Saturday, November 9th, 2013 01:18 pm
The first and most obvious reason is that it's terrifying. Cecil may be able to put a positive spin on massive death rates and repressive secret police but personally I'd rather stay in a town where the librarians don't try to eat you and steal your children. YMMV.

The second reason is that there are no ramps in Night Vale. The writers have gone to great efforts to create a world with no acceptance of homophobia, racism or sexism and have been rightfully applauded for doing so. Yet when it comes to disability the town doesn't do so well(*).

As the most recent episode (34 - A Beautiful Dream) made explicitely clear, this is a town where ableism is rampant for exactly the same reasons it is in the real world (albeit with a surreal Night Vale spin), where disabled children are held up as tragic, pitiable figures doomed to misery as their calls for accessibility are either ignored or have to be destroyed for the greater good. Where Cecil refers to them as a sympathetic but helpless other who need "our" charity, not part of the weird but cohesive "us" that includes able bodied queer people, women and POC (for contrast, see this quote from the voice actor Cecil Baldwin)

Which is admittedly no worse that the treatment disabled characters get in 90% of the canons I enjoy, and better than the ones where we're all evil or whatever. But I feel like they should know better, and I'm sick of disability being an afterthought at best. Also, I think a lot of my annoyance is less because of the show itself and more a result of the way fandom holds the show up as Perfect (asides from occasional criticisms of the well meaning but patchy handling of race).

There was the two-headed quarterback: disabled identity in night vale but I must admit I found the satirical writing style impenetrable so I'm not sure what points they were making. There's also the cute tumblr Welcome To Disabled Vale and I'm glad they're having fun but they are working against canon like any other "wouldn't it be cool if canon was more inclusive" fandom thing.

Meanwhile we have posts like The Monster and the Closet: Welcome to Night Vale and Queer SpecFic, which asides from various other issues(**) presents the "weird" bodies and minds of Night Vale as a metaphor for queerness (or even inherently queer). How can she talk for so long about monstrous bodies and not even mention disability? My previous interactions with Thingswithwings have been very positive and I'm sure she'd be open to criticism, unfortunately all attempts at articulating my problems with that post descend quickly into angry capslock which is not my preferred mode of interaction.

But...we are not a metaphor. We are not tragic victims. We are not a cause for ablebodied protagonists to support to make them look progressive (though that was certainly preferable to Cecil being ableist) We are real actual people, who listen to radio shows and live in weird little towns and are just as deserving of stories that don't reduce us to nothing but our limitations and oppressions.

nb I am SO BEHIND ON MY MAIL RIGHT NOW, will try to get to comments eventually but may take a while.

(*) I am in no way arguing that Night Vale's inclusiveness about sexuality/gender/race is bad. I'm a queer woman myself, I love it! But that doesn't make the poor treatment of disability ok. And then there's the fact that even disembodied hands are cisgendered (kinda? Or maybe not? Less convinced of this than I was), I haven't thought about that so much but would be interested in hearing other people's thoughts. There's more to queerness than the experience of cis same-sex-loving folk. There's probably other issues I'm not even noticing, but such is life.
(**) Here's a ffa thread on the post where various people express issues with her treatment of "queerness", I don't agree with everything they say but there are definitely some valid points.

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