I've just watched the last episode of Beyond Boundaries, the series following a bunch of disabled people trekking accross Africa to reach the Skeleton Coast.
If you follow that link you'll find plenty to read and some interesting conversations about it on the messageboards. I'm not intending to write about it in depth here as there's plenty of interesting threads that go further there than I could, but one thing did strike me about the last episode.
The group are going through the sand dunes and begin to disagree with their guide, Ken. One the last day, Ken steps down and leaves it to them to naviagate after having been overruled the day before. Comments about Tim being a self-appointed leader, not an elected one, were beside the point here as far as I was concerned because no-one seemed to ask for Ken to return and as far as the footage shows (a well appointed ha! will escape any cynical reader here) Ken appears to hang back and let them get on with it. And he seemed happy (ha! again, etc) to do so in the main.
And get on with it they do. In typical crip fashion, they do it a bit differently than he would have done. Maybe that was down to expertise - or the point made the day before that for many the going was much easier in some places. Maybe that was an essential priority for the group that Ken couldn't ever have really comprehended. And maybe they cocked it right up and were lucky to get to the coast, but I couldn't help thinking this little revolution went further than anything else to gel them as a team, rather than staying under a leader who was, for all his good points, not 'part' of the group, who did not - who could not - share in their insights.
For me, that was a significant boundary broken. Not just for the crips but for the guide too. No more direction from you Ken, they seemed to be saying. We'll take it from here, mate, cheers all the same. There's aspects of this terrain we need to deal with in our own way.
Wahey! Now we're cooking with gas, Beyond Boundaries!
Because if you're disabled, how many people stand back and let you get on with it? How many times do you tell someone to get lost and get on with it in your own way despite their misgivings?
Not many people? Not nearly enough of the time?
Now thats a real boundary gone beyond if ya ask me. It's the power play between those who are the 'cans' and whose who are percieved as the 'can'ts'.
If they want to evolve the series for next time as far as I'm concerned, they'll need to get the next lot more actively involved in making the decisions - not following a leader. At least working alongside one. Why not? Why not train people to navigate next time, for example?
Don't think I'm being recklessly anti-AB here. That's not the point. The point is you can take people with whatever disabilities and put them in front of all sorts of dangers, but if they've got a guide, a bloke with a gun, a doctor, a helicopter on standby in case someone gets a pressure sore (soz Heidi, but..), whatever, then they've got a safety net which is essentially a group of people who aren't disabled to bail them out. In a greater sense thats the part of the series that seems old-fashioned and stale to me as a disabled audience member, when it's telling us it's all risky and groundbreaking. Woohoo. What's that saying again about art reflecting society?
Obviously we don't to pay our licence fee to see the BBC feed crips to hyenas or die of heatstroke but I'd have thought more control now a group have been seen to take it, would be an attractive bar for the production team to reach next time.
I know sometimes being independent means knowing when to ask for help - so by all means don't chuck out the safety net, but I feel there's a degree of boundary that goes beyond deserts and rapid waters that warrants further exploration, hell, exploitation, here.