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The uncomfortable truth about our reaction to Molly Meldrum.

It was the Logies speech that got everyone talking.

Australian icon, legend and Logies Hall-of-Famer Molly Meldrum hijacking TV’s big moment – Samuel Johnson’s Gold Logie – with an incoherent ramble that seemed to stretch interminably long.

In our lounge rooms, the public cringed at the awkwardness. I was amongst them. ‘Where was the Orchestra to gently play him off?’ I wondered. ‘Why was this happening? Who was going to stop him?’

Reports from the Crown Palladium were that the floor manager was gesturing wildly, Richard Wilkins was creeping on stage, and Dave Hughes and Samuel Johnson threw wide-eyed looks at each other; neither of them knowing what to do or how to politely step in.

In the days since, the rumours have been wild with speculation. Was he drunk? Did the old rocker have his nose in a bag? Should he have been allowed on the stage? And does the industry have a duty of care to protect Molly from himself? The jokes have been as rampant; he was ‘that drunk uncle at your wedding’. A rambling fool.

The undertone being: It’s ugly. Make it go away.

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But the other thing that happened in the days since, was a truth that I couldn’t shake; Molly Meldrum is living with a disability. It’s uncomfortable. But it’s there, and we need to be okay with it, not sweeping it under the rug, ushering it away, or gesturing to make it stop, but accepting that not everything in life is going to be as polished as a TV Week statuette.

Listen as Mamamia Out Loud discuss the kneejerk reactions to the speech and why it made us uncomfortable:

The 2011 accident in which he fell off a ladder at home left him with more than just a confidence knock, it left him in a coma. He had three metal plates inserted in his head, lost two months of his live to amnesia, didn’t remember being in hospital, and sustained a shocking brain injury.

And now, Molly’s real life isn’t a fairytale drama with a good ending. He’s not the same. In the year since, he’s withdrawn from the spotlight, his public appearances have been far, far less. It seems that Molly didn’t make that spectacular recovery we all hoped.

And we don’t know quite how to act, because the dominant narrative in TV land is for neat and tidy narratives about individuals “overcoming” disability. We want happy endings, we want everything to be neat. We don’t want to see the truth of disability on the polished floor under bright lights; we’re not used to the way it mumbles and stumbles along.

Our reaction shows so much about our ability to see something confronting, unpolished, disabled, on the stage.

Brain injury is common. It’s about ten times as common as spinal injury and produces, on average, three times the level of disability. It’s also often referred to as the “invisible” disability; because the majority of people make a good physical recovery that belies their cognitive difficulties.

People with a brain injury are regularly thought unintelligent, unmotivated, uncooperative – and drunk when they’re not.

Nick Rushworth, the Executive Director of Brain Injury Australia, Molly’s chosen charity, says that there are regular experiences of people who have suffered an acquired or traumatic brain injury and are confused by the public as being drunk or disorderly.

It’s due to a condition called dysarthria, that is quite common post brain injury

“Because it’s a brain injury, every aspect of function, including the muscles of the mouth, the tongue and the throat, can be affected, so problems with speech production are common.” he says.

“People are regularly confused and conflated with the drunk and disorderly.

“So part of BIA overall awareness raising, particularly with security staff with limited education in disability, is that not every person that slurs their speech is drunk and disorderly and needs to be ejected from premises.”

It’s not Molly that’s the problem here. It’s not, as insiders have suggested, time to protect Molly from himself. We are the ones that need to change. And to realise disability does not discriminate. So neither should we.

Mamamia Out Loud is the weekly podcast with what women are talking about. Subscribe in itunes, in the Mamamia podcast app, or listen to the full episode here: 

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