The Critical Axis logo embraces imperfection with its slightly askew matrix. The upper right, and more aspirational quadrant is blocked off and colored outside the lines. The all caps, san serif Critical Axis word mark is disrupted by an exaggerated forward leaning line of the x that descends below the baseline of the text.

Dance Floor


The lead character in ‘Dance Floor’, portrayed by disabled actress Samantha Renke, responds to a question her friend asks about how the ‘big wedding’ went.

Samantha’s character: Oh, have you heard? So at the end of the night, everyone’s on the dancefloor, really getting into it, you know? And, say this [wallet] is my left wheel and this [Maltesers] and this is the bride’s foot. [splat] Mush.

Friend: How awful.

Samantha’s character: Well, it wasn’t all bad. I left with the best man’s number.

Friend: You are terrible.

Samantha’s character: Guilty.

Friend: I’m not inviting you to my wedding. That’s it, you’re off the list.

The ad’s use of Crip Humor really shines and Samantha’s delivery is priceless. Moments like this remind us there’s not always a right or a wrong. Bold approaches create new opportunities to authentically communicate about disabled life.

We point to a Guardian Op/Ed titled “Maltesers’ ads with disabled actors make me feel queasy. But at least they’re trying”, where disability activist Penny Pepper perceptively critiques the entire Maltesers’ disability ad campaign from a variety of perspectives.

In the piece, Pepper quotes disability scholar, Dr. Alison Wilde, who describes a striking trend in this ad and in Maltesers’ ‘New Boyfriend’ ad where the disabled character has “an audience of two (presumably) non-disabled people being curious about the disabled person’s somewhat ‘naughty’ sexuality”.

Given Wilde’s interest in the character’s audience, we thought it would be interesting to put ‘Dance Floor’ to The Fries Test.  So what is The Fries Test? It is an extension of The Bechdel test, though from a disabled perspective, written by disability scholar, Kenny Fries.

An ad that passes The Fries Test for disability is required to meet the following criteria:

  • Does a work have more than one disabled character?
  • Do the disabled characters have their own narrative purpose other than the education and profit of a nondisabled character?
  • Is the character’s disability not eradicated either by curing or killing

While ‘Dance Floor’ is funny and delightful, it does not pass the first two questions of The Fries Test. Penny Pepper correctly states “But at least they’re trying”, because when ads try as this campaign clearly does, they allow us to have more complex conversations about what is appearing on screen.

So we ask Maltesers, would you be up for trying to pass the Fries test?

*Ads from the Maltesers 2016 Paralympic disability campaign will be tagged ‘SuperCrip’ due their origin and funding. Mars Chocolate won Channel 4’s ‘Superhumans Wanted’ competition, which offered brands and advertisers the chance to win £1m of the broadcaster’s airtime to develop a creative idea that puts disability and diversity at the heart of the campaign.