Media Maladies

Article excerpt

There is a great comedy sketch by the late, great Peter Cook and Dudley Moore in which Moore, feigning disability in a pre-p.c. fashion, is addressed by Cook who is supposed to be auditioning him for a part in a film. 'The part of Tarzan', Cook tells him, 'is one usually associated with a two legged man, while you, Mr Spigot, are a unidexter.'

I cannot find the word 'unidexter' in the dictionary, but it's a fantastic word. Lately unidexters everywhere have been given a bad name by Heather MillsMcCartney - or 'Lady Mucca' as the tabloids like to call her. The 'ex-pom star' - as they also like to call her provides us with an interesting case study in media approaches to disability. Perhaps unwittingly, fuelled by indignation at her meanness to St. Paul of Liverpool (all make the sign of wacky thumbs aloft), the media demonstrate a capacity to see past the disability, straight to the person - or 'golddigger', as they also like to call her. Admittedly it is to give her a good kicking (no joke intended), but it is still an interesting approach which contrasts with the usual sympathetic/pitying/victim-based approach more commonly adopted by the mass media, and much despised and contested by radical disability groups.

As usual, though, no-one has thought to ask Ms Mills what she would prefer in terms of terminology. I imagine she would prefer unidexter over 'ex-porn star' or 'golddigger'.

And so to Mr Oscar Pistorius (who sounds a bit like a character from Frankie Howard's 'Up Pompeii' who might be a little too fond of wine). He is, in fact, what the Guardian describes as 'the double amputee athlete', suggesting that a bit like Tigger, -he is the only one. …