On Sunday night, as I was watching Channel 10’s latest offering Skit Happens, part of the network’s Pilot Week, I witnessed a moment that deeply disturbed me.
In promotions for the show, Channel 10 excitedly announced, “nothing is safe from a Skit Happens parody”. But one sketch went too far.
For those who weren’t watching on Sunday night, Skit Happens attempted to send up Channel 7’s The Good Doctor – a medical drama about a young doctor with autism and savant syndrome.
The skit depicted a mock TV trailer for The Good Hospital, “where everyone is on the spectrum”. Four doctors, operating on a patient, were shown essentially unable to perform their jobs because of their autism.
“Scalpel, may I have the scalpel please, I need the scalpel now, I will save his life, scalpel” says a male doctor, before another male doctor starts singing, “I have the scalpel, it’s shiny, and very sharp. Scalpel, it’s mine”.
Watch the skit on Channel 10’s Skit Happens. Post continues after video.
When a female doctor refers to ‘losing’ the patient, another doctor responds, “no, no, he is not lost, he is right here”.
At one stage, all four doctors start inexplicably making beeping noises and acting like robots.
The scene, needless to say, entirely generalises the behavioural traits of those with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD).
In response to backlash on social media after the skit aired, a Channel 10 spokesperson said that the show is “intended purely to provide laughter, comedy and entertainment”.
Laughed at the Matt Preston joke, but then Good Hospital happened. You can make an autism joke, just make it funny. #SkitHappensAU
— munkeygurl (@munkeygurl) August 19, 2018
#SkitHappensAU That skit called “The Good Hospital” was offensive and demeaning to those who really are on The Spectrum. People laugh at our behaviours as it is…thanks a lot. Hope this program flops. None of the other skits are funny either.
— Kate Lang (@ButterflyAus) August 19, 2018
— Peter L (@peterlangdale) August 19, 2018
A skit about people on the spectrum?
How on earth did anyone think that was a good idea?
— Marchioness Snark (@UntamedSnark) August 19, 2018
But since when did marginalising and making fun of people with a disability constitute amusement and entertainment? Where is the comedic value in ‘sending-up’ and parodying a group of individuals living with ASD?
To be clear; I am not an uptight housewife sitting at home buoyed by my own sense of self-righteousness and morality. I can take a joke as well as the next person. I appreciate the cheeky humour we so often see across the media. I’ve had a quiet snicker to myself at the odd politically incorrect joke. I’m not completely humourless.
With my life, a sense of humour is essential. I am chronically time poor, disorganised and forgetful (despite the most valiant of efforts). Just last weekend, I accidentally dyed my hair brown.
I was doing a late-night chemist run (both my daughters perforated their ear drums; it was horrifying), and on a whim I selected a box of hair dye promising to transform my hair from its faded blonde with two-inch roots to a lovely autumnal golden blonde.
I applied the hair dye, subsequently got distracted and one hour later, imagine my shock and horror at my unplanned transformation from blonde to brunette. Fortunately, I find it funny and frankly, I’m too tired to care.
But, you see, my eldest daughter has ASD. She was diagnosed at five years old. She is extraordinary. She is bright, inquisitive, sensitive, kind, fiery and impulsive. Every day with her is different with exhilarating highs, and heartbreaking lows.
I have been kicked, punched, pushed and hit. I have witnessed towel rails being pulled from walls during fits of fury. I have lain down on the floor of supermarkets to reassure an overwhelmed mind. I am her shining light in the darkness, and her calming voice of reason in the confusion.
I administer medication for anxiety to us both. I medicate her to sleep every night because she naturally is inclined to stay awake. My day begins before dawn.
And every day I am treated to the unique treasure that is her heart and soul. She teaches me to see the world in a different light. She has given me the immeasurable gifts of patience and compassion.
Nothing could have prepared me for the challenges of raising a child with ASD. And I don’t believe I will ever fully know what it is like to live with ASD as I don’t have it myself.
But I do deal with the harsh and beautiful reality that ASD is. It affects everything I do.
Channel Ten must be digging at the bottom of the barrel when parodies of people living with disabilities are a conscious choice. It was offensive, demeaning and only served to further the stigma that those already living with ASD experience.
A condition which, from their bizarre 30 second skit, they obviously know very, very little about.