Like many people with meager attention spans and no television set, I rely on the internet to entertain me. As pathetic as it is to admit, I can barely get through a movie these days without reaching for my iphone to check my email. Or Facebook. Or Twitter. Or Words with Friends. Thankfully for those of us without easy access to Ritalin or interest in exercise, a quick and easy solution to boredom is the wonderful world of the comedy web series. (Like TV, only shorter, holla!). There are plenty of web shows to choose from but one of my favorites from this year is the standout comedy, My Gimpy Life.
This engaging, 5-episode series centers on the very talented and funny Teal Sherer, a wheelchair user in Hollywood trying like everyone else to make it as an actress. Fictitious yet drawing from Teal’s personal experiences, the show follows her as she auditions for ridiculous acting jobs, has awkward first dates, hangs out with Felicia Day from The Guild, and almost gets in a physical altercation at a bar with a little person who’s her competition in a ‘diversity’ campaign. It is undoubtedly humorous yet isn’t afraid to address the fact that being a minority can be sucky and frustrating at times. This is highlighted in the episode “Inspirational,” a hilariously dead-on exposition of the paternalistic attitudes many nondisabled people have toward the disabled. After a clueless dude at an ATM approaches her wanting to know if everything “works down there,” (answer: yes it does and as I’ve fielded similar questions I found this hysterical), Teal tries out for The Vagina Monologues. She knows she’s given a shoddy performance but the directors are quick to label it “inspirational,” patting her head and calling her “very brave.” Anyone who’s nondisabled or never hung out with a disabled friend might think such condescending behavior on the part of the TABs (temporarily able-bodied) is uncommon or exaggerated. Those of us who are disabled or have close disabled friends however, recognize these insulting antics happen all too frequently; because of this we can also laugh out loud (in my case causing me to inadvertently spit my coffee on my computer) at Teal’s priceless response to the absurdity of the situation. The important message of the storyline is effective without being didactic as it’s presented in a way that elicits laughs not defensiveness.
While I’m delighted by the simple fact that this show exists and stars a superfoxy wheelchair user, what makes the show so refreshing is the normalizing and natural portrayal of disability. We see Teal doing everyday routine activities: driving, dating, working and kicking out an insolent ablebodied woman using the disabled stall to text when Teal really needs to use it. We also watch her battle antiquated disability stereotypes and assumptions, act in depressing commercials and question her place in a town predicated on the artificial. There are no supercrip shenanigans and no tragic disability cliches in the show. Sometimes it’s goofy, sometimes it’s sad, but the multi-dimensional representation rings true and it’s worth the eight minutes of your time.
Season one of My Gimpy Life recently wrapped up, and at this point Teal and others working on the series are trying to build a wider audience to ensure there’s a second round of episodes. You can help that happen by viewing their very amusing youtube videos and liking the facebook page here.