Posts Tagged ‘fantastic ableism


Fantastic ableism and disability: managing the monster within

Previously on Space Crip: disability is a social construction. Who is considered disabled depends on culture. In fictitious cultures with sci-fi and fantasy elements, disability can take strange forms, like lycanthropy or not having any supernatural powers in a magical culture.

Today, I wanna talk about characters whose disabilities stem from their struggle to contain their inner monster. Once upon a time, these characters (who are almost always men) followed their primal mythical creature instincts, causing untold death and damage to the Human and monster world. But now, after going through some intense treatment, they have control over their monster instincts and can live like a normal Human. Well, almost. In order to stop the monster from resurfacing, these characters must follow rigid routines and limit the kind of interaction they have with other people. These characters are in a constant state of maintenance; if they slip up or someone interrupts their routine, they could turn into a monstrous killer once again.

For monsters-in-recovery, the impairment is being a mythical creature. Not all mythical creatures are disabled, but monsters-in-recovery are because preventing a relapse and loss of mental control “substantially limits one or more major life activities,” to use the language of the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Spoilers for all of Being Human UK and the first season of Grimm.

Continue reading ‘Fantastic ableism and disability: managing the monster within’


Fantastic ableism and disability: No supernatural powers

Warning: this post contains spoilers for the Harry Potter series and the Star Trek: TOS episode, “Plato’s Stepchildren.” This post also contains discussion of child abuse and the abuse of people with disabilities.

Just to recap: disability is socially constructed. In sci-fi and fantasy universe, characters who wouldn’t be considered disabled by Human 2012 standards are sometimes treated like or share common experiences with disabled people here on Earth due to their social status within their universe. Last time, I wrote about how werewolves (specifically Remus Lupin from Harry Potter and George from Being Human) stand in for people living with HIV/AIDS and experience similar ableist oppression. Today, I want to talk about characters without supernatural powers. In certain fictional societies, having what we might consider superpowers is the norm, so characters without those powers are disabled even if they just seem like normal Humans. Sometimes this comes in the form of what TV Tropes calls a Muggle Born of Mages–someone without powers born into a family of supernaturals. In worlds where not having powers is the norm and the parents are superheroes, the kid might feel divided between two worlds or excluded from the family. In societies where magic is the norm, a person without it can be subject to some pretty serious fantastic ableism. With the latter example in mind, I look to Squibs from Harry Potter and Alexander from “Plato’s Stepchildren” (aka The One Where Kirk and Uhura Kiss) in Star Trek: TOS. Continue reading ‘Fantastic ableism and disability: No supernatural powers’


Fantastic ableism and disability: Werewolves

Warning: spoilers for Being Human, Harry Potter, and True Blood after the jump.

Seeing as we’ve already covered the messy theoretical definitions of disability, it’s time to expand my earlier list of characters with disabilities in sci-fi/fantasy to compensate for the fictional universes of sff. In other words, rather than listing characters who would be considered disabled by 2012 USian terms, I’m gonna look at characters who are treated like or share common experiences with disabled people here on Earth. These are characters who might be completely able-bodied by today’s standards but experience oppression similar to ableism due to being werewolves or squibs or telepaths. You ken? Maybe not. Okay. Well, you know how on True Blood public attitudes toward vampires are compared to heterosexism (i.e., homophobia) like through that sign in the opening credits that says “God Hates Fangs” and vampires only being able to get married in Vermont? And you know how in Star Trek conflicts between species stand in for racism? Well, what I’m gonna be talking about is like those two things but with disability instead of sexuality and race.

Image: on the left, a screencapture of George Sands (portrayed by Russell Tovey) from Being Human. George is a white man in twenties with short hair. He wears glasses and a maroon shirt. He has blue eyes and prominent ears. On the right, a screencapture of Remus Lupin (portrayed by David Thewlis) from the film adaptation of Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban. Remus is a middle-aged white man wearing a button up shirt and tie covered with a sweater. He has scars on his cheeks that look like scratch marks.

Let’s start with a fairly popular and well-recognized metaphor: lycanthropy as HIV/AIDS. We find two salient examples in Remus Lupin of the Harry Potter series and George Sands from Being Human. George and Remus are rather similar: smart, sensitive, British, not the best looking guys in their circle of friends, best mates with serial killers. George speaks six languages and Remus is a powerful wizard and the best teacher Harry had at Hogwarts, but neither can find meaningful, long-term employment because of their “conditions.” George is hesitant to put down roots and make serious commitments to the Human world because he fears being discovered. Remus, on the other hand, can’t put down roots because he’s always run out of town whenever someone finds out he is a werewolf. Continue reading ‘Fantastic ableism and disability: Werewolves’

Space Crip

People with disabilities? In my sci-fi? It's more likely than you think.