starring Angela Rockwood, Tiphany Adams, Auti Angel, Mia Schaikewitz and Chelsie Hill

They can’t stop gushing over PUSH GIRLS

You like us! You really like us! “[PUSH GIRLS] is accomplishing something else: proving that it is possible to set a new standard for reality-type television.” “It’s a solid show of just the kind it’s nice to see as networks explore where they can go with reality programming.” “If you dismiss all reality TV as empty-headed trash, PUSH GIRLS should make you reconsider.”

At the Los Angeles Times, Mary McNamara hit the nail on the head when it comes to one of my favorite things about PUSH GIRLS: the fact that these ladies are friends, not just people thrown together for the purpose of reality TV. The bond between the women is so palpable for viewers already that it adds a layer of authenticity that stands out from other offerings on television. No Real Housewives to be seen here; as Maria Elena Fernandez puts it over at The Daily Beast, Push Girls, which premiere[d] on June 4, isn’t like other unscripted franchises that put women together in the hopes of headline-grabbing catfights.”

Gimp ‘Tude (an awesome blog that calls out assumptions about disability and mental health), wrote about their reservations, noting that they’d like to see more diversity of disability represented on the show. However, she also said that she was excited to see disability and sexuality portrayed frankly and honestly, something which seems to make a lot of reviewers nervous (the horses are scared!). Money quote:

One of the four sexy girls also dates men AND women. As a queer woman wheelchair user, this is the first time I get to see anyone even somewhat resembling myself on TV.

(There is more on Tiphany over at AfterEllen!)

There’s also a great feature on PUSH GIRLS in New Mobility on reactions from the disability community, including concerns about representation. We tend to be infamous for our hypercriticality when it comes to depictions of disability on television, in part because representations are so few and far between. PUSH GIRLS is a great step forward, showing women with disabilities in a setting that is less exploitative and objectifying and more empowering and dynamic, and in terms of educating the nondisabled community about what our lives are actually like, it’s a radical shift from other representations of disability currently airing. Gosh! We do things! Other than sitting around being sad because we’re disabled!

Writing for The Atlantic, Alyssa Rosenberg also highlighted another interesting aspect of PUSH GIRLS: the fact that the show depicts what it’s like to seek work in Hollywood, which can be a challenging environment at the best of times. She briefly touched on the underemployment of disabled actors in Hollywood, and the numerous talented performers who go underused because there are no roles for them, or nondisabled people occupy the few disabled roles available.

Neil Genzingler at The New York Times highlights some of the concerns with PUSH GIRLS in a thoughtful review, discussing the fact that he’d like to see more of the journey and less of the destination. One of the things I actually love about PUSH GIRLS, though, is that we’re seeing Auti, Tiphany, Mia, and Angela years after their accidents; we so often see acquired disabilities featured as an immediate tragedy, and so rarely see people who have adjusted to their disabilities. For balance, though, we are going to get to see a lot more of Chelsie, who is still adjusting to her disability status. And along the way, we’re going to see many of the practical matters Genzingler’s review asks about, like dealing with finances and how to dress when you’re using a chair. Don’t worry, Neil!

Genzingler also points out that:

Another challenge for “Push Girls” is dispelling the impression that these women are representative. Certain viewers might well look at them and conclude, “Gorgeous, smart, independent; I guess the disabled-Americans problem has been solved, so I can go back to not thinking about it.”

This is a definite worry, especially with many US states cutting disability services and the fact that disability is quite diverse and four women alone cannot be expected to represent the whole of the disability experience in the US. People who are adjusting to disability and fighting for benefits right now might, however, want to know that they can live independent lives and do have a chance at being something bigger than their disabilities. And in a world where disability is associated with ugliness and undesirability, it’s a breath of fresh air to see mindblowingly attractive women representing disability on screen.