DsTv

Down Syndrome in Prime Time Television

After Life Goes On ended in 1993, actors with Down syndrome were rarely seen on television except for the occasional guest appearance. The current generation has been able to watch several characters with Down syndrome in episodic, prime time television beginning in 2008.

In 2008 viewers of The Secret Life of the American Teenager  (an ABC Family series) were introduced to Luke Zimmerman.

He had a frequently recurring part, appearing in 90 episodes over 5 seasons. In this series of clips from Season 1, Episode 9 “Slice of Life” [Aug 26, 2008] Tom cooks up a little mischief.

There are several ways to look at this story line. Do you see stereotypes? Is the moral of the story too obvious? Did you laugh? Did it remind you of someone?

Expect The Unexpected

Some of the story lines that include actors with Ds are to be expected. Glee used two actresses to expose some of the everyday discrimination that goes on in our schools, and how those situations might be addressed. My favorite segment appeared in season one, when Robin Trocki was playing Coach Sue Sylvester’s sister, Jean. [Episode 17, Bad Reputation]
The first time we see Jean in this episode, she’s sitting at a table talking to her sister.
Sue: I never really understood how hard it is to be laughed at, particularly in slow motion. I try to make it seem like nothing can touch me, but boy. Jean I’m so sorry you ever felt that way. I’m sorry I didn’t protect you more.

Robin Trocki in Glee Season 1 Episode 17

Jean: Remember what we used to do Sue? Whenever I got sad we helped at the animal shelter to give back.
Sue: Because there’s always someone who’s got it worse than you do.

After Sue resolves her dilemma she returns to her sister:

Sue: After all these years, how is it that you still know so much more about everything than I do?

Jean: I’m the smart one!

Unfortunately, it’s been reported that Robin was written out of the show because of advanced Alzheimer’s disease after appearing in only four episodes.


Jamie Brewer’s part as Adelaide on American Horror Story – Coven is anything but typical. Still, we see a familiar theme in Episode 4 – Halloween: Part 1 [(26 Oct. 2011) Director: David Semel Writer: James Wong].

Addie knows what she wants to be for Halloween: “Make me a pretty girl, like you Violet.”

Jamie Brewer as Adelaide on American Horror StoryWhen her mother discovers the make-up on her face, she screams hysterically at her to take it off. Brewer makes a convincing emotional response.

Addie: “I wanna be a pretty girl!…I don’t wanna be Snoopy! I wanna be a pretty girl!


 

 Next week, for our final DSTV blog we’ll look at the next logical step in this evolution – reality docudrama tv – Born This Way.

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