Admit it. You’re guilty of it. You see someone in a wheelchair. Someone wearing a prosthetic arm. Someone walking with the assistance of a white cane. You see them and you feel pity. You try not to make eye contact or stare at what makes them different from us. You automatically assume that they’re weaker than you because they don’t have all of the same limbs and sense you were blessed with.
London’s Channel 4 is out to change the way you’ll ever look at anyone with a physical disability again. I don’t think there’s really anything I can say that will properly preface the amount of awesomeness in this clip for the 2012 London Paralympics, so you should really just watch it. Now.
Yeah. Damn, right? Who else feels like a total jackass for being so proud of that five miles you ran on two perfectly normal legs this morning? *raises hand*
The point of the video isn’t to shock you into watching the London Paralympics for no reason other than morbid curiosity, and I think that becomes pretty clear after only a few seconds. What this video asks you to do is rethink how you imagine an athlete at the top of their game.
Sure, the media loves a good come-from-behind story when it comes to Olympic athletes, but why the hell aren’t they looking and some of the most incredible underdog stories in sports? Blind soccer (or football, if you’re in any other country on the planet)!? Wheelchair rugby?! Are you kidding me?
These athletes (and, yes, super humans for a number of reasons) have not only trained to become top in their sports field, but they’ve also had years of physical therapy and battles the same as any full-limbed folk with overcoming depression, bullying, mind numbing medical bills and God knows what else.
This 90-second spot points out all of this and, I don’t know about you guys, in the end, I’m left with a feeling of awe. There’s no pity left. These athletes demand to be taken as they are and not treated with kid gloves.
So what the hell does this have to do with unpopular branding? Well, for one, it proves that unpopular doesn’t mean that it’s unlikeable. I doubt many of you watched that video and thought, “Boy, I really think less about the physically handicapped community now.” But it also proves that by confronting what makes people uncomfortable doesn’t always result in a negative backlash.
It takes balls to put out marketing that basically says, “HERE! LOOK AT THIS THING THAT MAKES YOU UNCOMFORTABLE! LOOK AT IT MORE! KEEP LOOKING!” to the point that, by then end, you don’t see the disability as that at all. All you see is people who have more emotional and physical strength than you may ever have and it makes you want to root for them.
And, yeah, you want to stare at them. You want to see them in their wheelchair or fancy prosthetic. You want to see what they can do. How far they can push the limits of the human body.
And the Paralympians are all, “Fuck yeah, stare all you want. Now watch me do things they said I’d never be able to do again.”