Reviewing portrayals of disability in TV: The story of Tracy Beaker

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So I thought this would be a fun lil project to work on, working my way through various TV shows/episodes and reviewing them on the disability representation in the show. To start, The Story of Tracy Beaker because it was a childhood favourite and I’ve really enjoyed rewatching it! I also now want to read Jaqueline Wilsons newer Tracy Beaker books even though I’m 22 and currently am struggling to find time to read but that’s beside the point. The two characters I want to focus on for this are Layla and Millie.

Layla 

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Layla has Cerebral Palsy and a big positive is that she is played by an actress with this condition. Disabled actors playing disabled characters is rare in TV and film so I definitely appreciate this! Other pros are:

  • She has a great personality and is a solid character whom viewers can easily become endeared with for reasons other than her disability
  • We get to see the reality of missing out on things when your disabled or have a chronic illness in the episode where she has to miss an exciting day of school for a physio appointment that ends up getting cancelled. Layla not wanting to miss school helps debunk stigma that disabled people are just lazy or the belief that they are lucky to get to miss days of school
  • We see issues with accessibility and  when Duke says “first one to the table” and Layla is unable to run as fast as the others.
  • Tracy uses her age and height as well as able body to get her wings back from Michael. Seeing Layla fit in with the other kids so well and seeing the other kids help her when she needs it but not being overly pushy or protective or pitying sends an important message that disabled children are just children and deserve to be treated with the same respect and in the same way as any other similar child, providing necessary accommodations are made.
  • She seems independent and intelligent for a child of her age through her lines and the fact that she does household chores like everyone else – this is very important for two reasons, one to help dispel the whole disabled people are a burden myth and secondly to show that not all disabled people are stupid.

Cons

  • The only con I really have is that she didn’t get fostered but that’s reality sadly. Although she’s young and cute, having a disability does make her less likely to get fostered.

Milly

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Millie is non verbal until she gets fostered and then she says the best line to Elaine.

Pros

  • The other dumping ground kids suspect her of weird goings on and think she’s scary but eventually realise she’s a scared kid and they should be nice to her
  • Her friendship with Marco and her eventually getting fostered with him
  • Even without lines we see her personality and emotions

Cons

  •  I wish she got more screen time
  • I know Elaine is a pain but I really don’t like how she pity’s and patronises Millie just because she doesn’t speak.

Overall I would give the representation of disability in The Story of Tracy Beaker an 8.5/10! Although this is only my opinion.

There will also be one coming on Tracy Beaker Returns/The dumping ground some point soon so watch this space!

If you have any TV shows and characters to recommend for this series leave it in the comments.

 

 

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