What can Strictly Come Dancing tell us about representing disability on reality talent shows?

Last month, Paralympian Jonnie Peacock appeared as a guest on Channel 4’s The Last Leg. Adam Hills, the host questioned the fairness of Jonnie being judged on the same criteria as the rest of the contestants on Strictly Come Dancing. In keeping with the show’s aims of challenging the representation of disability on television, Hills asked #isitokay? that in week three of the competition, Peacock was criticised for sticking his bottom out when such a posture is a common result of wearing a prosthetic leg?

In the interview Peacock agreed that it was difficult for him to dance in the desired posture. He suggested that his incorrect posture was potentially due to the way he has to distribute his weight when using his prosthetic leg. Although Peacock downplays any sense of being at a disadvantage, Hills raises an important question. If reality shows want to increase the visibility of disabilities to their audience, there are some factors they must consider. It is worth discussing whether disabled competitors should be judged on the same criteria as their able-bodied competitors. The type of disability and/or prosthetic could also be taken into consideration when scoring these contestants. And perhaps most importantly, does marking disabled and able-bodied competitors on the same criteria lead to equality or exclusion?

Who is Jonnie Peacock?

For those of you who do not know who Jonnie Peacock is, here’s a little insight. Jonnie peacock is a two-time gold medal winning Paralympic sprinter, finishing top in London 2012 and again at the Rio 2016 games. Jonnie Contracted meningitis at the age of five and lost his right leg because of the disease- undergoing an amputation below the knee.

Reality Talent Shows and Disability: Is it fair?

Although Jonnie Peacock is the first Paralympian to appear on Strictly Come Dancing, he is not the first disabled person to compete on a reality talent dancing show. The US version of the show, Dancing With The Stars  has featured an Iraq War veteran amputee, Sergeant Noah Galloway in 2015. Royal Marine veteran Lance Corporal Cassidy Little, who lost his leg in the Afghanistan War, appeared on The People’s Strictly in 2015. Each of these competitors have had a very different narrative constructed for them by the shows. Galloway and Cassidy were both presented as “wounded heroes”, with the shows’ narratives highlighting their veteran identities. In many instances their prosthetics were deliberately foregrounded in the routines. Their video introductions each week focused on the practical and emotional difficulties of training for each dance. Most importantly, the judges’ comments acknowledged the difficulties they faced in performing the dances and took this into account when scoring.

In contrast, although Jonnie Peacock has talked about his disability, he has generally downplayed any sense that it should hinder his performance. The only dance so far in which Peacock’s prosthetic has been visible is the jive, after which he was hailed as a “hero” by the media.

In his Huffpost blog, Peacock says:

“I love reading that my prosthetic has got households across the UK talking about disability. I’m on this programme to show everyone that there is ability in disability and that if you put your mind to it, and work hard, then anything is possible.”

 The double Paralympic champion is an inspiration for many, his never give up attitude backed up with the charismatic flair makes his a very popular public figure. Despite being the first Paralympic to part take in Strictly Come Dancing, Jonnie showed no signs of nervousness or discomfort. He took to the stage with great confidence, backed up by the beautiful Oti Mabuse who complimented Jonnies performance. Jonnies dancing is unique, exciting and definitely the crowds favourite.

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 Jonnie Peacock praised by fans as an inspiration after appearing on the show. Victoria Jones/PA Images

 

Equality or exclusion?

Despite Peacock clearly setting up a narrative in the blog quote suggesting disabled people can achieve anything if they work hard enough, this has not been strongly woven into the Strictly story of his journey. Most weeks Peacock’s prosthetic has been hidden and unlike Galloway and Little, and especially in the early stages of the competition, Peacock has generally been able to pass as able-bodied.

Peacock’s ability to compensate for his disability has meant that the narrative set up by Strictly rarely refers to his disability and the judges don’t appear to take it into account in their scoring of his performances. After he was voted out of the competition in Sunday night’s show, Peacock thanked the judges for treating him the same as everybody else. But having repeatedly drawn attention to an issue caused by his disability without acknowledging the reasons, can the judges really claim to have treated Peacock equally?

Ignoring Peacock’s disability potentially puts him at a disadvantage in relation to his fellow competitors. Thus making it less likely that he will fulfil his hopes of demonstrating that if we work hard enough ‘anything is possible’.

Peacock’s inability to achieve the correct posture is a result of his disability, awarding him lower scores on this basis would inevitably result in him being unable to progress beyond a certain point in the competition. Indeed, his performance on Saturday night was greeted positively by the audience in Blackpool’s Tower Ballroom as they gave him a standing ovation. However, the judges’ comments repeatedly focused on Peacock’s inability to achieve the correct posture and his bottom sticking out. Consequently, he found himself voted off the programme.

If more participants with disabilities are to part take in the show, the programme will need to consider how this will work. Peacock hopes that his appearance paves the way for more contestants with disabilities to come forward and take part. As sporting organisations and academics begin to scrutinise the categorisation systems used in the Paralympics, perhaps it’s time for reality talent shows to consider how people with disabilities should be represented in order to ensure fairness and inclusivity.

 

 

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Arguably the best game of IPL 2017

Looking forward to this game as the Sunrisers Hyderabad take on the Kings XI Punjab at The Rajiv Ghandi Stadium, both teams in need for a good team performance.

Sunrisers have been making changes after every game to this team to get the right balance, with players coming and out of the side. Winning their first two games at home against RCB and Gurujat Lions, but loosing away to the Mumbai Indians and Kolkata Kinght Riders. This game sees the first appearances for Mohamad Nabi and Sidhart Kaul.

Kings XI also making changes to the team that they put out against Kolkata and The Delhi Daredevils,  where the performance was not up to the mark. Ishant Sharma comes back into the side replacing Varun Aaron to maybe bring back the form the team started this season with.

Put into bat, SRH rode on two performances with the bat. An uncharacteristic 70 from the skipper Warner, and Naman Ojha’s 20-ball 34 were the top two scores in the SRH innings. Warner struggled at the beginning of the match; the ball seldom found the sweet spot of his bat and he struggled to find the gaps in the field.

But unlike his teammates, who perished in the face of some disciplined bowling by the KXIP bowlers or in an attempt to force the pace, Warner persevered and did not throw his wicket away. The SRH captain did not hit a boundary and had a mere 6 runs from 16 balls at the end of the powerplay overs, fending off the opening bowlers.

The left-hander broke the shackles in the seventh over when he reverse-swept the spin bowler KC Carippa and picked up the first of his seven boundaries. In the ninth over, he hit the spinner into the stands.

At the half-way stage, SRH were 54-3. That was when Naman Ojhas batting changed completely after a talk with David Warner, the pair collected a boundary each off Cariappa in the eleventh. In the twelfth, Ojha scored a boundary off Axar Patel, while Warner picked up a boundary through in the thirteenth. In the fourteenth, Ojha deposited the left-arm spinner into the stands. Ishant Sharma conceded 12 in the fifteenth, and SRH finally had some momentum to their innings; the hosts added 54 runs between overs 11 and 15.

Ojha was dismissed by Cariappa in the sixteenth, stumped by Wriddhiman Saha. Warner stayed at the crease, persistent; scoring 15 runs off six deliveries in the last two overs and remained unbeaten on 70, made from 54 balls, and studded with seven boundaries and two sixes.


For KXIP, Ishant Sharma was the most economical bowler, conceding only 23 runs in his four overs. Mohit Sharma (2-25) and Axar Patel (2-33) were complimented by Sandeep Sharma and Cariappa.

As the second innings is underway, Kings 11 have walked out with intent; the experienced  Hashim Amla and the explosive youngster Manan Vohra. Buveneshwar starts with great wind in his sales, it reqardes him with the wicket of Hashim Amla for a Duck.

Glen Maxwell walks out, the predictions are that he is much more useful 3rd in the lineup to lighten the mood after the first wicket falling early in the innings. Vohra is showing glimpses of what he can do with a wonderful cut over the cover/midwicket region.

David Warners wonderful tactics result in the Wicket of Maxwell falling, bowled Bueneshwar with him being rushed into a rash shot over midwicket into the hands of David Warner.

Eion Morgan walks out ,he has always been a wonderful asset to any team he has been a part of. He said in an interview said that IPL was what taught him to play international cricket with flair.

Nabi now is being introduced into the attack, his first time in IPL 2017. A bad start to the over as Nabi balls one just a touch short which gets dispatched down the ground by Morgan. Nabi shows his cool by not allowing any boundaries for the remainder of the over.

Rashid Kahn is now introduced into the attack, Nabi bowling in tandom; another tactical plan from David Warner. Morgan in a pre match interview was asked about how he would face Rashid Kahn, to witch he answered, “I have no idea, I think I’ll just close my eyes and swing. He is too good to predict”.

Henriques has had a benevolent start to this years IPL, being in good touch with his batting and his healty nack of picking up wickets has been a weapon for The Sunrisers this season thus far. Although he missed a game due to being unwell, he has bounced back and looks very skiddy and accurate in his first over.

Mohamad Nabi, joins the party as he is now very much back in action with striking the middle and leg stums to dismiss Ioen Morgans wicket. After being hit for a six early in his spell, Nabi has bounced back with a spring in his step, showing very good body language.

Another left hander bites the dust. Rashin Kahn bowles Millers leg stump down as he delivers a fast leg spinner into towards the stumps. Both the afgan bowlers showing how they are able to stay composed after being hit around the ground early in their spells.

The spinners all over the Kings 11, Nabi and Rasheed now reminders them that 60 runs is getting further and further away. Warner with clever tactics, with a spinner operating at either end.

Henriques introduced into the attack once again continue his free wicket taking run, as he dismisses Axar Patel. All the overseas batsmen have been dismissed for Kings 11, it is now for the lower order batsmen to pull Kings 11 out of this slump.

Mohit Sharma walks out into the middle, dispatching his first delivery for a huge six. Sran bowls the next one wide, the pressure showing. Sran conceding two more boundaries in the same over.

Rashid Kahn bought back into the attack for his final over gets the Vohra treatment with two sixes and a four to finish, 21 runs conceded as Rashid Kahns bowls out his fourth.

Buveneshwar Kumar, he takes wickets with the new ball and now he comes back to and takes a wicket In the death. Mohit Sharma walks back to the dug out caught out deep.

Kaul only conceding only 9 in his two overs, comes back into attack to put a holt to Manan Vohras magnificent innings.

Cariappa at the crease, struggling to make contact with the ball. Kaul keeps him guessing and Buveneshwar steps in to deliver the final blow.

Buveneshwar Kumar, takes the wicket of the impressive Manan Vohra. Having played am absolute blinder of an innings with 95 from 50 balls.

Buveneshwar now with 5 wickets for 19 runs with 15 dot balls, an bowling performance to match Manan Vohras effort for Punjab with the bat.

Kaul now has the bowl in hand to keep his side in it with the last over.

First ball yields 2 runs

Second ball a wide just past the line

Third ball gives a way one run

Fourth ball is off target, vieering side down the leg side.

Fifth ball a good dot ball back into Kauls arms

Sixth ball, with 2 balls remaining and 6 runs to get.. A Yorker aimed at toes of Ishant Sharma, knocking the middle and leg stumps out of the ground! Sunrisers win by 5 runs, their home winning streak continues.