I don’t watch a lot of TV live because of the hours I work. But I do a lot of time-shifting using my DVR. Once I get through all the saved "must watch" shows, If there’s time available, I might look at some of my "second tier" shows. One of those is "My Name is Earl." The show has an interesting premise, and the over-the-top stereotypes are amusing (and sometimes troubling.) Yet is has a certain something that connects with me enough that I enjoy watching it when the opportunity presents itself. My attitude was rewarded the other day when I happened to watch an episode of "My Name is Earl" that aired a few weeks back. In this episode, Earl starts out to make amends with a woman he had teased in school for having facial hair. Fast forward today and it turns out she’s a bearded-lady with a circus, and lives in a community with other carnival "freaks." The episode was entitled Sticks and Stones and also featured another plot line with Marlee Maitlin play a lawyer whose deafness is made fun of by Joy.
Despite the somewhat obvious nature of the plot and how things might end up, I found the entire episode quite touching and with a valuable lesson for all. Now, I’m sensitive to the issues raised by this episode because I’m only 4′-10". However, I’m what the doctors refer to as "normal short." That means I’m extremely short-statured, but otherwise physically and medically normal. Unlike those who have one of the various forms of dwarfism or other conditions that can cause short stature, there’s no clear underlying medical cause for my stature, and it is not accompanied by other conditions.
So, on the tone hand, when I encounter, whether in real-life or television, a character who is different from the "norm" I am empathetic. On the other hand, I’m sometimes a little jealous that they have a condition which might qualify them for special treatment and protection from discrimination, whereas I don’t. And every time I think or say that, I get this huge twinge of regret for even thinking it. I should be counting my blessings that the worst I have to handle are things like a rude child in a supermarket, or having to climb up grocery shelves to reach a product, or up on my kitchen counters to retrieve items up high.
In the episode, it turns out that earl has a similarly insignificant defect-an unusually hair chest which made him the target of ridicule when he was young. Like Earl’s "pool incident" I have my childhood memories of cruel and insensitive teachers like the one in second grade who passed me over when it was my turn to put up the flag at the front of the class. Or the phys ed teachers who not only didn’t stop, but sometimes encouraged, my being chosen last for a team, or who refused to recognize that yes, it really was unfair that when rope climbing, I did actually have to climb more distance than others to reach the top!
So I found the entire episode a fair treatment from all sides-though I can’t truly speak for those who are bearded ladies or elephant men, etc. And I offer my kudos to the writers and actors of the series for this touching episode.
Adrian (aka Migdalor Guy)