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Inspiration Porn?

Earlier this week the Ottawa Citizen published an opinion piece from a University of Ottawa graduate student taking umbrage to UK’s Channel 4 campaign of its Paralympic Games coverage. The specific target of criticism was the trailer released several weeks ago featuring athletes and performers with physical impairments calling it “Inspiration Porn”.

We’re The Superhumans Channel 4 Video

Ottawa Citizen: Don’t Make the Paralympics into Inspiration Porn

Since I am here in Rio surrounded by 5000+ people with all sorts of physical impairments, I set out on asking several of them what their thoughts were on the issue.

Ms. Orr stated that “not everyone, particularly people with disabilities, is pleased or flattered”. However, I could not find one single person with a physical impairment that shared her conviction.

Paralympians, like Olympians, are capable of superhuman performance. I think if you asked Usain Bolt if he thinks of himself as superhuman he would say yes. The Canadian Paralympic Committee used the line “Paratough” in this year’s campaign. Olympians and Paralympians are both tougher than most of us. Cindy Ouellet (below) demonstrates how tough by doing single arm pull-ups while in her chair.

sposocial-introducing-the-paratough-training-series-five-incredibly-tough-followalong-work

As an aside, I usually see the athletes only in training or competition. I saw Cindy, whom I have known for years, out of her chair (she can walk as do many wheelchair basketball athletes) for the first time. At 157cm (that’s 5’2″ for the older crowd) she is petite yet powerful. And it took me an instant to recognize her and other athletes in the “civvies” particularly since many female athletes always have their hair in a bunch during training and competition.

But back to “Inspiration Porn”. Speaking to wheelchair basketball athlete Adam Lancia, he made the very valid point that inspiration is only the starting point for change, and that inspiration that doesn’t translate into motivation is not particularly useful. Renowned Canadian neurologist Donald Calne stated that “The essential difference between emotion and reason is that emotion leads to action while reason leads to conclusions”. 

Inspiration will not always lead to motivation and action, but not appealing to our human emotions is doomed to fail. We all love good stories, and our Paralympians have many. So do our Olympians. I certainly hope that the inspirational story of Rosie McLellan recovering from a concussion to win a gold medal motivated many to overcome similar obstacles, and that’s a good thing.

Yes we may be occasionally prone to hyperbole, but our society seems to demand it. Just watch some of the crime shows that leave very little to the imagination. Channel 4 has managed to INCREASE the Paralympics viewership for Rio, not an easy feat given the last game was on their home turf. Personally, I’d rather watch inspirational performances than gory crime scenes.

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