Tonight is the screening of the facial differences episode of You Can’t Ask That on the ABC. It’s on at 9.00 pm. I am so excited! I’m having a viewing party in Melbourne – details here. You can get your tickets at the venue if you want to come.
I was asked to take part in You Can’t Ask That the night before I flew overseas. I recall the email coming though at dinner time, and I shrieked and immediately called the producer, worried I couldn’t respond in the next few days because I’d be in the air. Of course I’d take part in it – I loved the first series. And it met my media expectations. She asked me to put her in touch with other people with facial differences then, and I hastily messaged some friends including Belinda and Ellen who also said yes.
I’d forgotten about the request when I returned from holidays, and due to jetlag and errands, I didn’t recognise the producer’s name when her number came up on my phone the day after I flew back to Australia. It took a minute to register that I did say yes to You Can’t Ask That.
My recording was locked in for the following week – the last week in October 2016.
Initially they wanted me to pair up with someone but couldn’t find a person in Melbourne so I did it on my own. Most other participants bounce off each other and I loved their dynamic.
I was really sore the week after flying back to Australia, and worried about how comfortable I’d be for filming. Fortunately they gave me a cab charge voucher there and back.
The You Can’t Ask That team in the studio were lovely – warm, friendly, clearly emotional and patient.
During the filming, I was told I didn’t have to answer any question I wasn’t comfortable with, and could expand on any of them. Fortunately (or unfortunately) there was no question that surprised or hurt me, because I’ve been asked that question or variations of before.
I can’t recall if it was before or after the filming, but the producers and talked a lot about what the show should be called – disfigurement, differences… They wanted participants to feel comfortable with how they were labelled. I was really happy the producers asked for participant involvement and advice beyond appearing on screen.
My experience on You Can’t Ask That has been an empowering one – I’ve been in control of how my appearance is portrayed. The producers sent us all a lovely email a month before the season aired on iview, warning us against trolls, and advising us how to protect ourselves on social media. I did receive a rather rude/amusing response from a (non) viewer who demanded to know what is wrong with us, and gave me the middle finger emoji when I quoted Stella Young.
Other than a few small minded comments on the ABC’s Facebook, the response has been amazing. Thank you.
As I wrote for Daily Life yesterday:
While I know You Can’t Ask That teaches viewers about our conditions, I also wanted to make the audience uncomfortable. I wanted to show them how tense, upsetting and shocking it can be when people like me are asked these confronting, intrusive questions. I want them to think twice about the appropriateness of asking.
You Can’t Ask That is about marginalised and misunderstood people taking ownership of these questions, and raising the broader communities expectations about us. So many friends have said what an important show this is. We’re being seen, heard and valued – when most times people either want to stare, look away, ridicule us or ask inappropriate questions.
I also wrote:
I’m told it’s understandable people are scared of my face, when they haven’t seen it before. But I’m getting tired of this excuse.
For you, it might be the first time you’ve seen someone with a facial difference. You’re surprised, shocked, disgusted, pitying, curious, scared and even amused. I see the range of emotions on your face in the first few seconds of our interactions. Your face moves in slow motion. But for me, living with a facial difference, and your reactions – are my every day. And responding to rude, curious, and even sympathetic and concerned questions is tiring.
I understand taking part in a show like this isn’t for everyone. But if you’re approached, do consider it. It’s a fantastic experience to take back that power of being asked intrusive questions.
Thank you for having me ABC. Big thanks especially go to Robert Hoge for recommending me, Kirk Docker and Aaron Smith on the day of filming, and Jess Cohen for the extensive chats on the phone. And congratulations to the stars of the show – Val, Belinda Downes, Ellen, Bradley Dowling, Kiara Higgins and Dean Clifford.
You Can’t Ask That is on ABC iview now, and ABC TV at 9.00 pm Wednesday nights.
People overseas can view it via a VPN. An Instagram friend gave me the following instructions for overseas viewers: Hey Carly, I have an app called TouchVPN, which allows me to set my location to Australia. I still have ABV iView on my iPad from when I was in Aus, so that means I can then watch it easily on the app. I’m not sure if you need to have access to the Aus iTunes Store to be able to download the iView app, but I’m sure it’s worth a try. They may even be able to watch it just on the ABC website if they use TouchVPN. Hope that helps!
Also, for a laugh, here’s a pic of me from 1998 that The Border Mail LEAKED! (Kidding!) It was from when I did work experience there. You can read the article here.