Missing something, Carson?

Carson Kressley, fashion guru on Bravo's "Queer Eye for the Straight Guy," is the author of a new picture book for kids, just out from publishing behemoth Simon & Schuster. You're Different and That's Super is about.... well, let's hear from Carson himself:

"This is for anyone who is skinny, fat, black, white, gay, or straight -- anything that wreaks havoc with self-esteem," Kressley says. "Sometimes kids have parents they can talk to, sometimes not. I want kids to know they're not alone."

Now I know Carson meant disabled kids, too: he just forgot to mention them. Right?

But that "forgetting to mention them" happens a lot in lists. Wonder if that could affect anyone's self-esteem?

Wonder if they're in the book or not?

The story's been in lots of media. Here it is on The Advocate's website: New book and TV show for kids celebrate diversity.

January 02, 2006 | Email this story


Comments (newest comments at bottom)

Thanks for noticing this, Mary. You've sent me thinking in several different directions with this one, and my response is a bit disjointed. But this may be the start of a much longer piece; a treatise, even. So thanks. I'll keep you posted. Here goes:

The most useful tool in mainstreaming homosexuality has been, ironically, a stereotype: Fun and Fabulous. I resent media that feed stereotypes, no matter how fun or fabulous. To give the unicorn the whitest coat and the most golden mane is a bit much (And quoting Bette Midler -- c'mon!). And of course, the unicorn's "horn saves the day and everyone else celebrates his uniqueness". Now why -- why -- does he have to go and save the day? Why? And why can't gimps be fun and fabulous? Oh, right -- because having a disability is a real drag. To quote South Park's Big Gay Al, "Mister Cripple . . . sucks to be you . . . but I just can't feel sorry for you today . . . because I'm thuuper, thanks for asking!" The tiny difference, alas, between Carson and Big Gay Al is that Big Gay Al actually remembered there are cripples.

So now I'm recalling a short list of shows and books for kids that were created with the good intentions of teaching tolerance and appreciation for people with disabilities. I've been waiting for years for an excuse to write about the character "Tutor" from the Snorks, a kids' cartoon from sometime in the 'Eighties, featuring the adventures of candy-colored snorkel-headed critters under the sea. Tutor was a Harpo Marx-type Snork who did not speak like the others, but communicated in whistles, dings and squeaks, and also "saved the day" in a breakout episode (you know, the episode where they explain the disabled character and have him use his disability for good to illustrate his usefulness to society), thus leading his fellow Snorks to proclaim, "He's not handicapped; he's just . . . special."

Dragon Tales, a popular one nowadays on PBS Kids, almost pleased me with a dragon character who uses a wheelchair (though he can also fly . . . he flies sitting down . . .?), except that the writers made this character (forgive me; my memory is more sketchy on this cartoon than it is on the Snorks, which I haven't seen for 20 years) exceptionally skilled at something, I can't remember what, but something that doesn't require walking, to "make up" for his disability.

My medal for "totally disability cool" goes to Maya and Miguel, another PBS Kids cartoon. Miguel has a friend, a blond kid (I can't remember his name), with an incomplete arm. He's subtle -- about as subtle as a real one-armed kid. I haven't seen any "breakout" episode for him (though I admit I don't see the show often), and no one on the show seems to require an explanation for (or compensation for) his disability. The episode that impressed me was one in which the blond kid and another friend of Miguel's (a black kid -- diverse, eh?) were both trying out for the same position on the soccer team. Miguel was secretly coaching each of the two friends, and was conflicted because he didn't want to show favoritism to either of them. Eventually the friends find out about the fiasco, and they and Miguel have a spat. The next scene shows each of the two friends miserably trying to practice separately and being pretty lousy at it without Miguel's help. They make up at the end of the show, of course, and all practice together -- though I don't remember what the outcome was as regards the kid chosen for the team. It doesn't matter. The reason I detail the plot is that I was so happy that the writers didn't go the usual route and make the blond kid a whiz at soccer (you know -- gimpy in the arms, overcompensates in the legs). He was average, even lousy. (That they made Miguel, the Latino kid, a whiz at soccer is another issue for another forum.)

The medal for "totally sucks" goes to Madame Maria Schriver for her . . . ahem . . . "book", What's Wrong with Timmy? It's nonsensical drivel, with a still more nonsensical author's note. One has to read it for oneself to appreciate its crappiness. To suggest that children, as a matter of course, will be compelled to ask what's "wrong" with a child with Down Syndrome is, well, crappy. And wrong. Crappy and wrong.

That's it -- I'm writing a dissertation. Anything to give me an excuse for watching so many cartoons. I'll be back!

Evonne Acevedo

Posted by: Evonne Acevedo on January 3, 2006 04:57 PM

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