5th August 2016

Peep Show: Pretending to be a normal human being


If you are a fan of British comedy, you will no doubt have come across the institution that is Peep Show. 54 episodes spanning over a decade from 2003 – 2015, following the humorously depressing lives of protagonists Mark Corrigan and Jeremy Usbourne.

Despite the show’s apparent irrelevance to disability studies, a recent article in Disability & Society by David Bolt demonstrates how Peep Show reveals a lot about society’s conversational references to disability.

Due to the satirical style of the show, irony and sarcasm are constantly used to mock social convention. This humour is used to ridicule the enforcement of normalcy, rather than to target those who seem least likely to conform to it. Bolt compares this use of satire with earlier sitcoms (such as Till Death Us Do Part) which used satire in a similar way to highlight the absurdity of casual racism and sexism, which was still prevalent in society at the time.

In Peep Show, racism and sexism are also brought up frequently and discussed openly, with a mutual understanding between the characters and the audience, that racist or misogynistic attitudes and language are not okay. Yet disablist language is used in a different context; as if it is a social norm rather than something we understand to be wrong. Disablist attitudes in this sense, take the place of the ‘everyday racism’ of past sitcoms and Bolt commends the show for such progressive treatment of disability.

“[…]Peep Show exposes something of how and why disability is casually invoked in the day-to-day business of normative aspiration. The secrets of this normality are overtly shared and marked out as disablist, deceitful, and ultimately pointless.”