The five paralyzed women of Push Girls have had an overwhelming presence in the media lately, thanks to talk shows like E! and Ellen and finally the show’s debut on June 4th. It’s been since the passing of Christopher Reeves that any person with paralysis has had so much face time on TV. Kudos ladies! As a paralyzed person myself, I agree that it’s time to show the world a whole new side of disability. But before any of you go raising your fist and screaming “You go girls!” at the television, there’s something we must all keep in mind—Push Girls is first a reality show with thought-out plots and story lines, not just a disability love-fest.
Let me introduce the cast. First is the sexy, flirty, and very outspoken I-don’t-categorize-my-sexuality-so-sure-I’ll-date-a-girl-for-the-show Tiphany Adams. The camera loves her (and she loves it right back). Next there is the only woman to not be injured by car accident, Mia Schaikewitz. She seems to be the more sensible character compared to Tiphany, but still likes to bring drama upon herself when it comes to her soon-to-be ex-boyfriend. Next there’s the gorgeous and very skinny Angela Rockwood, who was once a model, once married and the only quadriplegic of the group (which has me wondering, “Why is she not in an electric wheelchair?”). There’s my least favorite character (and who I’m counting on will be everybody else’s favorite), the 42-year-old Auti Angel, who grew up in the hood, proclaims herself a ‘Diva’ and is unsure if she’s ready to have children (although she wants the world to know she’s very capable). She’s also known for dancing in her wheelchair while donning rims with recognizable silver dollars signs. And finally there is Chelsie Hill, who is the youngest of the women by nearly a decade, not introduced until the second episode, not in any of the promos and thus I guess not all that important.
These women may use wheelchairs but they’re also kind of a mess. Just take a look at the first five minutes of the Push Girl’s initial episode. It’s dedicated to Tiphany ogling two men while pumping gas at a gas station. While Sundance probably intended the scene to showcase a sexy and independent wheelchair woman, it also made Tiphany look a little desperate and like she may have Daddy issues. After all, what woman eye fucks the men around her while pumping gas? None that I know, disabled or not.
And why does Tiphany choose a woman as her new rebound love affair? Is it because her mean ole’ ex-boyfriend cheated on her? Is it because she truly loves this woman? Or is she just starved for attention? We don’t know yet. But one thing is for certain. The wheelchair didn’t cause her sexuality confusion. Her decision to change genders in the dating scene makes no sense at all, and that’s why she makes for great reality TV. It’s not just because she’s in a wheelchair.
Then there’s Angela. Remember the scene when she’s in front of her computer making calls to different modeling agencies and she sadly tells the camera, “I can’t go to an office job and type on a computer,” blaming the lack of dexterity in her hands. Say what? Wheelchair people work. And did she forget she’s sitting at a computer typing while saying this? She may not have dexterity in her fingers but every quadriplegic knows there’s aids to assist with that. I’m a quadriplegic. I have typing tools. I can type. I typed this article. I also managed to hold an office job for three years as the managing editor of national publication. While it’s no easy feat, there are many quads that have part-time, even full-time, jobs in offices. It seems like to me Angela just doesn’t want to have an office job because she’d rather work in the modeling industry, which is lovely and brings me to another point. There actually is a modeling market for wheelchair users (even I have done jobs for Disney with no modeling experience). But why is that not showcased on the show? Because we want Angela to have to fight for something and we want to cheer her on.
And finally, there’s Auti’s dance performance and desire to compete amongst able-bodied dancers. While I can totally admire someone who breaks stereotypes and tries new things, I’m not a huge fan of someone using their disability to seek attention. Did anyone else find it rude that Auti only gave herself two days to train for a competition that most dancers spend a lifetime (or at least a year) practicing? She might as well have raised her middle finger to her competition and said, “Not only will I enter your able-bodied competition and perform, I will win and have practiced for only two days suckers.” And then she did win. Wheelchair or not, this is the kind of attitude that makes great reality TV.
While I’m not sure how the rest of the Push Girl season is going to roll out, I’ll admit I’m excited to watch it. I’m most curious to see how the show continues to fit so many wheelchairs in each scene. I mean, four or five wheelchairs in one room or on the same sidewalk? What a nightmare. That’s why wheelchair people usually stick to having able-bodied friends in the real world. There’s just not enough space in one room for our chairs (and sometimes our egos).