A rant post is ahead. You have been warned~
This has been bothering me like crazy, and has been popping up in the last few pieces of media I’ve been watching, and this last one I watched just royally pissed me off, so I needed to vent about it. Granted, the most recent thing I have been watching is Jem and the Holograms, and that cartoon is from the 80s, so there is a bit of leeway there (not much, but I’ll give it some). The others though? 2014, 2012, in years that this really shouldn’t be a thing in. I mainly see this happen in anime, but it goes for any other piece of media that this has happened in, too.
Let me paint this picture for you: You’re watching an anime, or cartoon, and a disabled character pops up. They’re not portrayed as some weak, co-dependent person. Instead, they’re shown as being highly capable, really smart, super skilled in whatever they are talented at, and having a full personality of their own, not even close to being a stereo type. They don’t let their disability keep them down: the exact opposite, they use it to their advantage, and use it to kick butt.
As a disabled person you go “Yes, awesome! They are finally showing that being blind, or in a wheelchair, isn’t a bad thing. That I am just as much of a person as any fully able person. That I can kick all the butts if I just put my mind to it, and that I’m not just a ster-what’s happening…did they…did they just heal their disability? Are you freaking kidding me!?”
I can’t even begin to talk about how many bad messages this trope sends to anyone watching. Not only is it insulting to any disabled person watching the show, but it just totally puts the “Disabilities are a problem that need to be fixed” thing into people’s heads. The fact that they sometimes also have people, who have dealt with a disability their entire lives, then go get an operation to fix said disability because oh hey, yeah they were dealing with it, but really, they want to be able to see just like everyone else, fix me! Is so bad too. And yes, I’m sure there are people who feel that way, but more likely than not, they have been dealing with their disability for almost all of their lives, have adapted to the changes needed to live their lives as they see fit, and getting something done to be “normal” again, would be a detriment to their style of life. And don’t get me started on the amount of rehabilitation the person would need, which shows just decide to streamline into about a month or less.
If this happened in only a few shows, I wouldn’t mind so much. But literally, in the past three to four shows I’ve watched, they have had a disabled character be awesome all series, then magically be healed by series end.
Can we please stop this? Can we just have someone stay disabled, and be alright with it? When a person is disabled, and has been their entire lives, that is their normal. Don’t make it out like it’s a problem, don’t make it out like they’re awesome in spite of their disability, and don’t discount they’re awesome capabilities, by magically healing them of all their “ills”. Is that so much to ask?
It just strikes such a cord for me, because when you’ve been dealing with a disability all of, or most of your life, it’s not something you want to be portrayed in media as wrong. When I see a blind person in a show that is stumbling around, and bumping into things all willy nilly, and being treated as the dunce character, it just makes me want to list everything wrong with the episode in question. The flipside of that isn’t any better either: Having a character be blind, and that not affecting them at all and it just being like oh hey they can see, no biggy… just can see with all ma other senses! Isn’t any better. It’s not showing a blind person as a realistic human being, and is still putting that “You need to see to be normal” mindset into people’s heads. I love the Netflix show Daredevil, but that was the one major thing that erked me about it, and is something I wish they’d fix. Like he literally throws his cane in a dumpster in one episode, no intelligent blind person would be doing that!
Is it so difficult to have proper representation of disabilities in media? If they’re going through the lengths to include a disabled person in their show, then why not go the extra mile and actually depict them correctly? And when they do that, is it so hard for them to keep them disabled, and not magically heal them so us disabled people can have someone we can identify with, and not feel cheated out of by the end of the show? Is that seriously too much to ask?
If anyone has some good shows to recommend with well-presented disabled characters, I’d love to hear about them!