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Ambiguous disability in _The Trailer Park Boys_

Content warning (for the series, not the post) for class stereotypes, racism, homophobia, and antifeminism. Not always/only, but sometimes. Also, the series often depicts substance abuse.

This post contains major spoilers.

I’ve only watched the early seasons of the show in preparation for an abandoned essay project, so what I'm pointing to here may not reflect later seasons.

The Trailer Park Boys includes two major characters, Bubbles and Ricky, who seem to possibly have cognitive disabilities, though they don’t carry labels or diagnoses. These characters haven’t received, and don’t receive, support from formal caring systems (medicine, education), but they are informally supported by their community.

Bubbles has idiosyncrasies and has strong responses to some stressors. Outsiders to the trailer park sometimes make fun of Bubbles, but people from the trailer park generally do not. For instance, when a visiting Bible salesman asks Ray if Bubbles is “crazy,” Ray responds “Are you kidding? He’s the sharpest guy in the park.” Bubbles had a catastrophically stressful life event as a young child, and some of his peers have been supporting him to the best of their ability ever since.

Ricky has difficulties with impulse control and sometimes has trouble expressing himself in words. He struggled in high school as a younger person, and continues to struggle to finish various high school grades as an adult learner. His encounters with the education system often hurt and demoralize him. As he explains, “Like I went to school and the education system complicated everything up for me and it’s still fucking going on, it’s bullshit, so fuck the education system. We’ll do it our own fucking way.” Ricky worries that his young daughter Trinity will have an experience comparable to his own or be educationally disadvantaged by having him for a father, so he does the best he can to support and encourage her education and tries to intervene on her behalf when he feels she’s not getting a fair chance at school.

Ray, Ricky’s father, seems to be a full-time wheelchair user for the first several seasons of the show. However, it later emerges that he is fully ambulatory and is faking a disability to get money from the government. I’m not sure if people who look at disability in literature ever investigate such impostors, but, hey, if you want to, there it is.

Bonus track: one of Bubbles’s many cats, “Vince the Prince,” gets to accompany Bubbles to jail. Bubbles “tricked the judge” and was allowed to be incarcerated with his pet on the premise that the cat,“born with no bones in his foot,” can’t take care of himself. Bubbles goes on to admit that “actually, he can take care of himself just fine.”

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