Labor Day & the MDA Telethon

Just a quick post, because Anna at FWD/Forward says it all better than I could. I’ve never actually watched the Muscular Dystrophy Association Telethon, closely tied to Jerry Lee Lewis, who hosted the event for many years. A number of people with disabilities have strongly criticized Lewis, the telethon, and the representations of people with disability that are included in the program. For instance, Laura Hershey describes her dissatisfaction with Lewis and the telethon in this clip from “It’s Our Story:”

Transcript, since the YouTube captions are wonky:

Laura: That’s actually a group that was started in Chicago by Mike Irvin, Chris Matthews, and several other people. And I worked with them a lot organziing these protests nationally. I think what the name says is that Jerry Lewis doesn’t have the right to claim us as his quote “kids”, especially as he’s not interested in our perspective. He completely trashes people who question or challenge the telethon approach. He’s attacked us in the press, calling us ungrateful, claiming that he bought us our wheelchairs which is, you know, completely untrue.

You know, whatever ego trip he gets thinking of himself as our saviour, or our daddy, or whatever it is he thinks, we reject that.

We’re not his kids, we’re adults, and we’re our own people. We don’t belong to him.

This activism around Lewis and the telethon resulted in protests at last year’s Oscars, as PWD objected to Lewis’ honorary Award. For an interesting summary and analysis of that event, I recommend Beth Haller’s new book, Representing Disability in an Ableist World.

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