Television shows used to address diversity

By Eliza Macdonald

Contributing Writer

“Diversity according to Family Guy and South Park” is a surprising title to most college students, but those in attendance found that the innovative speaker was able to uncover, in common television shows, most of the valuable lessons parents need to teach their children. He urged students to engage in conversation about what goes on around them and not give tacit consent to the things that occur in their world.

Matt Glowacki gave his presentation on diversity to a group of students in the Elaine Langone Center forum this past Monday evening. Glowacki was born without legs; he said doctors could never find an explanation why. That has not stopped this speaker in the least.

“Diversity is not just noticing difference in people, it’s taking the time to learn from other peoples’ differences,” Glowacki said.

After introducing himself and explaining his background, Glowacki assured the audience that everything else is there and works just fine, with a wink.

Glowacki used Family Guy and South Park to show that relevant TV shows can teach important lessons, if viewers allow them to. Through three clips from these shows, he touched on lookism (discrimination against or prejudice towards others based on their appearance), ableism (discrimination against people with physical disabilities), and racism (discrimination against race).

“I liked that you learned throughout the entire thing. His message went throughout his entire presentation,” Sarah Dubow ’13 said.

Bringing these ideas to this generation seems a challenging feat, but through the use of popular media Glowacki proved that although most American families spend only seven minutes a day having meaningful conversations and an average of 55 minutes watching TV daily, important values could still be taught.

He argued that through satire and parody, the television shows Family Guy and South Park teach subtle lessons.

“When you laugh, you’re processing the information, you’ve thought it through,” Glowacki said.

At the end of the presentation, Glowacki asked that the people in attendance stand up against tacit consent. Tacit consent is seeing injustice being done and doing nothing to stop it.

“Look directly at your friend and say, ‘When you say things like that, it makes it really hard for me to be your friend,’” Glowacki said. Standing up to people you know and explaining to them the issue behind their insult is fighting terrorism, Glowacki said. Terrorism happens everyday in this country by what people say to one another.

Besides the “-isms” that Glowacki focused on, he also touched on the issue of language. He argued that a word is just a word until someone says it’s a bad word. Once someone adds intent and context to a word, it can be interpreted in a new way. Language is the agreement on the meaning of words.

He also gave a good amount of factual evidence about why the number of persons with disabilities is on the rise: veterans.

Provost Mick Smyer, who attended not only out of interest but also because the Office of the Provost was a contributor to the speaker, commented that he was struck at the amount of factual evidence he provided with great detail.

“Whether it was the history of the BMI or the rate of casualties among returning vets, which is really high, and I was glad that he introduced that into the discussion. I was glad that Bucknell students already knew that this [increase in persons with disabilities] were veterans because that’s a big ongoing responsibility that our society is going to have for years to come,” he said.

“Tolerance is crap,” Glowacki said; people must admit that, as people, they judge each other constantly and keep our thoughts to ourselves, for the most part.

Glowacki hopes to live in a world of engagement. He encouraged the audience to engage with the people around them by explaining that learning from other people is what makes the world such a great place to live. Glowacki informed the audience that diversity is about loving someone for who they are, not their outward appearance.

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