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South Park shortlisted in disability awards

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Damon Rose Damon Rose | 12:29 UK time, Wednesday, 19 November 2008

A disabled character from the controversial cartoon series South Park has made it onto the shortlist of the 2008 RADAR People of the Year Awards.


The character, Timmy, has learning difficulties and is a wheelchair user. Pictured here, he's most likely to be seen getting into scrapes with the guys in the school yard and most likely to be heard saying his name very loudly: "Timmmmaaayyyy". His vocabulary is not huge, but his voice is expressive and clearly shows he's very much 'on the ball'.

So. Why is South Park being honoured, you might ask? Many will be surprised to see this apparently foul-mouthed toon in RADAR's nominations. The show has angered many minority and political groups in the past, most notably when it satirised Scientology. It caused the voice of Chef, the late Isaac Hayes, to quit the show after 9 years; he felt it unfairly misrepresented his religion.

When it comes to issues around disability, it seems the show is knowledgeable and spot on with its empowering portrayals and subject handling. It has featured Timmy in sophisticated storylines where South Park townsfolk were disgusted that a rock band had made a disabled boy its lead singer - video: Timmy and the Lords of the Underworld. Challenging a few precious clichés, the cartoon promoted the idea that disabled people should be as out and proud as everyone else.

South Park has another disabled character too: Jimmy. A crutches user, he has a speech impediment, and is the town's most popular schoolboy comedian - a great parody of motivational disabled orators. We often see Timmy and Jimmy together.

In another episode, Krazy Kripples, we see the self-defined 'crips' Timmy and Jimmy accidentally getting involved with the notoriously violent streetgang of the same name ... with all the hilarious consequences you'd expect.

Creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone really seem to 'get' disability, and have been involved in the excellent film featuring the How's Your News team, who we talked to for the Ouch Podcast in May 2008, which we recorded in New York. It's a road trip with learning disabled news interviewers who approach members of the public with a mike and a camera, and ask them questions which seem to phase them in a way that only 'learnies' can do to people who know no better. It's beautiful. And a new series is coming to MTV soon.

Great to see Timmy finally getting recognition in the awards that used to be 'The disabled people of the year'. He appears in the category 'media award for fictional programming' and is up against: fraternal down syndrome drama Coming Down the Mountain (BBC1), Recovery, starring David Tennant (BBC1), and Justin Fletcher in Something Special (CBeebies)

Some readers might wonder why Timmy is on the list this year as the character has been around since the year 2000 and is now arguably less well known. RADAR's Communications Officer Aidan Hargitt uninspiringly told us: "I think the main reason he hasn't been nominated before is because nobody has thought about it ... They are old, yes, but as they're still being shown, the effect of their portrayal of Timmy is still relevant".

* The gala award ceremony will be held on Monday 1st December at Battersea Evolution in London.


  • Comment number 1.

    Hi Damon – I agree with you entirely: it is uninspiring that no one has nominated a great character like Timmy before now, and like you I’m very glad that he’s finally getting the recognition he deserves. In many of the nominations we receive, both projects and individuals did not begin work this year, but are now showing the fruits of their efforts and so people nominate them. Timmy is still on TV and still popular – I work with young people who were too young to watch him in 2000, and have discovered him more recently - so now that he’s been nominated we thought it was better to recognise him now, rather than write him off for ever because he first appeared in 2000.

    Best wishes

    Aidan, Comms Officer, RADAR

  • Comment number 2.

    Thanks goodness.

    When I first heard the news I was happy about it but feared that most disabled groups, bloggers and supporters would completely fail to get South Park.

    I remember the outcry over the young boy/old woman relationship episode where everyone got it plain wrong by thinking that it supported paedophilia as long as it was an older woman, when in fact it was poking fun at people who took that view. This had the potential to be that all over again.

    So thank you for 'getting it'.


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