The CripTales and Inclusive Education
CripTales is a series of six powerful and dramatic short monologue films, each 12 to 15 minutes long. The BBC series was created by Disabled actor and writer, Mat Fraser, with each episode also having been written, directed and performed by Disabled people.
The monologues were originally broadcast on BBC Four in November 2020 and are available on BBC iPlayer until October 2021, if you wish to watch them before reading this.
The CripTales films highlight the need for more disability representation in schools, not only for the benefit of Disabled pupils, but for all children and staff. Within each of the six episodes lies a common theme – the fact Disabled people often feel unlovable and inadequate. This is suggested to be because of society’s perceptions and negative associations of Disabled people’s differences, even though we, as humans, all have the same thoughts, feelings and life expectations. As a Disabled person myself, I know how alienating it is growing up without seeing anyone who looks like you or has similar experiences to you. It can be so isolating to not have anyone you relate to, to ask for advice or support.
The comedy within Audition and Hamish are great examples of how poignant and sensitive issues regarding disability and ableism can be discussed without making the audience feel sorry for Disabled people. Episode one, Audition, uses self-aware comedy that subtly makes fun of how people perceive disability as scary, whilst discussing the casual ableism often found within the work environment. Comedy is used with a more direct approach in episode four, Hamish, as the main character openly jokes about wanting to be a ‘dirty bugger’ in the woods. However, this episode still manages to accurately show how demeaning it can feel to constantly rely on others, and how there is often a desire for freedom in any form for Disabled people. This ability to shed light on important topics without belittling the minority being discussed is so important, and definitely a technique that would be beneficial for schools to adopt in order to reduce the feeling of segregation. This feeling of solitude and segregation is shown in Hamish, episode four of the series, where he is desperate to escape his house once he gains his independence, having been given an electric wheelchair.
Disability is seen as a taboo subject for most of the mainstream world, with many people wrongly assuming things about Disabled people as they are never corrected. The need to show society the real lives of Disabled people is apparent when watching episode two, The Real Deal, where Meg expresses the frustration that Disabled people often face as they don’t look ‘Disabled enough’ to fit the expectation.
In contrast, often Disabled people struggle to be seen as ‘normal’ enough for mainstream life too, which creates a feeling of alienation as you don’t seem to fit in any group.
Jackie in episode five, Paper Knickers, describes her fears of being treated differently due to becoming visibly Disabled, which draws attention to the issue humans have with assuming things based on how a person looks. Having a cross curricular topic week in schools regarding disability that talks about Disabled people’s achievements in history, has Disabled authors read their stories in Literacy and implements Paralympic style sports in P.E, would help normalise disability. This, in turn, would help society understand the realities of life for Disabled people and stop the world feeling sorry for Disabled people.
Another important message emphasised throughout the series is the lack of education around relationships and sexuality that is related to Disabled people. A great example of how Disabled people feel they are viewed in regard to romantic relationships is in episode five, Paper Knickers. In this episode Jackie is about to have her leg amputated and her biggest concern is that her crush will no longer find her attractive as “people love symmetry”, insinuating she will be unlovable once she loses her leg. Episode three, Thunderbox, is perhaps the most painful story, yet is one of the most important. It very authentically discusses how Disabled people are often viewed as unfit parents and sometimes forced to not have children in the first place. These stories help explain why there is a great need for a more inclusive Relationships and Sex Education (RSE) in the UK – we need to reduce the stigma around Disabled people’s sexuality and having children.
The suggestions made here will not be introduced into schools overnight, and will need lots of campaigning to achieve, however that doesn’t mean schools can’t begin representing disability in their classes now. All six of the CripTales monologues have important and educational messages that could influence so many people. This series would not only teach Young people about the realities of disability, but enable Disabled people to feel empowered by seeing themselves represented in an authentic way. Personally, I think The CripTales is a phenomenal series and something I wish I could have seen as a teenager so that I could have had a more positive sense of self.