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Sunday, May 2nd, 2010 09:29 pm
This is a somewhat expanded version of the presentation I made about Disability in Science fiction.

Note: Don't take my word for any of this! I'm still figuring this stuff out. Corrections and other input very much welcome!

I've reached a point where I Just Can't Think About It Any More, I may edit again later. Make sure to check to out the comments for other people's additions.

The fantasy examples are very much tacked on, I'm sure there's fantasy specific tropes I'm missing, plus links to the relevant Disability Tropes. Mental illness and cognitive impairments are underrepresented too.

What is disability?



EDIT: This is the definition I am working from, it is definitely not the only valid definition.

A combination of an impairment and the way that impairment interacts with the society you live in eg myopia is only a disability in a society without glasses. A lot of Deaf people don't see themselves as disabled, since a lack of hearing is not a big problem if everyone around you also lacks hearing and uses sign language.

The solution is to fix/work around impairments AND fix society to be more accommodating of difference.

For more information see the social vs medical models of disability.

Disability in Spec fic



Fiction reflects social attitudes, and the social attitudes to disabled people tend to suck. Disabled people are presented as scary, pathetic, exotic, demanding, laughable, etc.

But some tropes are popular/unique to SF.

It's not all bad: speculative fiction allows for powerful allegory, and can also make very interesting explorations/extrapolations of future attitudes/experiences of disability.

Character Tropes



The Monster/The Psycho



Ugly=Evil="Abnormal" (physically or mentally)

They skulk in the shadows resenting their lack of a "normal life". Any attempt to improve things is doomed and wrong. Whether born that way or "twisted" by mistreatment they become an evil "thing" who must be killed without remorse. Sometimes Tragic but Doomed, other times the viewer is expected to have no sympathy at all. Often uses similar/combined sexual threat imagery to the Scary Gay Man and Scary Black Man.

Xfiles and Supernatural are very fond of this trope.

It's an easy plot device: Why are they doing it? They're a monster!
Is it ok to kill them: of course, they're a monster!

Something keep an eye on in this and other tropes: "good" disabled people tend to otherwise look pretty healthy and attractive, and it's the evil ones who actually look sick. See also Red Right Hand, Driven To Villainy and Always Chaotic Evil.

Some examples:

  • born evil: Tooms from Xfiles, Alpha from Dollhouse (even when his mind is wiped!)
  • Got damaged, became evil: Reavers from Firefly and Two face from Batman, who has a very explicit good=unscarred, bad=scarred dichotomy.
  • turned evil, became damaged: Anakin Skywalker from Star Wars
  • The bad guy in "Avatar" had a big scar on his face, and said he'd been "marked by the planet".
  • All the ugly and abnormal witches, orcs, and "abominations" etc of fantasy.
  • Subversion: Batman on the whole does actually allow people to draw on injury/psychological problems to become superheroes
  • Subversion (sort of): Zuko getting a scar on "Avatar the Last Airbender" helps him on the path to being a better person, and his unscarred sister is more the badguy (…and then she becomes a Psycho. Oh well)


Behold the wonders of modern science



A character has some impairment which our society considers a disability, but thanks to (in sf) futuristic technology or (in fantasy) magic, it has little or no effect on the character's life.

Entirely plausible in world with advanced technology or magic, but does mean you can't equate the experience of the "disabled" character with that of someone in the real world with the same impairment. Nothing inherently wrong with this trope, but such characters are not a substitute for disabled characters whose impairments do significantly interfere with their lives.

Examples:

  • Geordie LaForge from Star Trek TNG: has a visor which almost entirely replaces his sight (nb I am inclined to see this as a non ableist example of the trope, especially since the visor has it's own downsides)
  • Jake Sully from Avatar: is paraplegic, but gains a new able-bodied alien body. We never find out how his new people would treat him if he was still disabled, but a deleted scene implies they euthanise Na'vi who lose their queue.


Disability Superpower



Somewhat of a subtype of the previous trope, and has a lot of the same issues, eg it's a way to avoid writing anyone whose disability actually disables them. Less problematic in a superhero setting where everyone has a superpower so disability+superpower is still a disadvantage.

The disability gives you powers eg blindness leads to super hearing, Power Born Of Madness

The powers make you disabled eg visions drive you mad, Cursed With Awesome

Or just part of the "cosmic balance" eg Blind Seer

See the Tv Tropes page.

Examples

  • River Tam from Firefly: The modifications that gave her superpowers made her mentally ill
  • Robocop: cyborg replacements for his damaged body make him superpowerful
  • The Ship Who Sang: Helva born with physical handicaps encapsulated in a titanium life-support shell. NOT pretty, but later books get pretty bodies.
  • Daredevil: Gained super hearing when he lost his sight
  • Cassandra Cain as Batgirl unable to talk or read as a direct result of her training (or at least she started out that way)
  • Toph from "Avatar the Last Airbender": can "see" through vibrations in the ground. Can't read, also can't see when in flight, still gets discriminated against because people think of her as blind.
  • Sookie Stackhouse: her telepathy is her disability.


He's more machine than man now a.k.a. evil paraplegics



Being abnormal makes you evil
+
disability makes you special
+
trying to improve humans with technology is evil
=
Powerful disabled person with mechanical aids is inhuman and machine like

Actual disabled people do not generally see their aids as evil. They are the useful thing that lets you move/breathe etc!

Examples

  • Davros, creator of the Daleks (original Dr Who) and John Lumic, creator of the Cybermen (new Dr Who): mad geniuses in wheelchairs twisted into creating their own over mechanised master race
  • Anakin Skywalker/Darth Vader from Star Wars
  • Dr. Arliss Loveless from Wild Wild West: he has a machine to help him have sex how TERRIBLE.
  • Borg Queen: Needs a machine to walk!


Tragic Victim



Character is either mopes constantly or is plucky and inspiring with everyone else being struck by how sad it all is. Tend to either die in an inspiring/heartrending way or get better.

See I Will Only Slow You Down and Death by Disfigurement for the argument (either explicit or subtextual) that being disabled or injured makes you inherently less useful and thus expendable.

Examples

  • Daphne from Heroes
  • Logan from Dark Angel
  • Drives much of the plot of "Angelic Layer"


Story Tropes



Fantastic Ableism



Forms of disability that don't exist in the real world.
Can allow audience to see disability from a fresh perspective, also allows writers to say horrible things because it's "not real".

Examples

  • Mutants in Xmen and Chrysalids are a hunted minority
  • Muggles and squibs (people with no magical ability) in Harry Potter. The treatment of squibs is pretty disturbing, magical society has less respect and accommodation for them than ours does for people with very severe disabilities.
  • Gattacca gives agency to the character who is disabled by his society's definition but not ours...but goes straight for "pathetic victim" with the character who we see as disabled.


Wookies need extra legroom



The world has several very different sentient groups with their own needs: robots, cyborgs, aliens, mutants, moon-people etc in scifi, and centaurs, giants, elves etc in fantasy.

Requires accommodations for lots of different types of "normal", challenges the very idea of "normal".

Some settings regardless only designed for ablebodied unmodified humans.

Others end up much more flexible than our society. Sometimes a deliberate metaphor for disability. eg "This Alien Shore" by CS Friedman

Examples

  • "This Alien Shore" by CS Friedman: every human colony has a different disability or difference, physical and/or psychological. On their own planet people are accepted but they experience discrimination off world especially amongst the "normal" humans of Earth.
  • Magical society in Harry Potter is All About the anthropocentrism.


Everyone's disabled compared to Superman



Advanced beings make people who are able-bodied/neurotypical by our standards look disabled.

Allows ablebodied audience to sympathise with "disabled" characters.

Examples

  • X-men: mutants vs non-mutants (though non-mutants have the political power
  • Gattacca: people with mild genetic defects second class citizens (disabled people with no genetic defects not so well off either)
  • Muggles and squibs again, though the reader seems to only be expected to empathise with the former.


A Brave New World



If we have the ability to remove all disability, should we? What happens to remaining disabled people? Will the definition of disability expand?

SF and ablism (or: a not-as-such brief thought)
Examples

  • Gattacca: they just treat increasingly minor impairments as "disabilities"
  • Uglies series by Scott Westerfeld?


EDIT: Since this has been linked a few places: Comments are screened, and I expect people to follow my comments policy. But while I can be a bit slow (especially when it's nighttime in Australia) chances are your comment will be unscreened eventually even if I don't like it. At worst I might wait to unscreen until I feel up to replying with an explanation of why I feel your comment is inappropriate.
Sunday, May 2nd, 2010 04:39 pm (UTC)
In Xena, bad guys have prominent facial scars; good guys do not. I guess that in the Xenaverse, warlords who remain evil forever are the only ones to ever get hit in the face? Warlords and warriors who were never bad, or who may/will be redeemed someday (Xena, Marcus, Ulysses, Hercules), don't. (Well, except that one time in S2 that we did see Xena get clobbered in the face. I was totally expecting a broken nose, blood everywhere, two black eyes... Yet, nothing. Because facial marks are for bad guys.) The scar=bad thing is astonishingly regular in its execution. (Note: I've only gotten to the end of S2; maybe it reverses later. But I would fall off the couch in surprise if it did.)

There was one exception -- one! -- in the first two seasons. At the same time that Consistently Evil But Unscarred Character became immortal, she picked up a facial scar. (Because immortals don't scar, and it was the show's last chance to get a scar on her?) I hear that in a later seasons her character undergoes some major transformations: I'm half-expecting that if she goes good, that they'll find a way to get that scar off of her again.


Under Cursed with Awesome, how about Cordelia from Angel? She spends most of season getting visions of the future, visions which her mere mortal body cannot withstand, visions which almost kill her -- and so the Powers upgrade her to... yanno, I don't even remember what. Except that it goes Awesome -> Cursed With -> Fixed With More Awesome.

And within the Scooby Gang, Xander gets treated in a Fantastic-Ableism/Everyone's-Disabled-Compared-To-Slayers-and-Witches-and-Vampires-and-Werewolves sort of way. That never felt fully developed (and I wouldn't trust Whedon to develop it anyway), but I liked seeing the group work through a few of the philosophical issues of respect, contribution, and accommodation (although there's a limit to the value of that, when the character is actually abled). I've never read S8, so I don't know what happens with Xander once he becomes actually disabled.
Tuesday, May 11th, 2010 10:16 am (UTC)
I got the distinct impression that they didn't have a clue what to do with Cordelia.

One scarred character who isn't evil is Ged in Le Guin's Earthsea books. The scars are connected to evil, they were created due to a rash act in his youth, but he's the main character in the books and far from being a villain. Le Guin isn't into simplistic good/evil divides anyway. I'll have to ponder the significance of Ged's scars further, I think it's a more complex issue. They're a reminder of his brush with darkness, something which turned out to be the darker part of his self, and something he's learned from. Perhaps an equivalent would be scars acquired from drunk driving.

I was linked here from this community (http://community.livejournal.com/crip_crit/), which you might find interesting.
Monday, May 3rd, 2010 10:59 am (UTC)
Do you think Being Human fits somewhere on here? Maybe Disability Superpower + Fantastic Ableism but with more emphasis on the disability bit than usual. :|a Considering that the original concept for it was three humans, one with self esteem issues, one with anger management issues, and one a recovering sex-addict, and the actual series is still very influenced by that. It seems like it might actually be a good example of a show about characters with disabilities that treats them as people and isn't all about curing them or watching them be tragic.
Wednesday, May 5th, 2010 03:43 pm (UTC)
That's really interesting, and I want to think about it more. Season 2 gets more into this, but it hasn't aired in the US yet so I'm hesitant to say anything?

sqbr, this roundup is fantastic, and thank you!
Thursday, May 6th, 2010 01:19 am (UTC)
I'm not in the US and I've seen season 2, and I was really thinking of George's storyline in it mostly. Annie's a bit difficult to map onto RL disability and I'm not sure that Mitchell counts since when he's dealing well with his addiction he basically has no downsides and his issue is more social pressure.
Thursday, May 24th, 2012 05:32 pm (UTC)
That's actually a huge part of how addiction and recovery is an ongoing disability experience. Just because a disability is view-able to others doesn't mean it isn't there. Just because an addict isn't giving in to their addiction, is managing it, doesn't mean they aren't disabled or aren't an addict- it's just that it's an internal disability experience. struggling with compulsion that is internal, living in a world/society that seems built for relapse. The way that non-users treat the things that an addict is resisting relapse for is usually incredibly close to how other vampires treat Mitchell. The idea that an addict who isn't actively engaging in their addiction isn't disabled is a bit silly, and kinda veers into the "psych/mental disabilities aren't *real* disabilities" stuff which is. . . problematic.

Annie's is super obvious if you know people with Mental Health disabilities. Self esteem, denial, anxiety, and agoraphobia? Anyone? As someone who *has* had agoraphobic episodes and decided to work to get past them, I really do see in Annie's experience some of my own experiences with agoraphobia. You want to go out, but something that is a part of you (she's a ghost and complications from that; I have an anxiety disorder as well as other disabilities and agoraphobia is a manifestation of that) keeps you in.
Thursday, May 6th, 2010 08:00 am (UTC)
Well, thinking about it more the only one who reads to me as disabled is George, if we're not counting addiction as a disability (I have no idea if people tend to classify it as one or not). I can't actually remember how far it's discussed in season 1, but in S2 the fact that he is human in a way that Annie and Mitchell aren't is a pretty big deal. He just has a condition which has to be managed.
Monday, May 10th, 2010 06:30 am (UTC)
It's definitely the same if not better quality than season 1 :D
Tuesday, May 11th, 2010 09:36 am (UTC)
Well, to be fair I know a lot of people have issues with some of the decisions by some of the characters and think it wasn't very good, but personally I loved it. There's only one mini-storyline in it that fell flat for me.
Tuesday, May 11th, 2010 05:12 am (UTC)
I actually did read George especially as disabled. And Annie too, to a certain degree. But then again, I have a tendency to interpret werewolves as a metaphor for mental illnesses, maybe because I'm mentally ill myself. (I actually think the werewolves of Harry Potter would fit under Fantastic Ableism too.)
Wednesday, May 5th, 2010 04:39 pm (UTC)
Wicked good thought-provoking post. I've been trying to figure out where the portrayal of people with OCD in Xenocide by Orson Scott Card might go. Without getting overly spoilery, the people with OCD (the 'god-spoken') are actually in the leadership role on said colony, but are hindered by the compulsive ritual process, which is seen as a spiritual honour despite the frustration and pain they cause.

It's weird, and I'm angry at him for so many other reasons, but I will give OSC credit for writing the most accurate description, on an emotional level, of what OCD feels like.

Also, I can't help but think of The Speed of Dark and Flowers for Algernon as being like but also unlike Behold The Wonders Of Modern Science, being as they do examine (problematically or not) the personal effects of a 'wonder cure'.
Thursday, May 13th, 2010 07:09 pm (UTC)
Although the god-spoken were also deliberately genetically engineered by some kind of government conspiracy who made them geniuses with OCD: the conspiracy (I don't remember exactly what it was) got to have all the benefit of having geniuses come up with things for them, and then the OCD was supposed to keep them too distracted to take power away from the whatever group that made them. And it all worked until one girl was born a genius without OCD and then she and the Wiggins figured it all out and cured everyone else of their OCD.

Which isn't to say it isn't an affecting portrayal of the experience of OCD, just that it's not totally like "people with OCD are normal and fine, too."
Friday, May 7th, 2010 02:03 am (UTC)
I don't think I've got much of significance to add, partly because I'm not sure where you're heading with this? (It feels a bit stamp-collector-y to me).

But I'll note that to the extent I think of myself as disabled, I'm even over further into the social model than you are: it's not impairment + how it interacts with society but just plain difference + how it interacts with society. I suspect Deaf people feel the same way.

(Yeah, I have an "impairment": I can't function well in capitalist/consumerist/individualist/zero-sum-thinking society. But I don't actually think that's my problem, I think society should be different, and heaps of people other than myself would also function better in a society that accomodated me.)
Tuesday, May 11th, 2010 11:52 pm (UTC)
I think this one might fit under the "He's more machine than man now a.k.a. evil paraplegics" category - there's this video game, (I didn't see games on this list!) Final Fantasy 6 and the villan, Kefka, has been made evil by the powers of science. Or rather, science + magic.

He doesn't have much back story but from what little there is, he was a successful general who volunteered into an experimental magic-augmentation program. He was the first volunteer the the technology was not stable yet. The procedure drove him insane. I think one of the NPC says something like, "Something in Kefka snapped that day..."
He becomes a very powerful magic user by the end of the game.

It's not exactly a machine unless you count the magic armor you can walk around in a few times during the game.
(Anonymous)
Wednesday, May 12th, 2010 12:56 pm (UTC)
Under 'disability superpower', I can't help but think of Ghost in the Shell. Motoko has a completely artificial body, and her co-workers vary from almost totally cyborg to completely human (aside from the cyber-brains that all but the poorest members of society seem to have). The series touches on both class and disability issues--those on the lower rungs of society can't afford the high-end prosthetics. And while some choose to go cyborg for the advantages, others wind up that way after being disabled--including Motoko herself.

There also some trade-off issues. For one, cyborg bodies are harder to control--Motoko at one point mentions that as a child, she broke a doll because of her poor control. They're also higher maintenance, and cyborgs have different dietary requirements. And of course, the whole cyberbrain thing allows for things like hacking into people's minds.
(Anonymous)
Thursday, May 13th, 2010 01:02 pm (UTC)
The only disabled characters I can think of off the top of my head that doesn't necessarily fit into those categories would be House, Dr. Kerry Weaver from ER, Kevin from Joan of Arcadia, and Walter Jr. from Breaking Bad.

Trying to think of others and not really coming up with anything. Sad.
Saturday, May 15th, 2010 02:33 am (UTC)
The Monster:

mental illness examples:

Kefka (already mentioned) and Sephiroth - their evilness is presented as a matter of insanity. (And for all I'm a Final Fantasy fan, I'm well aware of how problematic that is.) FWIW, Kefka was also described as "autistic" in an official(-ish?) book, though I chalk that up to the writers not knowing what they were talking about - whatever's the matter with Kefka doesn't bear much (if any) resemblance to real life autism.

On that note, I could rant about how often fictional characters suffer from some not-clearly-defined-but-dramatic "insanity" (which is actually a legal term, not a medical one!), whether presented as matter of evilness or tragedy (or both), rather than any of the distinct psychiatric illnesses that exist in the real world.

OTOH, Cloud (from the same game as Sephiroth) serves as a subversion of that trope - his mind is very, very broken (he's also in a wheelchair at one point in the game), but in the end he's a hero rather than evil. You could consider him the contrasting counterpart to Sephiroth, the way Barret and Dyne (I'll get to them) are presented as contrasting conterparts.

physical impairment examples:

the albino assassin from The Da Vinci Code, though he's not presented as vision impaired or otherwise affected by his albinism in ways beyond looks

More Final Fantasy examples (not always sure where to file them):

In Final Fantasy XI (the online one), the NPC Curilla is missing an eye, though that's not readily apparent (she's hiding the scar under her bangs - yes, the "female characters are not allowed to be visibly disfigured" trope). In spite of this, and partially because of this, she's still an excellent swordfighter - when you finish the Savage Blade quest, she explains it in terms of how she kept training until she'd learned to work around her impairment and "understand the heart of her foe." So I guess trope-wise, she's falls partly under Disability Superpower, partly under Plucky And Inspiring, with a side dish of Martial Artist Whose Intuition Is So Finely Honed That They Can Fight Blindfolded. There are also some Unfortunate Implications in the story of how she got that injury (namely, during a swordfighting tournament, i.e. in the course of being competitive while female).

In the same game, Eald'narche and Gilgamesh wear eyepatches, though Eald'narche's is more a case of "something to hide" than disability. Chieftainess Perih Vashai is fully blind, with shades of the "Blind Seer" archetype - she may no longer be able to shoot a bow herself, but she's still the wise woman whose tests an aspiring Ranger must pass. An NPC near her explains that she keeps her eyes closed so she can see better on the spiritual level or something along those lines, though I thiiiiiink it's also that she did something during the Crystal War that killed her eyesight as a side effect (can't give you the details since I'm not done catching up on the Windurst Wings of the Goddess quests, nor have all of those quests been released yet).

Still on Final Fantasy XI, that game is also an example of "Wookies need extra legroom" handled well (if by "well" you mean "non-anthropocentric"). There's the Galka that are much taller than humans and have a tail, the Elvaan than are taller than humans with long necks, the Tarutaru that are much smaller than humans, the Mithra that are somewhat smaller than humans and also have a tail - and they all have it equally easy to find armour than fits them. (Though, granted, furniture is more or less scaled to human proportions unless explicitly made for Tarutaru.)

Final Fantasy VII has Barret and Dyne, who both have a prostetic arm that doubles as a machine gun. Dyne (once Barret's best friend) is presented as driven to evil by what happened to him (we meet him after he went on a murder spree) - a case of the Monster (and possibly More Machine Than Man) trope. Barret is his contrasting counterpart - while he is an ecoterrorist when we first meet him, his personality is mostly "good person under the gruff exterior" and "caring father."

In regards with his prostetic, for all the cool factor of it, I can't help thinking about how he dealt with it in daily life - a gun arm may be useful in battle, but what about dressing oneself? Washing dishes? Hugging one's little daughter? (Advent Children actually came up with a solution, showing him with a more conventional prostetic limb that could be transformed into a gun for combat purposes.)

Also from Final Fantasy VII, there's Vincent with his golden claw. While it's never explained in-game whether it's a prostetic or a piece of armour, it's commonly assumed in fandom that Vincent's flesh-and-blood arm is either missing or severely disfigured. His monster transformations could be seen as a "disability not existing in the real world" of the Cursed With Awesome variety.

Final Fantasy VII's spinoff Dirge of Cerberus has Shalua, whose most apparent impairments are a missing eye an a prostetic arm, though it's also stated in-game that "more than half her organs have been reconstructed." However, sadly enough, we are told about more than shown her disability - for all that she's supposedly suffering and in constant pain, we don't really get to see her being affected by her impairments (flawless knife fight despite lack of depth perception, anyone?) Then she Tragically Sacrifices Herself and spends the remainder of the game in a life-support pod (which is eventually destroyed, presumably resulting in her death).

Shalua's sister Shelke is a case of "disability not existing in the real world" - she doesn't age (not as awesome as it sounds, since she's stuck with the body of a child), but needs daily Mako treatments to stay alive (the equivalent of a diabetic needing his insulin?); and mentally/emotionally, she is (in her own words) "a shadow of [her] original self" due to her time in Deepground.

Characters in wheelchairs - aside from Cloud (temporarily), there is Rufus Shinra in Advent Children. (Yes, he stands up during a climatic moment, but being able to stand for an amount of time doesn't necessarily equal "not disabled" or "not really needing a wheelchair.") Ironically, he's the opposite of the Evil Paraplegic trope - he was a villain in the original game, when he was able-bodied, and found redemption (sort of) after his run-in with Diamond WEAPON.
Sunday, May 16th, 2010 10:46 am (UTC)
Here via metafandom...

I was on the panel about disability in SF at EasterCon, and we came up with a lot of the same issues as you have, although with different examples in some cases. I'm planning to write up my thoughts on our discussions today, a little over a month late.

I've got a story in an SF Romance e-anthology (out this week, which is slightly scary), in which the hero and heroine have different disabilities. I wanted to get away from both the trope of able-bodied character 'fixing' the issues presented by the other character's disability and the idea that people with 'matching' disabilities should always want to stick together. I hope I've made it work as a romance, rather than a story about people with disabilities.

I'm also working on a story in which the (anti)hero's disability and some of his motivations sprang from years of thoughts and discussions about Travis in Blakes 7. His disabilities were caused partly by the actions of the man he regards as his arch enemy (although the real situation is more complex), but his motivations stem from other crimes blamed on the arch enemy character.

Like Travis, he has SFnal prosthetics/enhancements (although not the embedded weaponry), but they aren't perfect. He has arthritis/arthralgia and fatigue issues combined with PTSD and unresolved grief, the last being his initial reason for going after his arch enemy. I'm never sure whether I'm better off writing him when my joints are behaving and I can be objective, or when they aren't and I can empathise with him.

Again, I'm trying to get away from the tropes, and write an interesting character who isn't exclusively good or bad (neither is his love interest, who is the real protagonist of the current story), and is neither defined by his disabilities nor magically fixed by SF except when not being suits the story.
Monday, May 17th, 2010 09:40 pm (UTC)
My post is here: http://stevie-carroll.livejournal.com/7725.html

I'm very impressed that my publisher has used an excerpt from my story (mentioning both characters' disabilities) to publicise the whole anthology.
(Anonymous)
Monday, May 17th, 2010 06:27 pm (UTC)
I don't know if it fits your definition of fantasy/science fiction, though it fits mine - but I found the book of 'The Time Traveller's Wife' quite helpful for thinking about issues to do with mental illness and (some kinds of) cognitive impairment. (I read it soon after my son was diagnosed as autistic) Too much a case of 'disability as superpower?
(Anonymous)
Friday, May 21st, 2010 10:29 pm (UTC)
I think Miles Vorkosigan from Lois McMaster Bujold deserves an honorable mention. I found that many books that I enjoyed when I was completely able-bodied are no longer fun now that I am (mildly) disabled, precisely because they come up with all sorts of assumptions. "Disability superpower" is the one that makes me really mad these days, perhaps because I didn't get any ;-) But I found that Miles still appeals. He does have a "super charisma" to compensate for his limitations, but for me he comes with enough internal struggle, mistakes and fragility that makes him realistic, at least in my personal experience.
Thursday, June 24th, 2010 11:18 am (UTC)
I saw the ableism of Avatar with Jake Sully right away, but as for Geordi La Forge...I don't really see it. Next Gen takes place in the 24th century, of course we'd have new kinds of assistive technology. (Though it irks the shit out of me that they never developed lightweight antigrav wheelchairs as opposed to the awful things TOS and TNG had instead.) Part of science fiction is new technology, including that of the adaptive kind. (Though in my SF futures, there's more of a societal change too and accessibility isn't just here-have-some-tech.)

If I were gonna bitch about ableism in Trek, I'd bitch about the wheelchair thing, and about Julian Bashir's parents. So he was born with cognitive disabilities. It's no one's fault, it's the way things fukken are, he's not a defective "thing" to be "fixed."
Friday, June 25th, 2010 06:09 am (UTC)
Alrighty. :)
Saturday, October 23rd, 2010 01:39 pm (UTC)
In ST:TNG, Geordi LaForge isn't exactly made nondisabled by his visor. It actually puts him in severe, constant pain.