Michael J. Fox’s new show has a welcome honesty


Progressive Media Project

Michael J. Fox is back, and by mocking the way society treats people with disabilities, he’s breaking new ground on prime-time television.

On the eponymous show, Fox plays Mike Henry, a New York television news anchor who took a leave when he was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease. But after a few years, he’s contemplating returning to work because his family is sick of him hanging around the house. His old news director wants him back because ratings are low, and the return of Fox’s character might provide a ratings boost.

But Fox is reluctant to return because he’s all too aware of the shallow clichés the news media uses to tell disability stories.

“If I come back, NBC’s going to milk it by showing me in slow motion with lame uplifting music in the background,” he says. “When they show you in slow motion, you’re either dead or under indictment.”

Sure enough, when Fox’s character returns to the air, the NBC promo shows him in slow motion with a heroic musical score playing.

Fox is also unafraid to make jokes about the physical awkwardness of his character.

In the old footage of him sitting behind the anchor desk and breaking the news of his Parkinson’s diagnosis to his viewers, his tremors are so severe that his office chair keeps rolling away.

Also, Fox’s character tries to make a simple phone call and accidentally dials 911 because his medication has not yet kicked in.

It’s heartening to see Fox skewer the tired old narrative of disability as a constant struggle to triumph over personal obstacles. He also exposes the truth about how polite society expresses its profound discomfort with disability through false hero worship.

There need to be a lot more people with disabilities on television like Fox, telling the whole truth from the inside about living with a disability. I hope his new show has a good, long run.

Mike Ervin is a disability-rights activist and writer for Progressive Media Project.

© 2013, Mike Ervin

Read more From Our Inbox stories from the Miami Herald

  • Why do some hostages die and others are released?

    This last week’s deeply contrasting stories of two New Englanders caught in the Middle East’s maelstrom of violence — the savage murder of James Foley and the joyous release from captivity of Peter Theo Curtis — point to a central question: Why do some hostages die while others are released?

  • Rick Perry’s comeback headed off at the pass

    It was all going so well for Texas Gov. Rick Perry — until the indictment. His efforts to move past a disastrous 2012 presidential run that had become a reliable punch line for a senior moment seemed to be working.

  • Why the Islamic State (or ISIS, or QSIS, or ISIL) has so many names

    The Guardian reports that an influential Egyptian group has requested that Western observers make a crucial nomenclature change. Egypt’s Dar al-Ifta, which the Guardian describes as “a wing of the Egyptian justice ministry … [and] a source of religious authority both inside and outside Egypt,” says that it’s not appropriate to refer to the self-proclaimed “Islamic State” that’s currently fighting in Iraq and Syria. Instead, according to Dar al-Ifta, we should call them “al-Qaida Separatists in Iraq and Syria,” or alternately QSIS. You can learn more by following the group’s “Call it QS not IS” social-media campaign.

Miami Herald

Join the

The Miami Herald is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere on the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

The Miami Herald uses Facebook's commenting system. You need to log in with a Facebook account in order to comment. If you have questions about commenting with your Facebook account, click here.

Have a news tip? You can send it anonymously. Click here to send us your tip - or - consider joining the Public Insight Network and become a source for The Miami Herald and el Nuevo Herald.

Hide Comments

This affects comments on all stories.

Cancel OK

  • Marketplace

Today's Circulars

  • Quick Job Search

Enter Keyword(s) Enter City Select a State Select a Category