxiety, Shameless highlights bipolar disorder, and the Big Bang theory has characterized Sheldon as being intellectually exceptional without labeling him being as on the autism spectrum.

I am very passionate about movies and TV shows that include people with disabilities because I appeared on Sesame Street and Romper Room in 1978. My cerebral palsy and my crutches had its drawbacks, but I also learned from an early age that my disability also made me more memorable to the people I encountered. It is also one of the reasons why I have often viewed my cerebral palsy as an oxymoron. As I grew up, I also found several TV shows and movies which helped me to motivate myself. I also felt less isolated because of some of the examples I saw on TV.

The first show I fully identified with was The Incredible Hulk. They misunderstood green monster roared with anger because of the many uncomfortable and painful situations he found himself dealing with. But when he wasn't provoked or prodded by environmental circumstances, he acted innocently as he explored the world around him. Another reason why I identified with the show so much had to do with David Banner's heroic dilemma of helping others while he tried to keep a secret. The show often taught me to maintain my integrity while balancing my ability. In addition, Lou Ferrigno became a role model for me. I often channeled my frustration with the world into push-ups, and crutch presses with a goal of increasing my physical strength. I wanted to be like Lou Ferrigno until I realized in college that I could be my own hybrid hulk.

Another show that provided me with some disability direction, became Facts of Life. The theme song alone talked about the good and bad hodgepodge essence of living. But the elevated expression of excitement exploded for me when I saw cousin Geri. She eased the audience and others with disabilities because of her comedy about cerebral palsy. "Questions don't hurt," she explained. "Ignorance does." She poked fun at herself walking straight, and in the process, educated many people. I even told my mom that I wanted to be a standup comedian. My mom understood, then said, "In order to be a standup comedian, you need to learn to sit up straight first! :-)

Geri Jewell will be appearing this weekend at the Richmond ReelAbilities Film Festival on February 17 at the Weinstein Jewish Community Center. Admission is free. The Richmond ReelAbilities Film Festival also features films highlighting disabilities starting on February 15 and going until February 18. For more info and free tickets, go to: Strength through disabilities can be flexed in many different ways.

Parent Tip Tuesdays are authored by Rob Targos, self advocate in the special needs community with a focus on Cerebral Palsy. Opinions and ideas expressed are his own. To contribute to Project: Just Like You, please contact us!