Perhaps you’ve seen it? A recent Guinness commercial has gone viral thanks to its unusual subject matter – a group of guys hanging out together. You may think “that’s not so unusual,” but the group of guys hanging out together are featured in wheelchairs playing a rousing game of wheelchair basketball.
It’s not often that we see people with disabilities represented in mainstream commercials, especially for a company that is so widely known like Guinness. That is reason alone to celebrate! But there are some mixed feelings and differing opinions out there from the disability community about the kinds of images and messages represented in this spot.
There are those who are applauding Guinness for garnering more attention for the disability community. It’s rare to see someone with a disability on TV or in the movies represented accurately so each time it’s put out there is one more time that images of people with disabilities living life can reach others and promote greater understanding. The ad also displays disability in a powerful way. A group of guys hanging out together, just like any other group of guys, but they happen to be in wheelchairs playing a tough, competitive sport – that’s not something just anyone can do! One man is even knocked over and uses his own strength to get back up and continue playing – an awesome representation of the resiliency and strength many of us with disabilities has learned to develop.
The “mixed reviews” come into play for some people within the disability community, when after the game of basketball, all the guys, sweaty and tired, stand up from their wheelchairs and start heading out for a beer together – all but 1. I believe that Guinness’ intent is to show all of the disabled man’s friends rallying around him, showing him support and participating in a sport with him so they are all at an equal advantage; some are suggesting, however, that the friends who are not really disabled should not have to “pretend” to use a wheelchair just to make their friend feel included - that perhaps this is a display of pity, while others feel that this gesture is a display of what friendship is all about – supporting and including one another.
Some other criticism the ad is facing points out that the friends are “going down” to the disabled friend’s level or making special treatment for the man who actually uses the wheelchair.
My take is a mixture of the two sides – I love that there are more images of people with disabilities, using wheelchairs in an ad and I love that it’s generating so much conversation! I also really like the display of camaraderie and support all of the friends are showing each other. I don’t particularly like that the ad is being called “heartwarming” or “touching” or that the able-bodied men are being portrayed in a “heroic” way for “including” their friend with the disability. I think that we all have something to offer our friends – those of us with disabilities have just as much to offer our able-bodied friends and vice a versa.
Have you seen the commercial? You can check it out on YouTube below.
What do you think about it? Share your opinion in the comments.
(Photo by Molly Hayden final game of the WTB-Europe wheelchair basketball competition, March 14)