Wednesday, February 27, 2008

NBC's "Medium" tackles disability topics

The NBC show "Medium," in which Patricia Arquette plays Allison Dubois, a psychic who helps the police and lawyers, has featured two recent shows that have disability themes.

On Feb. 18, the plot revolved around the kidnapping of a deaf girl, but viewers didn't know that right away; all they knew was that Allison woke up unable to hear. It used a few tricks to heighten that experience because every time a scene was shot from her perspective, the scenes were completely silent. (Arquette's brother, David, directed the episode.) When Allison learns that a wealthy deaf girl has been kidnapped, she relays what she sees in her dreams to the missing persons expert helping the family. One of the first clues from Allison's dream is that the kidnappers were signing to the daughter, so it was clear they already knew she was deaf. None of the sign language in the episode was captioned, and I think that would have helped the episode. One thing I did like about this episode is that the stepfather is revealed to be the "bad guy." It's nice to see a show give accurate crime information, which is that most crimes involve someone the victim knows. The Chat with Bryen blog gives a good recap of the show.

On Feb. 25, the plot revolved around Allison working for a defense attorney representing a man accused of murdering his wife. The man has two daughters, one of whom is intellectually disabled, and he had fought with his wife (his daughters' stepmother) because he didn't want to send his disabled daughter to an institution. It's an interesting episode with many twists and turns and each new dream gives Allison a moral quandary, which she had from the beginning in working for a potentially guilty man. One dream reveals that the disabled daughter has been violent in the past and possibly killed the stepmother, and her father is trying to protect her. I didn't like this turn of events because historically too much film, TV and literature make disabled characters evil. But the final twist revealed in Allison's final dream gave an excellent resolution to the disability storyline. The non-disabled sister turned out to be the "bad guy," who had perpetrated all the violent acts, including killing the stepmother, and she always used her disabled sister as the scapegoat and physically threatened her to keep her quiet. It's a good reminder about the abuse that many people with disabilities, especially women with disabilities, live with in their lives.