November 21, 2005

Timmy's 15 minutes of fame

South Park's Timmy is probably the most genuine crip hero on television -- if not to say the only one. In the current issue of New Mobility, Seattle Times movie critic Jeff Shannon, who's also a quad, deconstructs the Timmy phenomenon.

Shannon writes,

With his jagged teeth and can-do spirit, Timmy appears at first glance to uphold the condescending disability stereotypes that are gradually fading from mainstream entertainment. But like everything else in South Park, he's actually challenging preconceptions, toppling taboos, and weaving his uniqueness into the fabric of the show. ...

Timmy, who is occasionally described as "retarded," and whose parents both use wheelchairs, made a cameo appearance in the fourth season premiere episode--"Tooth Fairy Tats 2000" (originally broadcast April 5, 2000)--but it was two weeks later, in "Timmy 2000," when he became an overnight sensation. As front-man for The Lords of the Underworld, in a plot condemning the over-prescription of Ritalin for children with Attention Deficit Disorder, Timmy dazzles a concert audience, prompting complaints from resentful bandmates ("Timmy gets all the chicks!") and leading concert host Phil Collins, target of much South Park derision, who assumes a condescending, overprotective role on Timmy's alleged behalf.

But when the animated Collins says, "I don't think you should laugh at people with disabilities," he's expressing all the hesitant discretion and politically correct politeness that would potentially isolate Timmy from the cultural mainstream in the real world. Without telling its viewers what to think, South Park challenges their own fears and foibles regarding disability, and Timmy emerges triumphant.

Read the whole article on the New Mobility site, and learn about Timmy as star in "Helen Keller: The Musical," the "physically challenged" Thanksgiving turkey named Gobbles, the "Cripple Fight" episode and "crip competition."

Visit the unofficial Timmy fan website

Posted on November 21, 2005