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The Traitors, Body Language and Disability

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BBCs the traitors

Adapted from the Dutch programme De Verraders, which first aired in 2021, The Traitors capitalises on the uncertainty of our age

The BBC’s new game show, The Traitors, casts members of the public in the role of Witchfinder General, but before exposing the trio of traitors, the show first exposes the unconscious biases that inform the pop culture understanding of the liar’s ‘tell.’ 

Adapted from the Dutch programme De Verraders, which first aired in 2021, The Traitors capitalises on the uncertainty of our age. It draws on the popularity of social deduction games like Among Us, which became ubiquitous over lockdown, or perennial childhood classics like Werewolf or Wink Murder.

It is, of course, inherently thrilling to have a licence to break the social contract, and vastly entertaining for an audience to revel in the dramatic irony of players vouching for the scrupulous honesty of someone we know is lying through their teeth. The same device is frequently employed by Shakespeare; when Iago turns to the audience and asks: ‘And what’s he then that says I play the villain?’, we feel the same malicious twist of pleasure as watching Alyssa, a 21-year-old business student, smirk into a camera after convincing her compatriots to suspect anyone but her.  However, enjoyable though it may be, The Traitors inadvertently showcases the fatal flaw in trying to ‘read’ strangers for signs of duplicity.  

The show’s format requires a vote to be cast every episode to exile a traitor. But, because the team challenges are genuinely cooperative regardless of traitor status, the only deductive reasoning in play comes from downtime conversations and, crucially, analysis of body language. The usual ‘tells’ – being fidgety, not making eye contact, being either too boisterous or too reserved – are all brought up in The Traitors, but it is not recognised that these can also be caused by nerves from being on camera, or that they are common symptoms of neurodivergence.

It is astonishing how frequently disability is painted as untrustworthiness in this programme. Nicky, the first contestant to be voted out, is accused of treachery because she didn’t raise her glass in a toast. She didn’t raise the glass in question because it was to her right, and her right hand has been amputated. An episode later, Aaron is put under suspicion for asking a lot of questions and is not believed when he explains that this is a trait of his ADHD. 

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BBC's the traitors

© The BBC

This unintentional ableism is upsetting in a light entertainment show but becomes much more of a problem when we realise that these same ‘deduction techniques’ can have many further-reaching consequences. For example, the massive popularity of True Crime has led to swathes of armchair detectives consuming the lives of others as entertainment. In 2021, Robert McCoy went viral on Tik Tok when a 19-second clip of him reacting to a surprise visit from his girlfriend was dissected by more than 60 million people, many of whom concluded that his body language in the clip proved that he was cheating on her. Writing for Slate, McCoy described ‘a [Tik Tok] user base increasingly hungry for content to analyze forensically.’

Major news organisations also use body language analysis on celebrities, most notably Megan Markle and Amber Heard, which claims to offer empirical proof to back spurious claims of deceitfulness; often, this is used to ‘justify’ racist and misogynist sentiment, and to demonise mental illness by armchair diagnosing personality disorders. 

Of course, the most egregious misuse of body language analysis is not in the court of public opinion but within the legal system itself. Communications researcher Vincent Denault points out that, despite being described as inaccurate and pseudoscientific by many researchers, body language analysis is still used as evidence in criminal cases.

In keeping with The Traitors’ witch hunt aesthetic, Denault compares this to a trial by ordeal: testing the character of the accused, rather than the evidence. Additionally, police officers (particularly in the USA) are trained to use body language analysis to identify suspects, which plays into pre-existing biases and effectively criminalises divergent bodies and behaviours, with sometimes fatal consequences – according to Time Magazine, it is likely that between a third and a half of Americans killed by police have disabilities.

Everyone likes to think that they can spot a liar, but when the pressure is on and evidence gives way to assumption, disabled people suffer from the abled gaze’s lack of trust.

 

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Bridgerton Season 3: A Milestone in Representation?

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Bridgerton Season 3

The popular Netflix series “Bridgerton” has always been celebrated for its diverse and inclusive storytelling. In its third season, the show has taken a significant step forward in representation by including characters with disabilities and those who are neurodivergent. This move has garnered widespread praise from fans, especially for its nuanced portrayal of these characters. Here’s how “Bridgerton” Season 3 is making waves in disability representation.

Bridgerton Disability Representation Shines in Season 3

“Bridgerton” fans are praising the disability representation in Season 3, which features characters with diverse abilities. Among them, Francesca Bridgerton, played by Hannah Dodd, has captivated audiences with her introverted and musically inclined personality, leading many to believe she is “autistic-coded.” This subtle yet impactful portrayal is a testament to the show’s commitment to inclusivity.

Nuanced Portrayal of Disabled Characters

Season 3 introduces Dolores Stowell, a young debutante who communicates using British Sign Language (BSL), played by Kitty Devlin, and her mother, Lady Stowell, portrayed by Sophie Woolley, who is deaf. This authentic representation of deaf characters using BSL has resonated deeply with viewers. Another notable character is Lord Remington, played by Zak Ford-Williams, who uses a wheelchair. His character’s integration into the social fabric of the Bridgerton world without being marginalized has been particularly praised.

Autistic-Coded Characters in Bridgerton

Fans have also speculated that Francesca Bridgerton and her love interest, John Stirling, exhibit traits often associated with autism. Francesca’s preference for small, intimate gatherings and her deep passion for music have led many to interpret her as autistic-coded. Similarly, John’s interactions and behaviors suggest traits of both autism and ADHD, creating a rich, layered portrayal that viewers have found incredibly relatable.

Fans Praise Bridgerton’s Inclusive Approach

The inclusion of these characters has sparked a positive reaction on social media, with fans expressing their appreciation for the show’s thoughtful and respectful depiction of disabilities and neurodivergence. One fan commented, “Can we just talk about the disability representation in #BridgertonS3 for a minute? Not only is there a deaf actress using BSL to communicate on-screen, but there’s also an eligible suitor in a wheelchair. Not to mention the fact that Fran & John are autistic coded AF.”

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A Step Forward in Media Representation

By featuring characters with disabilities and those who are neurodivergent, “Bridgerton” challenges the misconception that these conditions are modern phenomena. The show highlights that individuals with diverse abilities have always existed and deserve representation in all forms of media, including historical dramas. This representation not only enriches the narrative but also provides a mirror for audiences to see themselves and their experiences reflected on screen.

“Bridgerton” Season 3 has set a new standard for disability representation in media. By thoughtfully including characters with diverse abilities and neurodivergent traits, the show fosters a more inclusive and empathetic view of the world. This approach has resonated deeply with fans, proving that representation matters and can make a significant impact on viewers.

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Drake’s Involvement in Media Maelstrom Involving disabled Journalist Christopher Alvarez

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Drake Alvarez

Journalist Christopher Alvarez has been dragged into a media maelstrom, facing intense online speculation and ugly rumors, including false accusations of a physical altercation with Drake. Although Alvarez uses a wheelchair, he gets around and has enjoyed rubbing shoulders with celebrities and international pop stars, including DJ Khaled, and has aspired to become a broadcast journalist since high school. Alvarez has refuted the false accusations, emphasizing the need to stop spreading misinformation and highlighting the impact of this debacle on both himself and Drake.

One thing that Ebony Prince has been heavily implying is that something happened between Drake, his team and Christopher Alvarez, a journalist who suffers from thanatophoric dysplasia type 2 and requires ventilator support to keep him alive. The accusation that Jimmy Brooks, the disabled character that Drake played on Degrassi, would not be happy with Drake that night, meant to a lot of people that Drake or one of his team mistreated him in some way.

Today, Christopher Alvarez has come out to clear the air. He talks about how we’re in a post-truth era where misinformation and perception rule.  He recently wrote for the Brooklyn Eagle regarding the Drake debacle: “I found myself at the center of a social media storm. As a journalist with a disability, I have faced unique challenges in navigating this ‘post-truth’ society”.

Living as a journalist in a ‘post-truth’ society presents a myriad of obstacles. The constant battle against fake news, the pressure to maintain a strong social media presence, and the risk of becoming a target for cyberbullying are just a few of the challenges that journalists face in today’s digital age.

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For journalists with disabilities, these challenges can be even more daunting. The need to constantly engage with social media platforms can be physically and mentally exhausting, especially for those with mobility or sensory impairments. Additionally, the risk of facing discrimination and ableism in online spaces adds an extra layer of complexity to the already demanding job of a journalist.

Despite these challenges, journalists with disabilities have a unique perspective to offer in the fight against disinformation. Our lived experiences give us a deeper understanding of the importance of accurate and truthful reporting. We have the opportunity to advocate for more inclusive and accessible digital spaces, and to push back against the spread of fake news.

In order to thrive in this ‘post-truth’ society, journalists with disabilities must prioritize self-care and seek out supportive communities. We must also continue to advocate for greater accessibility and inclusivity in digital media, and work towards creating a more truthful and ethical online landscape.

As a journalist with a disability, I am committed to navigating the challenges of living in a ‘post-truth’ society while continuing to uphold the values of honest and accurate reporting. It is my hope that by sharing my experiences, I can inspire others in similar positions to do the same.

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Five Most Celebrated disabled Artists across the World

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Frida Khalo

The world often celebrates success, but true inspiration often lies in overcoming adversity. These five individuals, all prominent figures in their respective fields, have defied limitations imposed by disability, proving that the human spirit can soar regardless of any challenges they confront in life.

Their stories not only amplify the achievements of disabled artists, but also highlight the unique talents of disabled artists and their profound impact across the human race.

Sudha Chandran

Although a devastating car accident at 16 claimed Sudha’s leg, yet she refused to let it define her. With unwavering determination, Sudha relearned to dance, this time with a prosthetic limb. Her portrayal of her own life in the film “Mayuri” earned her national recognition, and her career blossomed. Today, Sudha is a celebrated actress, dancer, and reality TV star, inspiring millions with her grace and perseverance. Her journey, a part of the school curriculum in India, serves as a beacon of hope, not just in her home country, but across the globe, solidifying her place among famous disabled artists worldwide.

Aaron Fotheringham

Forget conventional skate parks. Aaron Fotheringham, better known as “Wheelz,” rewrites the rules on a specially designed wheelchair. Born with Spina Bifida, Aaron never let his disability clip his wings. From a young age, he embraced challenges, mastering walkers and crutches before conquering skate ramps at eight. Fearless and innovative, Aaron became a pioneer in Wheelchair Motocross (WCMX), pushing the boundaries of the sport with groundbreaking tricks like backflips and one-wheeled spins. His dedication has earned him not just recognition, but a place among the most influential figures in extreme sports.

Daniel Radcliffe

While the world met him as the bespectacled wizard, Harry Potter, Daniel Radcliffe’s journey is more complex. Diagnosed with dyspraxia, a learning disability affecting coordination, Daniel faced challenges in everyday tasks. Yet, acting proved to be his saving grace. Encouraged by his mother at the age of nine, he landed the iconic role that propelled him to global stardom.

Despite the demands of fame, Daniel excelled in his studies and transitioned seamlessly into a diverse acting career, tackling challenging roles on stage and screen. Openly discussing his dyspraxia, he raises awareness for neurological conditions and inspires others to embrace their differences. Now a father, Daniel thrives on a new chapter, demonstrating that success extends far beyond the world of make-believe.

Nick Vujicic

Nick Vujicic’s story is one of overcoming seemingly insurmountable odds. Born with tetra-amelia syndrome, an extremely rare condition that results in the absence of limbs, Nick endured a childhood filled with hardship and isolation. However, his spirit remained unbroken. Nick discovered his passion for motivational speaking, sharing his story of resilience and self-acceptance with audiences worldwide. As the founder of “Life Without Limbs,” he empowers people with disabilities and inspires them to lead fulfilling lives.

Frida Kahlo

Frida Kahlo, the iconic Mexican painter, battled health issues throughout her life. Diagnosed with Polio as a child left her with lasting physical limitations, and a horrific bus accident in her youth caused severe injuries, including a broken spine. It was during her recovery that Frida turned to art, channeling her pain and experiences into self-portraits that became her signature style.

However, Frida’s work explored themes of identity, suffering, and the female experience. Though she died young, her artwork continues to resonate with audiences today, securing her place among celebrated disabled artists. Beyond her artistic genius, Frida’s defiance of societal norms has made her a celebrated figure within the LGBT community.

These five individuals stand as powerful examples of human potential. They have redefined success, proving that disability is not a barrier to achievement. Their stories inspire us to embrace challenges, celebrate differences, and pursue our dreams with unwavering determination.

These inspiring stories highlight the need for greater global recognition of disabled artists, breaking down barriers and ensuring a more inclusive art industry where disability in the art industry is not a hindrance, but a source of immense creative power.


By Yahuza Bawage

Daniel Radcliffe
Daniel Radcliffe
Sudha Chandran
Sudha Chandran
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