Super. Human.
July 20, 2021 11:57 PM   Subscribe

Previouslyer (in Canada).
posted by Erinaceus europaeus at 12:02 AM on July 21

I have to admit I came into this expecting to roll my eyes and huff but this is actually a pretty clever dismantling of the use of "superhuman" and other dehumanising/"freakish" terms to refer to disabled athletes, which has been criticised multiple times (Guardian links) but seems to persist despite disabled voices asking for it to stop. It's refreshing to see that at least someone has learned from it. The nod towards an athlete being able to qualify for the Olympics but not being able to access a local café in her wheelchair was particularly good.

In related news, it's a shame that this years' postponed games is still showing evidence of failing disabled athletes, with three-time gold medalist Becca Meyers having to drop out because the U.S. Olympic & Paralympic Committee wouldn't let her bring her personal care assistant.
posted by fight or flight at 2:48 AM on July 21 [10 favorites]

That was a bit of Adam Hills' voice at the beginning, yeah?
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 2:49 AM on July 21

Channel 4's 2012 trailer was pretty good too.
posted by jamespake at 3:49 AM on July 21 [1 favorite]

I have the impression that London 2012 did have one lasting positive effect and that's that it was a turning point for the coverage of the Paralympics and disabled sport more generally in Britain. The US is miles behind. I think the last summer Paralympics was the first time the US media even pretended they were covering it (I think we got one "inspiring" Saturday afternoon NBC sports block when they had nothing else to show).
posted by hoyland at 5:10 AM on July 21 [1 favorite]

The Last Leg (which started with the 2012 Paralympics & features the aforementioned Adam Hills) will be covering the Paralympics with Rosie Jones as their Tokyo correspondent. (for as long as it lasts, the most recent episode where they discuss this here)
posted by juv3nal at 6:42 AM on July 21

I'm an expat and I miss watching C4's coverage. It was always gripping and exciting.
Of course I can still see it here. *taps side of nose*
posted by Webbster at 6:54 AM on July 21

What a great ad. That song was familiar, but faint, then it all came back: It's from Bugsy Malone! (Written by Paul Williams)
posted by JoeZydeco at 7:11 AM on July 21 [1 favorite]

*bookmarking that Youtube clip Juv3nal posted*

Even when they are not doing Paralympic coverage, The Last Leg is awesome and I am addicted (but live in the US so I can rarely see full episodes). Those three guys helped get me through the previous presidential administration.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 7:12 AM on July 21

Uh, what am I missing? Watching this felt cringy. My partner, looking over my shoulder, said "someone who made this ad hates disabled people."

I really liked the bit about the cafe, and I thought some of the cartoon edits were cute, but overall the impression I got was "these people are funny and the games are a joke."

Seriously, what am I missing?
posted by ®@ at 7:52 AM on July 21

Great ad. Fuck Larry.
posted by chavenet at 8:05 AM on July 21

Seriously, what am I missing?

There may be a cultural element in play. From profile tags, I get the sense you are American or living in America? (If I'm wrong, apologies).

Certainly in the UK, as someone said upthread, the 2012 Paralympic coverage was the start of a massive shift in how Paralympic sports were seen by a lot of people in the UK.

As you can see from the 2012 trailer posted above, it's been - since then - a shift away from "OMG this is so inspiring" to "this is just as legitimate as the Olympics, with athletes having the same brutal training regimes, with some unique challenges thrown in."

Put it this way: swap the athletes and this could easily be an advert put out by the BBC, who have the Olympic rights here. The only difference being the very pointed reference to not being able to get into a cafe.

Even many of the individual athlete challenges hinted to in the trailer are sports based, not disability based - e.g. the burden of the gold medal, and thus expectations, holding Ellie Simmonds back in her mind.

I watch a LOT OF American TV, and the "so inspirational" thing whenever it pops up (ninja warrior, TV ads etc) in reference to athletes with some kind of disability always seems super-weird to me now. But I can also understand how not seeing that can feel equally weird and disrespectful if that's the standard cultural thing.

Not saying it doesn't happen here, but when it does it is increasingly called out as a negative, not a positive.

Worth noting of course that Channel 4 triggering this step change in coverage in 2012 wasn't entirely altruistic. It was because they wanted to piggyback on the massive success of the BBC's 2012 Olympics coverage.

They had the Paralympic rights, and realised the best way to get the same level of viewing was to normalise/legitimise it. And they largely pulled it off.

One of those rare moments where desire for viewership and actually changing things for the better lined up.
posted by garius at 9:00 AM on July 21 [23 favorites]

Love the slogan. Marginally related, I just saw this.
posted by anshuman at 9:09 AM on July 21

It was because they wanted to piggyback on the massive success of the BBC's 2012 Olympics coverage.

I think it's also worth going back to look at Channel 4's previous ads for their Paralympic coverage in 2016 and 2012, both of which use the "superhumans" tagline that earned them so much criticism. The 2021 ad also seems to be a self-deprecating reference to how they've covered things poorly in the past -- even to the point of directly referencing the man playing drums in the 2016 ad with an athlete looking at a drum set and rolling his eyes in the 2021 ad.

To me it seems like there's definitely an element of "we fucked up before, here's a better way to do things", probably as a direct result of the criticism they got after 2016.
posted by fight or flight at 9:13 AM on July 21 [8 favorites]

Agreed. Their coverage has definitely been a bit of "Two steps forward, one step back" over the years.
posted by garius at 10:08 AM on July 21


Thanks for the explanation. Yup, definitely a cultural element at play. I don't think I've ever seen an olympic ad with intercut cartoon characters and visual gags. So my initial reaction was "they must be saying these specific althetes are funny," not "oh, this ad is similar to / referencing an earlier ad."

Much appreciated.

Also: who's Larry?
posted by ®@ at 5:50 PM on July 21

Also: who's Larry?

Larry Nassar? Not sure he had much of anything to do with the paralympics.
posted by axiom at 8:01 PM on July 21

These videos are so inspiring and a reminder of how frequently people with disabilities are unseen and how long it's taken to get to even this point.

It was only in 1990 that the Americans With Disabilities Act was passed. Eventually the Capitol Crawl [Wikipedia] "inconvenienced" several senators and pushed them to pass the act.

See also Murderball and this video from 2016 of a veteran lifting weights and burning Trump - back then I kind of felt like if we criticized Trump enough he'd change his behavior.
posted by bendy at 9:19 PM on July 21 [1 favorite]

Also: who's Larry?

The restaurant that was not wheelchair accessible was called Larry's Café.
posted by obol at 2:33 AM on July 22 [1 favorite]

It might also be helpful to know that Ellie Simmonds is probably the most well known current British swimmer and has a high profile for a non-football sportsperson. Of the Olympic swimmers, I would say maybe people have heard of Adam Peaty (world record holder in 100m breaststroke) but that's about it.

Channel 4 had a major incentive to make the Paralympics broadcast successful when they got the rights to London 2012 rather than the BBC, and they have tried (albeit not always succeeded) to improve since then. For Rio 2016 they broadcast 700 hours of coverage, to 28 million viewers. It's not super, super popular but by that reckoning nearly half the country watched some of it.

My favourite London 2012 ad was a simple billboard round the corner from me that appeared just after the Olympic closing ceremony in August, which simply said "Thanks for the warmup. The Paralympic Games on 4."

I enjoyed this ad and I'm looking forward to the Games.
posted by plonkee at 8:11 AM on July 22 [3 favorites]

I work in athletics and was at the World Para Champs in London in 2017, held in the Olympic stadium. What was really awesome was how many of the athletes from around the world said they loved competing in the UK because para sport is taken so seriously here. At the Worlds - which are only athletics and obviously not as high profile as the Olympics - there were proper crowds in the stadium, big GB para names like Johnny Peacock and Kadeena Cox getting a similarly starry-eyed reception as Olympic athletes get.

The Last Leg (which started with the 2012 Paralympics & features the aforementioned Adam Hills) will be covering the Paralympics with Rosie Jones as their Tokyo correspondent.

That’s amazingly good news. For all the brilliance of The Last Leg in many ways, it really rankles that they could, as recently as 2012, have cast a three-presenter show entirely with men. And Rosie Jones is bloody wonderful.
posted by penguin pie at 6:15 PM on July 22 [3 favorites]

Oh - and yeah, in recent weeks I’ve worked on some stuff around both Olympic and Paralympic team announcements, and we’ve given them equal fanfare, they’re very much seen as two pathways through the same sport, not as the “main sport” and the “disabled version”.
posted by penguin pie at 6:21 PM on July 22 [1 favorite]

That is fantastic filmmaking: cinematography, music, editing. It's put together just perfectly.
posted by zardoz at 9:08 PM on July 22

Something that may not be clear is the degree to which paralympic athletes in the UK are celebrities and part of national life. They're sports commentators, They're on chat shows. They're on Strictly Come Dancing. They're on billboards and TV ads. They sit in the House of Lords. The cultural shift that 2012 created hasn't faded, and an engaged UK audience will recognise (or should recognise) at least some of the athletes in that TV spot.
posted by Hogshead at 6:55 AM on July 24 [4 favorites]

Just on the cultural front, and the level the Paralympics are at in the UK.

Papa Johns are a sponsor of Paralympics GB, and have had Alice Tai, David Weir and Alfie Hewett on their national menus for the last couple of months. I'm not saying this as something to endorse Papa Johns, but to illustrate that the team and the athletes are at the level where national pizza chains base promotional campaigns around them.
posted by MattWPBS at 4:08 AM on July 26 [1 favorite]

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