It has taken me a long-ass time to pick myself up from the floor – where I lay groaning, having given up on TV forever – and write this post.
It’s 2016. Why is this still a problem?
Seriously, though, disability as a metaphor is just the worst.
“This character was refused to see the consequences of their actions, so now they’re blind. Get it?”
“This character has various physical disabilities as well as extensive facial scarring because they’re evil. Their soul is reflected on the outside. Get it?”
“The character was magically cured of their IRL-incurable disability so that we could have this shot of her literally walking away from someone! Seriously, we spent several episodes actually disabling her and having her learn to adjust to her wheelchair for this shot. Aren’t we so f***ing clever?”
(Sorry, I’m still salty about that last one.)
With autism, it’s usually a metaphor for losing touch with humanity and being overly reliant on computers.
Seriously, though, just stop.
Stop, stop, stop, stop, stop, stop, stop, stop, stop.
Like, let’s just address the first thing, which is how often disabilities are used as a metaphor for how evil/bad someone is.
I had to stop listening to a lot of reviews and discussions around the Force Awakens because a common complaint was “Kylo Ren’s face wasn’t f***ed up when he took off the mask! He’s the bad guy, he should have a f***ed up face.”
We have reached a point of critical mass with this trope where even when film-makers do the right thing and avoid it, most people noticeably miss its absence.
That’s just all kinds of messed up.
Facial scarring is now so synonymous with evil that people are shocked by its absence in fictional baddies.
Do I even have to explain why this is bad?
The next problem is just the use of disabilities as a metaphor is general, even when they’re not a clever punishment or as a reflection of character flaws.
Say, for example, using curing a disability (which is bad to start with) as a way to show the strength of a character in a moment that they creators probably consider feminist, so that they can have a visual metaphor…
(Salt levels still high…)
Look, here’s the long and short of it: disabilities are not metaphors. There is no great reason behind them. They are not a punishment or a reflection of character.
They just are.
Disabled people are just disabled.
Be it because of genetics, an accident, illness…
Being disabled doesn’t tell you anything about me other than I am disabled. It certainly isn’t a metaphor for anything. It’s just a fact.
So, seriously, stop with the painful metaphors. Chances are, they will always be ableist.
And they will always piss me off.