Abstract

In Monk, the social structures that create disability have a relationship of reciprocal maintenance with the structures that sustain race. Specifically, I examine the moments in which Adrian's disability and other characters' blackness creates tension. These scenes are typically understood as humorous, drawing on Adrian's disability and stock figures like the angry black man, Mammy, and the murderous hip-hop star. Yet, the commitment to these narratives remains tenuous because the tension between Adrian and the black characters is not always contentious, nor is it a consistently missed opportunity for nuance. Instead, I argue Monk reveals a more complex interplay between narratives of blackness, disability, and white liberalism. Namely, Adrian's awkward exchanges lay bare the tensions present and open up space to see that we read disabled and racial identities in contact according to a logic determined not just by ability, but also by race.


"Here's the Thing" 1

From 2002 to 2009, USA Network's Monk featured a titular character who was charming and annoying, caring and cantankerous. Within the drama-comedy, Adrian Monk (Tony Shalhoub), a former San Francisco detective, works as a private consultant with the San Francisco Police Department. Adrian's 2 brilliance as a detective is attributed to his meticulous attention to detail, a by-product not only of his many phobias, obsessions, and compulsive behaviors but also the traumatic uxorial loss that exacerbates them. Through its eight-season run, Monk never diagnoses Adrian's phobias and behaviors directly except to hint through advertising that it might be Obsessive Compulsive Disorder; 3 instead, the show constructs his behavior as obliquely psychologically driven by flanking many episodes with or including therapy sessions. In each episode, the case functions as an opportunity for therapeutic breakthrough. During the first two and a half seasons, Sharona Fleming (Bitty Schram) works alongside Adrian as his nurse. Natalie Teager (Traylor Howard) replaces Fleming after two seasons, assuming the role of personal assistant rather than nurse. At times, Teager considers herself a partner, much to Adrian's irritation. In the role of best friend and supervisor, Captain Leland Stottlemeyer (Ted Levine) often counsels Adrian in matters that concern masculinity, usually attempting to normalize Adrian's behaviors. Lieutenant Randy Disher (Jason Gray Stanford) rounds out the cast as Stottlemeyer's absent-minded and somewhat bumbling right-hand man, whose antics sometimes serve as foil for Adrian. All the characters are aware of Adrian's phobias and compulsions and they work to provide a cocoon in which he can not only solve crime but also have a personal life. 4

To examine Monk is to spotlight the logics of how we read disability discourse alongside others. Within the show, race — particularly blackness — and disability both depend upon and erase each other. Each highlights the "structural conditions within which these social categories are constructed." 5 Nirmalla Ervelles and Andrea Minear argue in "Unspeakable Offenses: Untangling Race and Disability Discourses of Intersectionality" about those who occupy multiple identity categories (i.e. working class disabled black women or deaf black men), but should not be limited to viewing intersectionality only in one body. 6 Adrian, as a middle class disabled white man, exists at the intersection of several categories including race, gender, and disability though he does not live at the margins of those categories. 7 Adrian's interaction with able-bodied blacks exposes the logics of how we read gender, disability and blackness within the same social space. Adrian and the black characters "misfit," to use Rosemarie Garland-Thomson's term, since their interactions "[emphasize] context over essence, relation over isolation, mediation over origination." 8 The conflicts that arise between these characters assume an incongruity, a misfitting, between blackness and disability. Adrian and the various black characters are made to misfit for comedic purposes, but I would argue the interactions expose the historically situated nature of their conflicts. Furthermore, the comedic lens lays bare the way that Disability Studies and Black Studies both upend the conception of white liberalism as useful or even benign. Often, Monk positions a humorous white liberalism as the intermediary that polices Adrian and the black characters with whom he interacts. What becomes clear is that blackness and disability only remain in conflict when supposedly humorous white liberalism becomes the primary lens through which we read the characters' interactions.

As scholars like Douglas Baynton and others have noted, blackness and disability have historically interacted in one of two ways: disability has been mobilized to sustain racist practices and discourses about blackness eschew association with the disabled to promulgate racial uplift. 9 The complex and shifting nature of these discourses has a long and problematic history. For instance, during the antebellum period, drapetomania, the idea that freedom would drive Blacks mad, persisted as a rationale for slavery. Another so-called illness, dysaethesia aethiopica, diagnosed slaves' unwillingness to work for a master as evidence of madness. 10 Yet these very discourses relied on a conception of the super able slave as a backbone (pun intended) to justify slavery. Slaves were both super able and not at all able. As Lukin notes, states that refused to allow Blacks to enlist during the Civil War excluded them based on their proximity to disability, citing blackness itself as a disability. 11

After World War II, the rhetoric of the Civil Rights Movement actively eschewed references to sexuality, and disability as part of an ongoing politics of respectability. Blacks tried to undermine the association of blackness with lack when they advocated for Civil Rights by protesting against the idea that they were feeble-minded. 12 Such a conception of sexuality as disability dovetailed with the DSM-IV categorization of homosexuality as a psychiatric disorder. What lurked beneath these ideas was a fear-driven insistence that blackness had to be constructed as able-bodied to gain rights. This tension also continues well into the late twentieth century as evidenced by black churches' responses to HIV/AIDS, for example. In Boundaries of Blackness, Cathy Cohen notes that they were not only slow to respond to what was deemed a "gay disease," but also provided meager assistance to others who had contracted it. 13 The unstable rhetorics of disability and blackness continue conniving to foreclose access to rights. 14

Despite this fraught history and perhaps because of it, scholars have recently begun to find common, if shaky, ground by discussing the intersections of blackness and disability. Chris Bell rightly took Disability Studies to task in his sardonic essay "Introducing White Disability Studies: A Modest Proposal" for comparing disability to race as shorthand for explaining difference or finding an analogous moment in history.  15 Such references elide the nuance inherent in comparing two different identity categories and relegate the current oppression of one group to a mythical past. 16 Lennard Davis points out that ethnic studies scholars have repudiated the comparison between disability and ethnicity or race as "methodologically unsound and insulting." 17 Much of the hesitancy in this arena comes from a long history of conflicting rhetorics, the prevalence of ableism, and the acceptance of able-bodied privilege. I should point out that critical discussion in this area has been curtailed by the deaths of Chris Bell and Carlos Clarke Drazen, two scholars whose work continues to shape the field though they died before completing their doctoral degrees. I take seriously Chris Bell's injunction that Disability Studies needs to "keep blackness and disability in conversation with one another" and "rethink embodiment and representation." 18 Though Monk is ostensibly not a show that explicitly explores racial topics, it does prompt us to reimagine a discussion about disability where race is integral, not marginal, and to rethink the implicit white center of disability studies. 19 The misfitting of characters in Monk contextualizes Adrian's white privilege even as it calls us to reconsider the construction of blackness as inherently able-bodied. Calling Disability Studies and Black Studies into conversation to examine Monk also allows both fields to challenge the benign helpfulness that putatively inheres in white liberalism.

Since "intersectionality is not simply about bringing together these markers and their theoretical responses, but [considers] how each supports the constitution of the others," I explore the way the markers of blackness and disability mutually constitute each other in the world of Monk20 At times, Monk recasts disability as a position of privilege that "stigmatizes and depreciates one form of humanity for the purposes of another's health, development, safety, profit or pleasure." 21 Blackness then becomes a site that can not only assume able-bodiedness, but also recapitulate ableism. The show animates these interactions with Adrian's phobias and stock figures like the angry black man (season 1), Mammy (season 3), and the murderous hip-hop star (season 6). Yet, the commitment to these narratives remains tenuous because the tension between Adrian and the black characters is not always contentious, nor is it a consistently missed opportunity for nuance — tergiversating about what difference among difference can mean. In what follows, I analyze Adrian's interactions with these characters for how they complicate the tensions between the social constructions of blackness and disability even as they challenge the discourse of white liberalism.

Mr. Monk and the Unspeakable Insult

In "Mr. Monk and the Marathon Man," Adrian's interaction with a black male security officer, Carl, reveals the way that black politics of respectability misfit with invisible disabilities. Here the two become competing discourses rather than "dynamic social and discursive processes that inform each other." 22 For many of the minor characters, Adrian is perceived as strange, awkward, and insulting. Usually, these perceptions are based on the compulsive and phobic behaviors that appear antithetical to social norms of etiquette. For instance, Adrian's germaphobia forces him to wipe his hands after touching objects or shaking hands with others. In this episode, one exchange presents his need for sanitary wipes as possibly racist. I quote the passage at length because it showcases the multiple instances of reading and misreading at work.


Adrian and Sharona enter the building.

Angie: Can we help you?

Adrian: Oh no. It's a stampede. Get a wipe ready. (Sharona digs in her purse for wipes.) (To Woman) I'm Adrian Monk. I called earlier.

Angie: Oh, Mr. Monk! Please excuse the mess. After the marathon, we just kind of hibernate for a while. You know… (laughter)

Adrian: This is my assistant, Sharona.

Sharona and Woman (together): Hi.

Angie: Oh! (extends hand toward Adrian. Adrian looks uncomfortable) I'm this year's chairperson, Angie Morrison. This is Tillie Graves.

Tillie: Hi. (shakes Adrian's hand)

Angie: This is Lee Frasier. (Lee adjusts box to shake Adrian's hand)

Lee: Hi.

Angie: And, uh, Brendan Connelly. Over there. (Adrian turns to shake Brendan's hand. Carl approaches.) And, this is Carl Jenkins. He's our chief of security.

Adrian: Hi Carl.

Carl: Hi. (Sharona hands Adrian a wipe.)

Adrian: Thank you.

Carl: You got a problem with me?

Adrian: What? Oh! No. No. No. No.

Carl: You don't want to shake a brother's hand, you just say so. You don't gotta go wiping it off.

Sharona: Oh no. He does that to everybody.

Carl: Am I blind? Do I look like I'm blind? I saw what I saw.

Adrian: (hesitant) Uh…

Carl: I'm going to go and lock up downstairs. I stick around here I might do something I'll regret.

Tillie: We're all just people Mr. Monk.

Adrian: Of course we are. I always have to.. uh… I'm not..

Sharona: Oh no. He's not —

Angie: (cutting Sharona off) What can we do for you? 23



As the interaction continues, Tillie (Arlene Mazzerole) continues to make references to rainbows and "people of all colors and creeds" to express her disapproval of what she considers to be Adrian's racism. Even when Sharona and Adrian return to the marathon headquarters with another lead on the case, Tillie refuses to acknowledge Adrian verbally and sneers at him when he waves to her.

In the course of this exchange, there are multiple instantiations of looking, and seeing, but also equal amounts of blurring and misreading. Adrian's disability becomes visible to the viewer (though it remains invisible to the others) and Sharona's position as caretaker undergoes the same fate. Carl's anger, though initially, visible fades in light of Tillie's liberalism. This shifting landscape of visibility relies on a series of exchanges whereby disability and class positioning become visible to the viewer and invisible to the characters. Likewise, Carl's anger must become invisible as Tillie's anger becomes more pronounced. Carl's late-coming to the interaction guarantees that he did not witness Adrian's awkwardness as he shook others' hands. The fact that Tillie had been present suggests that she missed it or attributed that awkwardness to the number of hands he was shaking. It also implies that she ignored Sharona's fumbling for the wipe in advance. So, their anger at Adrian's alleged racism rests on the obfuscation of Sharona's position as nurse and the clues that would point to Adrian's disability. Moreover, Carl's question, "Am I blind? Do I look like I'm blind?" ironizes his inability to recognize Adrian's phobic behavior. 24 What he does not recognize specifically was the series of interactions that drove Adrian to wipe his hand. This is clearly an issue of recognizing phobias since they are invisible. 25 Neither Tillie nor Angie (Paula Barrett) notices Adrian's whisper to Sharona or his discomfort with shaking hands though he hesitates and makes faces. They also ignore Sharona's actions and do not shake hands with her. They seem to ignore Sharona's presence as an assistant and give little importance to her rifling through her purse.

Carl's response to Adrian invokes a particularly masculinist Civil Rights discourse in order to defend both his ability and his masculinity. The complications that arise from attempting to interpret race and disability together "are inextricable from the deeply enmeshed histories of racist and ableist violence in the United States." 26 Adrian's perceived slight harkens to a Jim Crow past in which black men were thought of as so untouchable so as to need separate facilities and warrant the social custom of having blacks step off of the sidewalk when whites passed by. The social custom emasculated black men since they had to defer to white male power rather than walk past or with them as equals. From Carl's perspective, Adrian re-enacts this instance of racism and emasculation. Carl's reaction references this segregation and fear of black men. He self-identifies as "a brother," invoking the racial and masculine term to signal how he has been affronted. He combats being affronted with the same rhetoric of respectability used during Civil Rights, specifically the 1968 Memphis sanitation protest that declared, "I am a man." Considering that the handshake ratifies business contracts and indicates equality socially, Adrian's wipe nullifies their exchange and in so doing demeans Carl. The aforementioned instances of de facto and de jure segregation evidenced a broken social contract within the United States and Adrian's wiping off of the hand-shake recalls those moments. In using the term "brother," Carl signals Adrian's actions as particularly racialized and gendered, choosing to disavow his connection to disability, in this case blindness, as a way to articulate his respectability and chasten Adrian.

Though Carl obliquely draws upon Civil Rights discourse and disability as a subtext for the conversation, racism and disability remain unnamed. For those who find this scene funny, the comedy rests partially on the fact that none of the characters can name or describe what has happened. Adrian and Sharona escalate the discomfort of the interaction because of their inability to name Adrian's phobia, his need for wipes, or the situation as possibly racist. The hesitancy, the stumbling, and the silence about this issue exacerbate Carl's confusion and anger. In keeping the words taboo, this scene constitutes a missed opportunity for Adrian's character to forge a connection with Carl. Nonetheless, their silence does propose a way to interpret the relationship between blackness and disability. When Carl refuses to engage with Adrian beyond anger and threatens violence, the aftermath of Adrian's perceived insult narrativizes the seeming incompatibility between blackness and disability. As Chris Bell notes in "Doing Representational Detective Work," the politics of respectability mandates the erasure or disavowal of disability to successfully combat racism. Bell recounts Harriet Tubman's head trauma, Emmett Till's speech impediment, and James Byrd's mobility impairment, arguing against silence in saying, "we do ourselves and [their] memor[ies] a disservice in imagining and reporting otherwise." 27 Here, the attempt to disavow disability resurges at the moment of perceived racial insult. Because the audience is invited to identify with Adrian's discomfort based on his position as the main character, the scene attempts to offer up an explanation for racism as an instance of simple misunderstanding and Carl's statement as an overreaction. Adrian's disability is never voiced because neither he nor Sharona can name it and it never occurs to Tillie and Carl that they have witnessed disability. Carl and Tillie's anger at Adrian's putative racism becomes unspeakable because they do not want to say it. Not being able to name either racism or disability condemns both as it abets a pleasant fiction necessary for ignoring, first, the perceived slight as a moment that would have been at least real to Carl and, second, the silence around Adrian's impairments.

IIf we think through Tillie's character, understanding that racial insult is problematically legitimized by the presence of an angry white woman, then her initial response seems to validate Carl's anger. Yet, Tillie's continued anger not only displaces Carl's, performing the emasculation and racialized erasure of the initial insult again, but also obscures the presence of disability and class. Moreover, viewers are prompted to understand Tillie's angry looks as slightly jocular, shoring up humor as a vector through which white liberalism becomes visible. In short, including Tillie and allowing her to give voice to racial insult insists on white, able-bodied, female privilege at the expense of both Carl and Adrian's voices. Tillie references the incident by reducing diversity to a rainbow. Her comments rely on clichéd understandings of what diversity could be. After all, rainbows never have colors that bleed and they only appear after specific circumstances. Quite frankly, the rainbow concept is a chimera—mythological partially because efforts to conjure it impose a taxonomic set of identities that seem to never interact with each other. In Tillie's rainbow, Adrian and Carl should have been able to shake hands in a manner she understands, an interaction that would have erased Adrian's difference. The diversity model she upholds permits her righteous indignation at what she perceives as racist behavior, but leaves ableism and classism unchecked. Tillie's rainbow also reveals multiculturalism as a "shibboleth that contrives to efface all historicity in its consumption of the present." 28 Part of the historicity it shunts aside is the significance of Carl's anger and the possibility of representing black male anger at all. Black male anger at injustice and the desire to give voice to it framed the Civil Rights movement not just with the presence of particular leaders like Martin Luther King and Ralph Abernathy, but also with the aforementioned 1968 workers strike which voiced a gendered and raced humanity. By pushing aside Carl's anger, the scene maintains a pleasing paradigm because commentary on racism (however oblique and referential) is in the mouth of a white liberal character.

Mr. Monk Meets Mammy

When Adrian must interact with a new caretaker, Varla, her unfamiliarity with his needs and phobias constitute a disabling environment as he must explain himself to her in ways that are uncomfortable, if not, impossible for him. Varla, played by Niecy Nash, figures as a well-coifed and well-heeled Mammy. Yet Nash's character revises Mammy in that she does not placate Adrian, but also invokes Mammy's close kin in stereotype: Sapphire, the cantankerous bitch, and Jezebel, the sexually profligate and readily available black woman. Adrian and Varla's interaction lays bare the putative incongruity between sexuality and disability.

Elsewhere in Monk, Adrian's phobias delimit his sexuality by depicting him as tragically deficient. 29 Adrian fears nudity and remains discomfited by sexuality, phobias that, as narrative tools, simultaneously open up the possible discussions about sexuality and foreclose discussions about the intertwining of sexuality and disability. On the one hand, his phobias force other characters to engage the question of whether (and where) nudity is appropriate. He also forces the viewers to question our cultural comfort with bodies on display. On the other hand, Adrian's fear limits his engagement with his own sexuality and his body. In point of fact, there are several episodes where he must confront his sexual and emotional feelings for women, but finds himself halted by his fears and obsessions. In one episode, he forces his date to walk up several hundred flights of stairs because he fears enclosed spaces and refuses the elevator. In the words of Anna Mollow and Robert McRuer, Adrian's phobias foreground the ways that combining disability and sexuality "exceed[s] and violate[s] norms of propriety and respectability." 30

In "Mr. Monk and the Girl Who Cried Wolf," Sharona begins to have recurring hallucinations of a dead man walking so, she seeks outside assistance from another nurse, Varla Davis (Niecy Nash) to help take care of Adrian. Varla is not only unfamiliar with his condition, but also chooses to ignore and downplay aspects she deems unacceptable. Varla does not take for granted that Adrian behaves differently, but insists that there is something fixable about him. This assumption takes on a particularly sexualized aspect when she notes that Adrian is focused on her chest area and insists, "my eyes are up here" and points to her face. 31 (She later makes the same statement to Randy.) What she does not realize is that Adrian is focused on the crumb on her blouse and not her breasts. Adrian's significant discomfort with nudity and sexuality makes it difficult for him to articulate why her comment is a mistake and why her sexualization of his phobias also makes her comment inappropriate. As the episode progresses, Adrian's discomfort and Varla's obvious dismissal of his condition makes it clear that viewers ought to read their misfitting as evidence of her being an unsuitable caretaker.

Yet their inability to fit together stems from the intertwining of several factors related to disability and sexuality that must be parsed. First, Adrian's phobias force him to perform a particular kind of looking at Varla's breasts. This gaze is not divorced from sexuality since he is discomfited by his own act of looking, but it does shift the intent from the licentious to the compulsive. Second, Varla's reaction attempts to invalidate ideas about her possible sexual availability even as the scene relies on that stereotype to poke fun at Adrian. In chastening him, she makes clear that she is not the sexually available Jezebel, nor is she the raped Mammy. However, her manner of addressing him solidifies her as the Sapphire stereotype—finger waving, postulating, neck rolling, loudmouthed, fast-talking—and Adrian, the confused white victim. While this interaction blurs certain narratives about black sexuality, it simultaneously relies on deeply enmeshed narratives about black womanhood and disabled sexuality.

This episode also banks on Nash's fame on Reno 911! and Clean House. In the former, she plays a detective well known for her ample derrière and openly expressed sexuality; on the latter show, she ventriloquizes the viewers' distain and disgust for homes that are abominably messy even as she attempts to play therapist and figuratively get to the bottom of the clutter. 32 Her references to her breasts reprise some aspect of her Reno 911! role, but I am particularly interested in the way her interactions with Adrian revise her role on Clean House. While playing therapist, Nash polices others based on a set of behavioral norms that, while not specific to black culture, invoke the Mammy-esque idea of 'home training' as her team literally and figuratively cleans house. The show deploys the antiquated idea that Nash is best suited to take care of whites and teach them how to better navigate the domestic sphere. Her mostly white clientele welcome and tolerate her excoriation as part of their makeover. Nash's ability to speak to Adrian abrasively relies on the caretaking associated with the Mammy figure Nash plays on Clean House. Yet Adrian's disability frustrates this Mammy. Though Varla assumes the role of caretaker, she does little to actually take care of Adrian, insisting that his impairments are not real. She belittles and infantilizes him saying, "I've got a nephew that's not afraid of milk." 33 Nash could embody those viewers who do find Adrian's condition unbelievable. However, the more she pulls away from him, the more he needs from her. Unlike her Clean House clients that she can leave to enjoy their new home, Nash's character cannot leave Adrian. She has to quit him, the implication being that he is woefully incurable.

Certainly, the idea that Adrian's disability need be associated with cure is questionable at the very least because it relies on the medical model of disability and also because it presupposes that Varla is correct in believing Adrian has a choice in the matter. I concur with scholars who characterize the desire to fix disability as a way to "[cast] human variation as deviance from the norm" 34 while "exerting tremendous social pressures to shape, regulate and normalize subjugated bodies." 35 Here, I turn my attention to the problem of how we arrive at this moment in Monk. It isn't just puzzling that disability needs to be fixed, but also that disability can be fixed by blackness. Here, the supposedly exceptional black body is held in contrast to the presumably weaker (white) disabled body. Such a paradigm posits blackness as superhuman and hostile to disability. This narrative brings to fruition the idea that teeter-totters in Adrian's interaction with Carl, namely the idea that blackness cannot tolerate or cannot see disability. Though Varla and Carl attempt to rhetorically erase disability through denial or disavowal, it remains part of the landscape that buttresses their own otherness. Carl's character fits in that moment based on his emphasis of black masculinity over white disability. Varla embodies her black womanhood at the expense of acknowledging Adrian's phobias. Their articulation of blackness hinges on Adrian's silence about his disability such that disability becomes, to invoke Tobin Siebers, "the other other that makes otherness imaginable." 36 It is only through silence and disavowal that the idea of fixing disability and the subsequent use of blackness to do so remains.

The simultaneous silence and disavowal of disability also hinges on a set of antiquated narratives about black womanhood. Varla's character indexes black female sexual and domestic deviance as a way to regulate and rehabilitate Adrian's disability. As Jennifer James notes, black women were "deemed physically malformed, genitally excessive, and sexually deviant, [they] sought to destigmatize their bodies by adopting the dominant culture's 'feminine' paradigms, striving to present themselves as physically and morally fit for domesticity." 37 Varla's consistent heteronormative interpretations of white male gaze (both Adrian's and Randy's) and her attempts to change Adrian's behavior bear this out as her actions push toward a supposedly successful domestic end wherein Adrian is cured by a black woman so adequately feminized that her desirability to white men must be regulated. In this narrative, disability must be erased because it marks Varla as a failure in the domestic sphere. Though Varla enters Adrian's apartment already full of objections to his routine and habits, her combination of Mammy and Sapphire-like behavior speaks to the vexed position she holds vis-à-vis Adrian's disability. Moreover, her character also indexes the familiar role of the black woman domestic who was understood as always sexually available to white men in particular. In reading her reactions to Adrian (and Randy) through this lens, Varla's reactions could be read as a prophylaxis against white male sexual aggression. However, Adrian's disability as a trait that remains legible to viewers functions as a fly in that ointment, rendering her response to him much like Carl's, an insensitive overreaction. The multiple narratives at work regarding blackness force her character to disavow her connection to disability. On the one hand, narratives about black super-ability suggest that she cannot see or tolerate Adrian. On the other, narratives about black womanhood in particular impel her to disavow her connection to him in order to sustain her status as a woman and mark white disability as a threat to black respectability.

Mr. Monk Faces the Music

In "Mr. Monk and the Rapper," race and the culture of rap inhibit Adrian's ability to fulfill social and business contracts because Adrian lacks the social savoir-faire and cultural knowledge to effectively navigate either. The hand-shaking scene from "Mr. Monk and the Marathon Man" and Adrian's silence in "Mr. Monk and the Girl Who Cried Wolf" get amplified in "Mr. Monk and the Rapper," as this episode troubles the notion of broken social contracts and socially-sanctioned silences about disability. Specifically, this episode relies on problematic narratives about black masculinity and indexes common notions regarding hip-hop consumption. Murderuss (Snoop Dogg) hires Adrian to clear him of murder. When Murderuss enters Adrian's apartment, Adrian and his assistant, Natalie, are visibly shocked by his appearance. Unable to cope, Adrian disassociates and shakes Murderuss's hand and those of his associates, Snake the Assassin and Killa without using a wipe immediately afterward. Adrian also affects a new way of speaking, adding "yo" to the end of his sentences, and becomes dismissive of Natalie's concerns in an effort to appear nonchalant and easy going. Throughout the episode, Adrian's unfamiliarity with hip-hop thwarts his ability to find the actual killer. Whereas in other episodes, true to the howdunit format, Adrian quickly discerns when someone is being too helpful, here he cannot put those skills into practice. It is Natalie who fingers the real killer first, based on an unarticulated hunch, and using Adrian's trademark phrase, "He's the guy." The climactic scene features Adrian's attempt to explain how the killer committed the crime in front of a crowd of hip-hop fans. His awkwardness forces Murderuss to take the microphone and explain in a free-style rap what has happened. At the end, Murderuss invites Adrian to go on tour with him. Adrian has become comfortable enough to not dissociate and declines.

What viewers might read as phobic or obsessive and, therefore unique to disability, actually references fairly common cross-racial interactions with regard to hip-hop. Snoop Dogg's presence, as a moment of intertextuality, foregrounds both the stereotype of hyper-violence and the fear of white audiences because of the rapper's reputation for explicit lyrics and criminal charges. In 1996, Snoop, né Calvin Broadus, faced charges of murder and manslaughter. His trial caused a media feeding frenzy about the prevalence of gangster rap and the explicit content of the genre's lyrics. Broadus and other maligned rappers were targeted as part of a widespread movement against the misogyny and violence within rap lyrics. The targeted musicians were mostly young black men and the angry constituents were mainly constructed as white parents of the young adult white males who are the primary consumers of hip-hop. The debate rehashed the chicken-or-the-egg question about music and influence, with angry white constituents blaming musicians for unduly influencing their children and musicians decrying the racialized slant of the discussion. It remained clear that hip-hop's detractors did not differentiate between fantasy, storytelling, and reality within hip-hop nor understand the critical utility of the three in combination. Monk draws on this narrative when Stottlemeyer embodies the aggressive police officer who insists that Murderuss's past criminal activity automatically makes him guilty of murder. Natalie's initial reaction bears out the narrative of suburban white fear when she says that she has had to confiscate Murderuss's records from her daughter. Lt. Randy Disher, Stottlemeyer's bumbling right hand man, ventriloquizes the young white male consumers of hip-hop by assuming his knowledge of music stands in for a knowledge of the musician. All characters recreate the kind of atmosphere that surrounded Snoop's 1996 murder case.

This episode challenges the idea that misfitting inheres in blackness and disability. First, the characters' behavior illuminates the fear and confusion about how hip-hop is socially constructed. Second, their reproduction of this anxiety and confusion lay bare that Adrian's phobias are maintained by his community. Without collapsing the specificity of Adrian's disability, I wish to highlight how Adrian's struggle to work with Murderuss challenges the exceptionalism narrative attached to his disability. Much like the exchange with Carl, the recognition of Adrian's impairments depends on a specific set of social cues. He has to be made an exception of and, indeed, the show is predicated on his phobias performing that work for him. However, this episode defies that position by placing fear in the mouths of Natalie, and Stottlemeyer (even if Natalie recants in the second act). Adrian is no longer exceptional and, according to Murderuss, not necessarily legible as disabled, disrupting the narrative of disability viewers have come to associate with Monk. The end game of poking holes in this commonly held narrative about disability is that it spotlights that the structures holding Adrian's phobias in place rely on the characters' misguided understandings of Murderuss. Their behaviors become part of a social landscape that creates and sustains disability and racism rather than allowing us to believe in the myth of Adrian's exceptional behavior or the myth of Murderuss' commonplace behavior.

The final scenes of the episode propose an alternate perspective, that hip-hop is not what Stottlemeyer and Natalie have constructed it to be. Instead, the music business is as mundane and cutthroat as any other, and it is only the glitz of difference that stands in the way of solving the crime. For example, Adrian does not question social cues from Natalie and Stottlemeyer, an attitude that results in him believing in Murderuss's guilt seemingly a priori. He relies on Natalie and Stottlemeyer implicitly and explicitly to instruct him on how to behave around Murderuss, and they become a dangerous set of teachers who view rappers and hip-hop through the lens of fearful, suburban parents and law enforcement respectively. In following their cues, Adrian believes in the disruptive nature of a certain kind of blackness as it stifles his ability to do his work. Because he insists on a hyper-violent and hyper masculine image of Murderuss, his preoccupation forecloses the meticulous attention to detail that allows him to solve crime. His new obsession becomes how to renege on his promise to clear Murderuss's name. So, his impairment reproduces ignorance about and resistance to hip-hop as a legitimate form of musical expression with a commercialized business component.

Here, it becomes clear that disability and racialized narratives are mutually socially constructed. Adrian's skills are only legible when he interacts with white characters. Through dramatic irony, the viewer remains aware of Adrian's disabled identity, his impairment becomes synonymous with ignorance of hip-hop. Even when he solves the case, he does not rely on a knowledge of the factors that would have been obvious to him were he familiar with hip-hop, in particular, or the music industry, in general: the volatility of business partnerships; the fantasy element of so-called conflict between artists; the heavy use of mob figures to metaphorize power dynamics; and the like. Instead, he figures out that the killer failed to kill the correct person with a car bomb because the killer did not adjust the watch forward for daylight savings time. Clearly, daylight savings time is not a racialized concept, and the reference to it is not germane to hip-hop in the same way that, in other cases, he makes use of knowledge specific to politics, the circus, aeronautics, psychology, cleaning, or superstition. 38

The bumbling Randy Disher, who functions as a narrative foil for Adrian, points to another way of understanding the relationship between disability and blackness in this context. Disability may be understandable and, more importantly for Murderuss, navigable, but white liberalism is not. Randy's encounter with Murderuss is not awkward because of disability but because of Randy's over inflated sense of familiarity with hip-hop, an attitude which earns him Murderuss's irritation. Randy's white liberalism animates his interaction with Murderuss and Murderuss's rejection of him implies that, when in contact with blackness, disability as a moment of difference is more tolerable than the contingent acceptance of white liberals. As a young white man, Randy represents the demographic that purchases hip-hop the most. In the first act, he operates as the child to Natalie's concerned parent. Despite Randy's apparent familiarity with the music, his behavior typifies that of someone who cannot adequately engage with race. When Randy and Stottlemeyer interrogate Murderuss, Randy becomes visibly upset when Murderuss says, "you are the whitest white boy I have ever met. And I met Kevin Costner." 39 Randy objects, saying "he called me white!" and sits down with his arms in a b-boy stance position. 40 Like Tillie's righteous indignation, Randy's reaction (perhaps also righteous indignation) becomes the humorous avenue through which viewers engage white liberalism's policing of blackness. Whereas Adrian's phobias and compulsions provide a rationale for his limitations rather than a staunch position of so-called knowledge, Randy cannot admit that his own limitations prevent him from adequately engaging with Murderuss as a potential victim. The exchange between Randy and Murderuss also problematizes white liberalism as proffered by Tillie in the previously discussed episode. Tillie's liberalism reaches its limit when it encounters disability and attempts to describe diversity. Yet, her particular brand of liberalism requires an erasure of disability, class, and black anger. In "Mr. Monk and the Rapper," the logic of white liberalism (as seen through Randy) makes strange bedfellows with white conservative conversations about blackness and hip-hop.

In contrast, Murderuss seems to understand Adrian. Murderuss attempts to calm Adrian by pleading innocence, asking Adrian to relax, inviting Adrian into a community of men, and offering marijuana. In labeling Adrian's behavior "uptight" (rather than assuming a position similar to Varla's), Murderuss understands Adrian's disability as a singular trait in contrast to his view of Randy's whiteness as principally irritating. In Murderuss's interaction with Adrian, he draws on hip-hop as a discourse that empowers the disenfranchised. For black men, hip-hop was an avenue through which they could voice frustration with the status quo and the social order of hip-hop places black men in positions of power. Invoking this paradigm, Murderuss can privilege Adrian's personhood in a way that Adrian cannot privilege Murderuss's. Hip-hop becomes an analytic through which to reimagine Adrian's disability as part of him, normalizing the condition much like blackness is normalized in hip-hop. In this instance, hip-hop also becomes a particularly masculine discourse through which Murderuss can engage Adrian as another man who embodies difference. The label "uptight" could be read as hostile even if mild for hip-hop, but it does forge a connection between the two characters. Moya Bailey makes a similar claim about ableist language in hip-hop: "in the liminal spaces of hip-hop the reappropriation of ableist language can mark a new way of using words that departs from generally accepted disparaging connotations." 41 Following the logic of Bailey's argument, I maintain that Adrian's interaction with Murderuss performs a similar kind of work wherein hip-hop becomes the progressive space for understanding difference because of its embrace of the non-normative raced body. Murderuss invites Adrian to smoke a blunt though he knows Adrian does not understand him. The invitation comes from a willingness to bridge that gap based on shared experience of difference. Unlike Randy's fandom, disability functions as a buffer, another avenue through which to understand blackness when white liberalism fails.

Mr. Monk Becomes a White Liberal

In terms of Adrian's character arc, his interaction with Murderuss demonstrates some growth. In point of fact, the series progresses toward a conclusion that would indicate that Adrian is fixed or healed, not of his phobias and obsessions, but of the traumatic uxorial loss that exacerbates them. It would seem that the progression from Carl (season 1), to Varla (season 3), to Murderuss (season 6) indicates that Adrian learns how to engage with blackness as part of his so-called healing (problematic of the curative narrative aside). However, episodes after season 6 reveal more about the problematic of white liberalism. In season seven, Adrian has to prevent the murder of a famous boxer while he stresses out about a fitness exam administered by the San Francisco Police Department. Black actor James Lesure, 42 plays the role of boxer, Ray Regis, but his exchanges with Adrian do not refer to or invoke race, even obliquely. Race is engaged by proxy, though the vector of masculinity as Ray helps Adrian get into shape for his fitness exam. The narrative deploys the trope of black athletic prowess as a tool in cultivating disabled and aging masculinity. A generous reading of Ray and Adrian's friendship would characterize this as a moment of growth for Adrian. I would trouble this reading by pointing out that Adrian does not have to engage race directly in these exchanges. This continues the pattern from previous episodes. It is not possible to have a non-problematic engagement with blackness where blackness can be named and acknowledged. As a result, the episode leaves unquestioned the narratives that structure these characters' interactions. Much like the hand-shaking incident, racism, blackness, and disability are unspeakable terms, only legible through the lens of other discourses, in this case masculinity.

This raises a significant question about US blackness. What is it about this kind of blackness that requires certain narratives — the angry black man, the Mammy, the hyper-violent rapper — to be legible? Also, what is it about (white) disability that reaffirms these narratives to make itself legible? As a partial answer, I offer the following: It appears that the tele-visual currency of foreignness trumps that of blackness when it encounters disability. When Adrian encounters blacks from the diaspora, the exchanges assume a kind of friendliness not available to Carl, Varla, and Murderuss. In the interactions with African men, Adrian is less awkward and can marshal his phobias and obsessions so that they are useful whereas his phobias appear racist to Carl, false to Varla, and a hindrance (if slight) to Murderuss. In the same episode as the handshaking incident, Adrian befriends a marathon runner, Tonday [sic] Mawwaka (Zakes Mokae) from Kenya. Tonday functions mainly as an exotic sage, providing Adrian with the following insight punctuated by dramatic pauses: "Spirits are very fragile, [pause] easy to break, [pause] but not impossible [slight pause] to repair. [smile]." 43 He also tells Adrian that life is a long and difficult race and urges him in another language to have courage. In the final season, Adrian attempts to help a Samuel Waingaya (Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje), a man whose wife, Ansara, is killed while she visits San Francisco from Nigeria. 44 This episode allows Adrian's obsession with his own wife's tragic death to be a boon to him in solving the case though Adrian's xenophobia rears itself throughout when he calls Samuel a "hippie" and insists that his compulsions are "how we do things in America." 45

Carl, Varla, and Murderuss bring to bear racial narratives specific to the US landscape whereas Samuel and Tonday can shunt those questions aside. Both Samuel and Tonday are thought of as Nigerian and Kenyan respectively before they are thought of as part of the African diaspora. This distance opens up the space to engage, whereas the opposite is true for US black characters. Their racial identity must create the distance necessary for Adrian to engage — if he can at all. Foreignness allows Adrian to simultaneously distance himself and assume some degree of emotional proximity. With Tonday, Adrian can acknowledge his compulsions as prohibitive. With Samuel, Adrian can acknowledge his own compulsions as not necessarily American and Ansara as a doppelganger for his wife, Trudy — two admissions that demonstrate a complex, forthright engagement with his own impairment. Adrian can only analyze himself in this way (thereby forcing the viewer to do so) only after he has based his interaction with Samuel on the perception of Samuel's nationality. African characters, as the exotic sages, seem to be cast to usher Adrian into a state of enlightenment and to help excuse his behavior, whereas US black characters function as potentially threatening to Adrian's ability to live comfortably or, to invoke a significant phrase, his way of life. Furthermore, Adrian's interactions with African characters" index US white benevolence to Africa through humanitarian aid that takes place simultaneously to the ignoring of US blacks' social justice plights. Again the liberal multicultural ideology subtending the show demonstrates the schism between merely acknowledging race and actually engaging it.

"Here's What Happened"

In narrating these misfittings and refittings, the show attempts to redress the awkwardness of the interactions by relying on humor. Most familiar with the show will remember it for the comic relief of Adrian's compulsive behavior. In some ways, Monk capitalized on the fact that "disability and humor have an uneasy relationship." 46 USA Network exploits that un-ease by advertising Monk as a show that features disability but as comic relief, suggesting fetish or novelty. For instance, Monk was advertised in other countries as a show about a "crazy" detective. In Brazil, the show was called "Monk, An Unusual Detective" and in Russia, "Defective Detective;" in Hungary, "Monk, the Nuts Detective." 47 In the United States, one of the advertisements called Adrian Monk the "real O.C.D. The obsessive compulsive detective." 48 The USA Network advertised the series as part of a new "Characters Welcome" campaign. Monk was promoted alongside an impulsive former CIA agent (Burn Notice), a fake psychic detective (Psych), a cantankerous US Marshall (In Plain Sight), another supremely intelligent and unorthodox detective (Law & Order: Criminal Intent) and a Vicodin-addicted misanthropic doctor (House). In this campaign, USA became a modern day circus tent featuring all those who would generally be outcast or ostracized because of their inherent strangeness, but were needed based on their unique skill set.

Such a campaign raises the question of at whose expense and at what cost do we have comedy. At times, the show's explosive laughter relies on tired tropes of disability and blackness for cannon fodder. Carl's anger, Varla's sass, and Murderuss's possible violence catalyze these narratives. Yet, even if beginning with stereotype, Monk cannot escape the complex narratives that emerge as a result of disability and blackness merely interacting. In my discussion of Tillie and Randy's dialogue with Murderuss, I pointed out the way that humor animates white liberals policing of blackness and disability. Carl's emphasis on black masculinity illustrates the vexed history of black respectability politics and disability discourses. Varla's excoriation of Adrian reveals the complex embodiment of black sexuality when in conversation with white disability. Murderuss illustrates the potential disability aesthetic inherent in hip-hop based on his embrace of Adrian's difference. Though narratives about race do not match the assiduous attention given to Adrian's phobias, compulsions, and obsessions, the interplay of blackness and disability discourses reveal more than simple misfittings, but also the social constructions that make those complex moments possible.

Works Cited

  • "B-boy Stance." UrbanDictionary.com. Last modified August 8, 2005, http://www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=b-boy+stance.
  • "Monk TV Series, Detective Monk Television Show — USA Network," Accessed January 4, 2012, www.usanetwork.com/series/monk
  • "Niecy Nash," Internet Movie Database. Accessed January 4, 2012, http://www.imdb.com.
  • Bailey, Moya. " 'The Illest': Disability as Metaphor in Hip Hop Music." In Blackness and Disability: Critical Examinations and Cultural Interventions, edited by Christopher M. Bell. 141-148. East Lansing, MI: Michigan State Press, 2011.
  • Baynton, Douglas. "Disability and the Justification of Inequality in American History." In New Disability History, edited by Paul Longmore and Lauri Umansky. 33-57. New York: NYU Press, 2001.
  • Bell, Christopher M. "Doing Representational Detective Work." In Blackness and Disability: Critical Examinations and Cultural Interventions, edited by Christopher M. Bell. 1-7. East Lansing, MI: Michigan State Press, 2011.
  • —. "Introducing White Disability Studies: A Modest Proposal." In The Disability Studies Reader Second Edition, edited by Lennard Davis. 27-282. New York: Routledge, 2006.
  • Cartwright, Samuel A. "Diseases and Peculiarities of the Negro Race." De Bow's Review Southern and Western States. Last modified January 30 2012, http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/aia/part4/4h3106t.html.
  • Cefalu, Paul. "What's So Funny About Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder?" PMLA. 124.1 (2009): 44-58.
  • Chang, Jeff. Can't Stop Won't Stop: A History of the Hip-Hop Generation. New York: Picador, 2005.
  • Cohen, Cathy. Boundaries of Blackness: AIDS and the Breakdown of Black Politics. Chicago, IL: U of Chicago Press, 1999.
  • Davis, J. Madison. "Mr. Monk and the Pleasing Paradigm." In World Literature Today. 83.3 (2009): 11-13.
  • Davis, Lennard. "Crips Strike Back: The Rise of Disability Studies." In American Literary History 11.3 (1999): 500-512.
  • Ervelles, Nirmalla and Andrea Minear. "Unspeakable Offenses: Untangling Race and Disability Discourses of Intersectionality." Journal of Literary and Cultural Disability Studies. 4.2 (2010): 127-145.
  • Garland-Thomson, Rosemarie. "Integrating Disability, Transforming Feminist Theory," In The Disability Studies Reader Second Edition, edited by Lennard Davis. 257-274. New York: Routledge, 2006.
  • —. "Misfits: A Feminist Materialist Disability Concept," Hypatia. 26.3. (2011): 591-609.
  • Goodley, Dan. Disability Studies: An Interdisciplinary Introduction. London: Sage Publications, 2011.
  • Haller, Beth. Representing Disability in an Ableist World: Essays on Mass Media. Kentucky: The Avocado Press, 2010.
  • Holloway, Karla F.C. Public Bodies/Private Texts. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2011.
  • James, Jennifer. "Gwendolyn Brooks, World War II, and the Politics of Rehabilitation." In Feminist Disability Studies, edited by Kim Q. Hall. 136-158. Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Press, 2011.
  • Jarman, Michelle. "Dismembering the Lynch Mob: Intersecting Naratives of Disability, Race, and Sexual Menace." In Sex and Disability, edited by Anna Mollow & Robert McRuer. 89-107. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2012.
  • Linton, Simi. Claiming Disability: Knowledge and Identity. New York: NYU Press, 1998.
  • Lukin, Joshua. "Black Disability Studies," Temple University Faculty Herald, 36 (4):6 - 10."
  • Moallem, Minoo and Iain A. Boal. "Multicultural Nationalism and the Poetics of Inauguration." In Between Woman and Nation: Nationalisms, Transnational Feminisms, and the State, edited by Caren Kaplan, Norma Alarcón, and Minoo Moallem. 243-263. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 1999.
  • Mollow, Anna, and Robert McRuer. Introduction to Sex and Disability. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2012.
  • Samuels, Ellen. "My Body, My Closet: Invisible Disability and the Limits of Coming Out Discourse." In GLQ: A Journal of Lesbian and Gay Studies. 9.1-2 (2003): 233-255.
  • Shalhoub, Tony. Monk. DVD. Universal Studios.
  • Siebers, Tobin. Disability Theory. Ann Arbor, MI: University of Michigan Press, 2008.
  • Singh, Nikhil Pal. Black Is a Country: Race and the Unfinished Struggle for Democracy. Cambridge, MA: Harvard UP, 2004.

Therí A. Pickens is currently an Assistant Professor of English at Bates College. She received her undergraduate degree in Comparative Literature from Princeton University (P'05) and her PhD in Comparative Literature from UCLA (2010). Her research focuses on Arab American and African American literatures and cultures, Disability Studies, philosophy, and literary theory. She is currently at work on her book manuscript, Political Flesh: Narrating Black and Arab Embodied Experience in the Contemporary United States, which asks: How does a story about embodied experience transform from mere anecdote to social and political critique? Her critical work has appeared in Disability Studies Quarterly, Al-Jadid, Journal of Canadian Literature, Al-Raida, and, the ground-breaking collection, Blackness and Disability: Critical Examinations and Cultural Interventions. She is also a creative writer. Her poetry has appeared in Black Renaissance/Renaissance Noire, Save the Date, and Disability Studies Quarterly. Her drama has been performed at the NJ State Theater. She offers courses on Arab American and African American literature. In her introductory courses, she seeks to provide students with information and skills that will enable and empower them to critically and constructively engage difficult topics like race, sexuality, gender, disability, and class. In her upper division courses, she pushes students to synthesize their knowledge from other classes and expand their critical thinking repertoires.

Endnotes

  1. The subtitles are modeled after the show's trademark phrases and episode titles.
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  2. I refer to him as Adrian to differentiate between the character and the show, which I refer to as Monk throughout the article. He is called Adrian and Monk throughout the show.
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  3. Though the show does not diagnose Adrian formally, I refer to his phobias, compulsions, and obsessions as disabilities in the remainder of the article because they adhere to the social model of disability.
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  4. Paul Cefalu examines by OCD has become significant for comedy. See Paul Cefalu, "What's So Funny About Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder?" PMLA. (2009).
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  5. Ervelles and Minear, "Unspeakable Offenses: Untangling Race and Disability Discourses of Intersectionality." Journal of Literary and Cultural Disability Studies, (2010), 131.
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  6. Ervelles and Minear make this point clear in their discussion of intercategorical frameworks.
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  7. It is crucial to note that Adrian is constructed as white, but Tony Shalhoub is Lebanese American. The show relies on Tony Shalhoub's identity as Arab American when Adrian must pass as Latino or Italian. Adrian, by default, remains marked as white, a narrative later solidified by the presence of his brother Ambrose who is played by Italian American actor, John Turturro. Unmarking Shalhoub lays bare that, however deeply flawed and racialist the logic of liberal multiculturalism, Arab Americans remain largely invisible in it.
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  8. Rosemarie Garland-Thomson, "Misfits: A Feminist Materialist Disability Concept," Hypatia. (2011), 593.
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  9. Douglas Baynton, "Disability and the Justification of Inequality in American History," in New Disability History, eds. Longmore and Umansky. (New York: NYU Press, 2001).
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  10. Samuel A. Cartwright, "Diseases and Peculiarities of the Negro Race," In De Bow's Review Southern and Western States. Last modified January 30 2012, http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/aia/part4/4h3106t.html.
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  11. Joshua Lukin, "Black Disability Studies," in Temple University Faculty Herald, Last modified January 30, 2012, http://disabilities.temple.edu/programs/ds/facultyherald2.shtml.
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  12. Ibid.
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  13. Cathy Cohen, Boundaries of Blackness: AIDS and the Breakdown of Black Politics. (Chicago, IL: U of Chicago Press, 1999).
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  14. In Nirmalla Ervelles and Andrea Minear's article, they discuss several cases where ignoring disability in favor of stereotypical notions about blackness results in incarceration and murder. Karla F.C. Holloway's Public Bodies/Private Texts also analyzes the impact that the medical industrial complex had on victims of Hurricane Katrina. See Holloway.
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  15. Christopher M. Bell, "Introducing White Disability Studies: A Modest Proposal," in The Disability Studies Reader. Vol. 2 ed. Lennard Davis. (New York: Routledge, 2006).
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  16. In Dan Goodley's Disability Studies: An Interdisciplinary Introduction, he does delineate a relationship between race and disability but only cites two scholars who have engaged with the question (O. Stuart, 1993; A. Vernon, 1999). He also discusses race in global terms, choosing to focus on post-coloniality in Southeast Asia rather than instantiations of US blackness. I opine that discussions of the two are not mutually exclusive, but a discussion of post-coloniality does not suffice as shorthand for addressing issues of race particular to an American landscape. See: Dan Goodley, Disability Studies: An Interdisciplinary Introduction, (London: Sage Publications, 2011).
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  17. Lennard Davis, "Crips Strike Back: The Rise of Disability Studies," American Literary History (1999), 503.
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  18. Bell, "Doing Representational Detective Work," in Blackness and Disability: Critical Examinations and Cultural Interventions, ed. Christopher M. Bell. (East Lansing, MI: Michigan State Press, 2011), 4.
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  19. Of 120 episodes, only ten prominently feature cases that involve racial or ethnic difference. Black actors play opposite Adrian and force him to engage his prejudices and phobias whereas this same type of interaction does not occur in the episodes that feature Latinos/as and Chinese people. Latinos are featured in only a few episodes including "Mr. Monk Goes to Mexico" and "Mr. Monk and the Paperboy." In the former, Adrian complains about his hotel and aspects of the case because they involve him getting dirty. In the latter, Adrian must solve the case of a murdered paperboy, Nestor, but the show does not feature the murder victim's family or friends in a prominent role. In other episodes, Latinos are relegated to being part of the service industry or providing unskilled labor. In another episode, "Mr. Monk Visits a Farm," Adrian attempts to pass as Latino to find evidence for a suspect who is also Latino. Two episodes feature Chinese protagonists: "Mr. Monk vs. the Cobra" and "Mr. Monk Gets Cabin Fever." In the former, Adrian has to solve a case that seems to have been committed by a dead martial arts star. In the latter, Adrian witnesses a crime in Chinatown and must flee to a cabin in the woods. Though the latter episode features Chinese actors, Adrian primarily interacts with an older white woman who he believes has murdered her husband. In these episodes, the characters of other ethnicities are mostly peripheral and Adrian does not interact with them as frequently as he does black characters in the series. Though beyond the scope of this article, Adrian's interactions with other people of color is also demonstrative of a fraught engagement with race and ethnicity.
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  20. Christopher Bell, "Doing Representational Detective Work," 33.
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  21. Nikhil Pal Singh, Black Is a Country: Race and the Unfinished Struggle for Democracy. (Cambridge, MA: Harvard UP, 2004), 223.
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  22. Michelle Jarman, "Dismembering the Lynch Mob: Intersecting Naratives of Disability, Race, and Sexual Menace," in Sex and Disability, eds. Anna Mollow & Robert McRuer (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2012), 91.
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  23. Tony Shalhoub, "Mr. Monk and the Marathon Man," Monk, season 1, episode 9, (Burbank, CA: Universal Studios, 2011), DVD.
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  24. Ibid.
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  25. Ellen Samuels discusses the necessity of consistently identifying as disabled when one's disabilities are invisible. Adrian struggles with this because of the nature of his phobias and their invisibility. Ellen Samuels, "My Body, My Closet: Invisible Disability and the Limits of Coming Out Discourse," GLQ: A Journal of Lesbian and Gay Studies. (2003)
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  26. Michelle Jarman, "Dismembering the Lynch Mob: Intersecting Naratives of Disability, Race, and Sexual Menace," 89.
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  27. Bell, "Doing Representational Detective Work," 3.
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  28. Minoo Moallem and Iain A. Boal, "Multicultural Nationalism and the Poetics of Inauguration," in Between Woman and Nation: Nationalisms, Transnational Feminisms, and the State, eds. Caren Kaplan, Norma Alarcón, and Minoo Moallem. (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 1999), 244.
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  29. Anna Mollow & Robert McRuer, Sex and Disability (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2012), 1.
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  30. Ibid., 32.
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  31. Tony Shalhoub, "Mr. Monk and the Girl Who Cried Wolf," Monk, season 3, episode 6, (Burbank, CA: Universal Studios, 2011), DVD.
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  32. "Niecy Nash," Accessed January 4, 2012. http://www.imdb.com.
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  33. Tony Shalhoub, "Mr. Monk and the Girl Who Cried Wolf," Monk, season 3, episode 6, (Burbank, CA: Universal Studios, 2011), DVD.
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  34. Simi Linton, Claiming Disability: Knowledge and Identity, (New York: NYU Press, 1998), 11.
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  35. Rosemarie Garland-Thomson, "Integrating Disability, Transforming Feminist Theory," in The Disability Studies Reader, Vol. 2 ed. Lennard Davis. (New York: Routledge, 2006), 262.
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  36. Tobin Siebers, Disability Theory, (Ann Arbor, MI: University of Michigan Press, 2008), 48
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  37. Jennifer James, "Gwendolyn Brooks, World War II, and the Politics of Rehabilitation," in Feminist Disability Studies, ed. Kim Q. Hall, (Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Press, 2011), 140.
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  38. Here, I refer to other episodes in which Adrian's specialized knowledge of a given field and attention to detail aid him solving the cases.
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  39. Tony Shalhoub, "Mr. Monk and the Rapper," Monk, season 6, episode 2, (Burbank, CA: Universal Studios, 2011), DVD.
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  40. There are several b-boy stance positions. Randy poses by crossing arms so that his elbows are at the center of his chest and his palms rest on his shoulders. For information on the B-Boy and his history. See: Jeff Chang, Can't Stop Won't Stop: A History of the Hip-Hop Generation. (New York: Picador, 2005). It is worth noting that Urban Dictionary's definition dovetails with Randy's behavior, "An ancient pose used by the hip hop and break dancing community in the 80s. The most popular stance is that of the arms crossed in front with the hands under each armpit while standing with head tilted slightly back. Although nobody of African American heritage does this anymore, it is mostly being kept alive today by out of touch white comedians and actors trying to act black. Usually accompanied by either a weak rhyme, beatbox or the term 'yo'." See "B-Boy Stance," Accessed January 4, 2012. http://www.urbandictionary.com.
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  41. Moya Bailey, " 'The Illest': Disability as Metaphor in Hip Hop Music," in Blackness and Disability: Critical Examinations and Cultural Interventions, ed. Christopher M. Bell, (East Lansing, MI: Michigan State Press, 2011), 142.
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  42. Tony Shalhoub, "Mr. Monk Takes a Punch," Monk, season 7, episode 4, (Burbank, CA: Universal Studios, 2011), DVD.
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  43. Tony Shalhoub, "Mr. Monk and the Marathon Man," Monk, season 1, episode 9, (Burbank, CA: Universal Studios, 2011), DVD.
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  44. Tony Shalhoub, "Mr. Monk and the Foreign Man," Monk, season 8, episode 2, (Burbank, CA: Universal Studios, 2011), DVD.
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  45. Ibid.
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  46. Beth Haller, Representing Disability in an Ableist World: Essays on Mass Media. (Kentucky: The Avocado Press, 2010), 155.
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  47. J. Madison Davis, "Mr. Monk and the Pleasing Paradigm," World Literature Today. (2009), 11.
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  48. "Monk TV Series, Detective Monk Television Show — USA Network," Accessed January 4, 2012. www.usanetwork.com/series/monk
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Copyright (c) 2013 Therí A Pickens



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