“Push Girls,” the Sundance Channel’s new half-hour reality series, created a lot buzz when the pilot episode (aptly titled, “Everyone Stares”) debuted on Monday, June 4. The show follows the lives of four attractive, talented and independent women trying to make it in Los Angeles…but here’s the spin: they have all been paralyzed for at least 10 years and use wheelchairs. Director Gay Rosenthal, whose credits include “Little Person, Big World,” and “Ruby,” hopes she has created another show that successfully stays away from the so-called “Gawk Factor,” as she aims to “Push” the boundaries of disability.
The 14-epidode series was inspired by the cast themselves: Angela Rockwood, Auti Angel, Tiphany Adams and Mia Schaikewitz (Chelsea Hill will join the group midseason). They range from their 20s-40s, and go through the normal ups and downs of women in America: finding meaningful relationships, managing finances, finding fulfilling careers and even dealing with fertility issues. But Angela, Auti, Tiphany and Mia have had to find new ways to navigate through life, which is what makes the show so interesting.
What does make these women “different” is that they are commonly bombarded with two questions: “How did you end up in that chair?” and “Can you still have sex?” To people familiar with spinal cord injury, the obvious answer to the latter is “yes,”—and “yes,” most females can still have children. But, many people assume the answer is “no,” and Rosenthal and the cast hope to change this common misperception.
The Sundance Channel producers worked closely with Casey Gibson, of the band Filligar, and Mophonics Music and Sound to create the theme song, “Beaumont.” Gibson said they wanted to “create something with spunk…something with edge to bring out the fierceness and bravery out of these amazing women.” Gibson also said that he felt “lucky to be part of such a cool project.”
Some viewers’ reaction may be “Gorgeous, smart, independent; I guess the disabled-American problem has been solved, so I can go back to not thinking about it,” comments Neil Genzlinger in the New York Times. Others have questioned if the show is exploiting these young women.
Sundance Channel general manager, Sarah Barnett, counters these arguments with: “I realized this was a story that had never been told. None of us wanted to make a show that glossed over anything, but that really looked at the reality of what it is to be in a wheelchair, and what it is to push through what many of us think is the incredible obstacle of that.”
Rosenthal says before you make any judgments, “Just watch it.”
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