Maybe that sounded like a rhetorical question.
If you are a fan of Frankie Boyle, or had the unfortunate accident of seeing his new television show, laughing at my daughter, May, is part of the entertainment.
I say “laughing at May,” but Boyle performs jokes at her expense and the expense of all disabled children. He gets to the heart of what is so funny about a sweet, adorable child like May – namely that she is a waste of space. Or, worse, as he described Katie Price’s disabled son, Harvey, a rapist.
I don’t struggle with the idea that Freedom of Speech should be restricted. Frankie Boyle can say what he likes (and, here, Paul Saxton of Maggie and Alice says it much more eloquently than I).
What disturbs me more is that the audience laughed at the joke. People feel it is okay to laugh at the idea that a disabled child is a rapist.
Less than two years ago, after May’s brain-damage was discovered, I thought our struggle would be her. Not so. Never so. She is the easy part.
I struggle with limits of people’s integrity. I find it demoralizing that so many people I encounter with May – nursery managers, flight attendants, budget administrators (all of whom you can read about on this blog) – are unsympathetic, dismissive, and, sometimes, even cruel.
May is more capable, at her age and with her brain, of understanding the roots of joy and pleasure, as well as pain and frustration, than Frankie Boyle’s audience of adults. Let him say what he will. But, when he does so, stand up and chuck your beer in his face. At the very least, stand up and walk out.
Originally, I thought Boyle was relying on his limited audience’s base loathing of glamour model Katie Price, that she was the joke and her son just the means to achieve it. But, Boyle has a longer history of slating the most vulnerable children in society.
In April of this year, a mother posted a blog (no longer available) of her experience seeing one of Frankie Boyle’s shows. In it, he made fun of children with Down’s syndrome, especially disturbing to her, as her son has the condition.
According to The Telegraph, “Mrs. Smith’s husband, Kieron, said he was stunned by Boyle’s jokes. “He frequently used words like ‘Mongoloid’. He did impressions of the way people with Down’s syndrome talk. One of his jokes was, ‘Why is it that everyone with Down’s syndrome has bowl haircuts and bad clothes?’ He came back three times to the idea that people with Down’s syndrome die early.“
Here is the BBC’s account of the event:
“Mrs. Smith said that during the whole segment her heart was racing and she wanted to cry but that most of the audience were laughing as far as she was aware.
She said Boyle noticed her talking to her husband and asked them what they were saying.
She wrote on her blog: “I told him that my five-year-old daughter has Down’s syndrome and that I was simply upset at some of his jokes.”
“He tried to laugh it off – ‘Ah, but it’s all true, isn’t it? Everything I have said is true, isn’t it?’ To which I replied, ‘No, it wasn’t’.“
Boyle didn’t learn his lesson then, and he won’t learn it now. His publicist is probably wringing his hands and drooling over all this free copy. I even questioned whether I should give him this tiny bit more.
But, I won’t have anyone laughing at my baby.
Stacie Lewis writes the blog Mama Lewis and the Amazing Adventures of the Half-Brained Baby