Upon watching Beauty and the Beast, a new reality television programme produced by channel 4, I came to the realisation that people with physical disfigurements are seen as being “freaks” in the media.
In the UK there are more than half a million people living with severe facial disfigurements who aren’t accepted into society; they’re judged on their looks. Alison Walsh, the disability Tsar for Channel 4, defended the show in The Guardian by telling the readers that ‘prejudice is the beast’ and that the series ‘declares war on that and on beauty fascism’. She states that Beauty and the Beast is being developed in association with Changing Faces, a charity that supports and represents people with disfigurements.
The true question is, do shows like Beauty and the Beast result in the viewer empathising with the people with facial disfigurements or open the door for entertainment by laughing at them? Beauty and the Beast could possibly be perceived as a freak show whereas Walsh declares the lives of disabled people being like “poetry”. Is it really poetry or good afternoon entertainment? Disabled people are not often shown on television, unless they are taking part in documentaries or shows such as this one. Surely this shows how people with disfigurements are still not accepted. Not to say that wanting to feel good is wrong, but the true “Beasts” are the ones who are so self-conscious they change themselves; people with disfigurements are more comfortable in their bodies than those who are “normal” and don’t need cosmetic surgery to boost their confidence.
Personally, I think shows such as Beauty and the Beast are ways for disfigured people to connect with people on an emotional level, to try and make their audience understand how they feel. They clearly understand the risk they take in viewers perceiving them as amusement instead. Perhaps it is worth the risk so they can be heard and maybe slightly more accepted into the vicious society of the modern era.
For more information, check out Changing Faces