Posts Tagged ‘Harry Potter

02
Jun
12

Spock the Super Hybrid and the Problems with Hybrid Vigor

Spock–is there anything that motherfucker can’t do?

Seriously, the man has not met a computer he couldn’t fix, a foe he couldn’t neutralize, or a mind he couldn’t meld. The only game he ever lost at is pon farr (which, I imagine, is why many Trekkies have such a hate boner for T’Pring) and even then he technically won at the kal-if-fee. (You might argue that Spock failed the Kobayashi Maru at the end of Wrath of Khan, but I’d say coming back from the dead counts as a pass.)

Spock’s vegetarian, Plomeek-infused awesome sauce unfortunately falls into a trope known in the biology world as hybrid vigor, which refers to “superior” offspring created by members of two different species mating. Optimally, the wee baby animal will have all of the strengths of mommy animal’s species and daddy animal’s species with few or none of the two species’ shortcomings. Spock has the supersmarts, strength, and long lifespan of a Vulcan and the adaptability and innovative thinking of a Human. Now, why’s this hybrid vigor business a bad thing again? Well, as I’m sure you’ve realized by now, alien species on Star Trek represent different nations and ethnoracial groups, and, even when it’s not entirely clear what group of real life Earth people a given Star Trek alien species is supposed to correspond to, interspecies interactions and conflict are metaphors for intercultural/racial tensions and cooperations. (Which makes that scene where Wesley Crusher asks a new Benzite crewmember how people of his species tell each other apart really messed up. Shut up, Wesley.) In Star Trek logic, Spock’s hybrid vigor results from metaphorical race-mixing.

Continue reading ‘Spock the Super Hybrid and the Problems with Hybrid Vigor’

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11
Apr
12

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’

03
Apr
12

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’

20
Feb
12

Disability in my sci-fi?

Hyperbole and a Half meme

Image: Background: a cartoon of a blonde woman punching the air with her fist and holding a broom in her other hand. "CLEAN ALL THE THINGS!" is handwritten above her head. Foreground: the caption: "LIST ALL THE SPACE CRIPS!"

Over Christmas dinner, I was telling my family that I wanted to write about disability in science fiction. My future brother-in-law, who is a big sci-fi fan, was doubtful that disability was covered often enough in sf for me to study it. (He had previously asked me if there was enough material to warrant doctoral programs in women’s studies. Apparently, he hadn’t heard that women and girls make up a little over half of the world’s population.) After that, I got to thinking about it and started to compile a mental list of characters with disabilities and disability themes in sci-fi/fantasy. In the interest of appealing to my fairly concrete minded brother-in-law, this list is limited to characters who would be read as having a disability in the US in 2012 rather than characters who demonstrate that disability is on a spectrum and culturally relative. The latter will come later. Without any further ado, I give you my rudimentary rundown of disability in sci-fi/fantasy.* You are forewarned: here be spoilers. Continue reading ‘Disability in my sci-fi?’




Space Crip

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