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Downloads to date: N/A | Words: 2350 | Submitted: 06-Jun-2010
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“Tourettes- I Swear I Can’t Help It” is a documentary about two men, one young man named Greg Storey and a middle aged man named John Davison, produced by ProspectCymruWales. The producer was Phillipa Robinson. The programme opens with the protagonist walking with a friend into a supermarket and immediately we see the curse of his illness. We are thrown into his world without having to be subjected to a stuffy medical explanation of the condition. The programme just leaves the viewer’s mind open to explore. It was televised in May of this year, although during the show we see various clips from both men’s lives.
At Greg’s introduction to the programme all we see is a camera shot of a nice looking private school... and then loud screams. This shocks the viewer a great deal because we do not understand what is going on and immediately thoughts fly through our heads. Questions like ‘who’s screaming?’, ‘why are they screaming?’ and even ‘what’s going on?’ join our train of thoughts, but then the RP voice-over of Sue Johnston explains that Greg developed Tourettes at the age of seven. It then skips to the Greg of the present - aged fifteen, and he explains how he had to leave that particular private school due to the fact that his parents could not afford to keep him there as well as pay additional for the special care he required. He goes on to mention that he now attends a public school after a campaign to get his necessary assistance. I noticed that when Greg and John are talking most of their clips are in interview format, I believe the producer chose to do it this way because the camera is focused on their faces so you can see their expressions much better and see their eyes. This makes it all the more personal for the viewer at home. The next clips of Greg are ones of him in school in a lesson and his tics go off and you’d think they would disrupt the classroom but everyone just goes on as normal “It’s like it was the wind” as Greg says. In the home videos of Greg as a child there is always sad music backing it which I believe is to emphasize the emotion and distress the whole family were feeling at this time. Here is where the viewer begins to sympathize with Greg and his family and I believe this was the intention of the programme. As the interviewer talks to Greg’s father he explains that after Greg developed Tourettes he was feeling down and even went to see his GP about it – the doctor told him he was suffering depression over the loss of a child, and Greg’s father was getting emotional while repeating this memory then he said... “and it was true, I felt like I had lost a son.”. I think there are many parts of Greg’s childhood (or what we see of it) that are very hard-hitting and this is when the viewer begins to realize that the condition is truly dreadful. At one point Greg tells about a time when he was young he just wanted “IT” to stop and he actually was begging his parents to kill him. As the younger Greg is being interviewed we find that he is a very articulate and eloquent child. He explains how his tic makes him swear sometimes and he’s saying something like “I-I don’t know if I should say it.... ‘Shut your F***ing gob’ “. When he says this the last part is whispered and this emphasizes his innocence and proves that it can truly happen to anyone. What I found most interesting about Greg is that he doesn’t associate the tic as being himself, to him it is a different person and he even compares himself to ‘Gollum’.
A few people might be familiar with John Davison because when he first developed Tourettes at the age of sixteen, a documentary was made about him called “John’s Not Mad” (1988) and we see clips from this documentary in the latest one, I think we see the clips of his youth and so on to emphasise that this condition does not just come and go, it is ALWAYS there, and it shows John’s constant suffering. Also when Greg first developed Tourettes (when he was seven) a documentary was made about him, and this included John at the age of thirty “The Boy Can’t Help It.”. As we see clips of John we see the difference between him and Greg almost immediately; John had to endure his illness through a time where it was virtually unknown so people’s understanding and acceptance was minimal. We learn all about John’s life and how he deals with the Tourettes. He goes to support groups where he has a good friend called Chopper, who also has Tourettes. We learn that John works in a community centre with children, and we wonder could this be because he missed out on his childhood because of his Tourettes? He says in the interview that he feels left out and likes to work with kids and it’s “nice to get a hug”. I believe this shows that sometimes John feels truly isolated from the rest of the world, and this brings the viewer to an understanding of John - and we feel more connected because of how personal this documentary is. We learn that John’s family wasn’t as half as understanding as Greg’s which made John’s teenage years all the more unbearable. In some clips from “John’s Not Mad” we see a canteen full of teenagers but no sign of John, that’s where the camera skips to another room where John is sitting all alone eating his food. This emphasizes his isolation as a youth. As we find out more about John’s family we discover that John hardly sees them now because they’re all living their own lives in other places.... this makes the viewer think that the family was not, and still is not, very understanding and accepting of his condition, almost as if they’re ashamed of him? But he goes on to explain how he’s got a sort of ‘surrogate family’ with a woman called Dorothy/Dotty. He goes on to mention that he eats round at their house three to four times a week. I believe this is to show the viewer a glimmer of hope, show that even the loneliest of people can still find friendship and even the family they always wished they had. One thing that surprised me about John’s illness is that he has a tic which causes him to spit his food. I did not realize that this could happen. But there is a clip of John as a young man eating a meal with his family and he’s putting food in his mouth but then spitting some of it back out again. The viewer then realizes that this is probably why he ate alone as a young man and also realizes how many aspects of a person’s life Tourettes can affect. There is one particular scene which really did shock me, it was when John and Dotty were shopping and their stood in an aisle looking at something when suddenly John smacks Dotty in the face. This part confused me at first because I didn’t realize Tourettes could cause this sort of behaviour, and I believe that this was one of the main reasons it was actually shown - because anyone with little knowledge of Tourettes will stereotype it to be someone who swears and can’t help it. Which isn’t all that serious, but this clip shows that it is physically dangerous because he genuinely can’t help what he does.

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