Posts Tagged ‘science fiction

20
Jan
13

Reaction Post: “An Enemy of Fate”

Warning: this post contains spoilers for the Fringe series finale.

As the credits rolled on the final episode of Fringe, I knew one thing for sure: I did not like the ending. I felt somehow dissatisfied with it, rubbed the wrong way. I couldn’t put my finger on it, but there was something Not Right at the core of this happy ending. After some reflection (e.g., browsing on Tumblr), I realized I was mostly upset about Donald/September dying rather than living on with his son. Which, okay, I guess is what the show was going for. They want viewers to be upset when a sympathetic character dies. But, for me, this went way beyond the feels and right into crip rage.

Why? Because this bittersweet happy ending was sweet for Peter and Olivia and Etta (the white, heterosexual, able-bodied nuclear family), but bitter for Michael and Walter (the neurodivergent contingent of the Fringe cast this season).

Continue reading ‘Reaction Post: “An Enemy of Fate”’

26
Oct
12

The “Ethics” of TNG-era Imperialism and Ableism

Warning: this post contains discussion of suicide and euthanasia. Spoilers for the TNG episodes, “Ethics,” “Too Short a Season,” and “The Loss,” and for the DS9 episode, “Melora.”

Image: a screencap from “Ethics” of Worf lying on a bed in sickbay, looking up at Riker.

In the Star Trek: The Next Generation episode, “Ethics,” Mr. Worf acquires a spinal cord injury while on-duty that partially paralyzes him, leaving him unable to walk. By Klingon tradition, he is obligated to commit ritual suicide (hegh’bat) because he can no longer stand to face his enemies in battle. Dr. Crusher and a visiting doctor with a shady ethical record work to cure Worf, while Riker battles with the role Worf has asked him to play in the suicide ritual—namely handing Worf the knife. The episode comes down to Worf undergoing an experimental procedure that will either cure or kill him. The Status Quo being God (despite the promise the series made when it killed off Tasha Yar), Worf is cured and back to his able-bodied self by the end of the episode.

It’s fairly obvious what the Official Disability Rights Opinion™ on this episode would be: the Klingon tradition of hegh’bat is wrong. People with disabilities can live fulfilling lives if society lets them. Picard and Riker articulate this Opinion™ quite plainly in the episode.

And while I certainly agree that hegh’bat is wrong, this is Star Trek. The Official Disability Rights Opinion™ isn’t enough to understand what’s going on. We gotta bring in critiques of racism, colonialism, and the Western concept of the independent individual—critiques that come from the work performed by women of color in transnational feminist theory and activism.

In other words, this post is gonna acknowledge that Klingons don’t appear to have a very progressive position on disability, but mainly it’s gonna turn around and look at the hypocrisy in Picard and Riker’s moral high ground regarding hegh’bat. And to do this we have to look at one of the major problems I have with TNGContinue reading ‘The “Ethics” of TNG-era Imperialism and Ableism’

07
Sep
12

Reaction Post: “Asylum of the Daleks”

Doctor Who made its return to television last weekend with “Asylum of the Daleks,” Nu!Who’s latest attempt to bring back the Daleks and make them scary again. In this episode, Moff tries to freshen up the Daleks by introducing an entire planet full of insane Daleks. Beyond blatantly capitalizing on ableist fears of people with mental illnesses as senselessly violent, this episode’s disability fail makes the Doctor–if he even is the Doctor anymore–look like a complete monster once again.

I must admit that I might be more disappointed with this episode from a disability perspective than other like-minded (read: awesome) individuals, because I went into the episode believing (hoping, really) that the story would be quite different than it turned out to be. Based on promos of thousands of Daleks yelling, “SAVE THE DALEKS” at the Doctor, and an episode synopsis saying the Doctor and the Ponds would go on a scary mission inside a Dalek asylum, I assumed (dreamed, hoped, wished fervently) that the Doctor would stumble upon a Dalek mental institution, where the conditions would be deplorable in true Dalek fashion (but relatable enough to Human mental institutions so as to make a meaningful parallel to how Humans treat people with mental illnesses), and be asked to liberate the Daleks with disabilities from their incarceration. The Doctor would hem and haw. “I’m the Doctor; I don’t go around helping the Daleks.” And then Amy would say something like, “You’re the Doctor and that’s why you need to help these Daleks.” The Doctor would swoop in, do his hero bit, and everyone would live happily ever after. It’s not a completely unproblematic story I imagined. It still had an able-bodied hero saving characters with disabilities, who are cast as largely helpless… unless…. Unless the Daleks in the asylum purposefully led the Doctor there to appeal to his sense of mercy, using the stereotype of disabled people as pitiful and harmless to their advantage to get the Doctor to do what they want. Anyway… whatever I imagined for the episode did not happen.

What happened was truly horrific.

Continue reading ‘Reaction Post: “Asylum of the Daleks”’

25
May
12

Why Scorpius is Awesome, part 2 of infinity: He’s one kinkoid motherfreller

Hello, readers. I’ve been bad; I haven’t posted in several weeks. Sorry about that. The blog and I have been very busy in real life (the space between computers). I got to meet Judith Heumann, a big disability rights activist who was one of the leaders of the 1977 occupation of the old Federal Building in San Francisco. We spoke a little about the blog and she asked me to link to it on her Facebook page, which was a very surreal, very early 21st century moment, you know, having this civil rights giant who won you all these rights before you were born ask to link your blog about disabled aliens on a social networking website. What’s next? Elizabeth Cady Stanton asking me to friend her on foursqaure? (I would decline; my feminism will be intersectional or it will be bullshit.) Anywho… I spoke at two symposia about the blog, Scorpius’ sex life, and how fans know more about sci-fi/fantasy than “scholarly” writers. At my department’s graduation, I got to talk about blogging as an accessible form of activism for nerds with disabilities. And then most astonishingly, I won my department’s Special Award for Excellence in Research and Senior Honors Thesis for writing this blog. Yeah. Shocked me, too. I honestly hope my mom’s clapping covered up me saying, “Holy shit,” as I walked up to get the certificate.

Enough about me. Today, I wanna give you folks the extended, unrated, director’s cut version of what I talked about at those two symposia.

One of the more pervasive stereotypes about people with disabilities is that disabled folks are asexual. PWD have worked to dispel this myth, but most mainstream efforts have come off about as subtle as a disabled cisgender guy getting up on top of a table and shouting, “I HAVE MADE SEX WITH MANY WOMEN IN THE VAGINA.” In the autobiographical-musical film, Tell Them I’m a Mermaid, the women have an extended rap session about how much they want the peen a man to love them. This display of heterosexual desire is particularly egregious given that many of those women are lesbians. Have you heard about The Surrogate starring John Hawkes and Helen Hunt? It’s the second film about Berkeley poet Mark O’Brien to portray him as 100% heterosexual 100% cisgender dudebro (at least, base on the buzz surrounding the film). Apparently, when looking through O’Brien’s work at Bancroft Library, the director of The Surrogate skipped over the poems about O’Brien’s gender dysphoria and preference for Black men. My point: attempts to portray disabled sexuality have far too often been portrayals of disabled heterosexuality that do little to challenge heteronormativity, i.e. the way that “traditional” man-woman relationships are highly valued and understood as the building block of society.

Enter Scorpius.

Trigger Warning: ableism, violence against people with disabilities, sexual assault, BDSM roleplay

Continue reading ‘Why Scorpius is Awesome, part 2 of infinity: He’s one kinkoid motherfreller’

25
Apr
12

Episode Recap: “Virtual Systems Analysis,” the Fears of Abed the Undiagnosable

Spoilers for Community through “Virtual Systems Analysis”

Patterning characters after popular perceptions of Asperger’s syndrome has become an easy way for television writers to show that a character is quirky and super-smart (see Bones, Sheldon on The Big Bang Theory, and Sherlock on the BBC programme). Very rarely however do these characters experience any of the downsides of being on the autism spectrum. They don’t have to deal with discrimination. Failing to fill the expectations of a neurotypical world is met with canned laughter rather than abuse, loss of autonomy, or murder.

Image: a screepcapture of Abed Nadir in Community’s “Virtual Systems Analysis.” Abed is a thin man in his mid-twenties of Palestinian-Polish descent. He has short black hair and brown eyes. His wears a white t-shirt with a blue and purple flannel shirt over it. He holds a binder to his chest while carrying a messenger bag slung over his shoulder. Abed’s head is quirked to his right as he stares unsmilingly.

Abed from Community, however, portrays being ambiguously “on the spectrum” (to use his own words) beyond comedy. Okay, I know what you’re thinking (I really can; it’s my Disability Superpower), “Why are you so pleased about a disability being a source of tragedy? Isn’t this the kind of thing we want to move away from?” And to you, hypothetical reader-people, I say, yes, kinda sorta. I obviously don’t want stories where disability is OMG the worst thing ever and limits characters from ever doing anything. But I also don’t want stories where disability is just a source of comedy. Let’s be real: having an impairment and being disabled can really suck sometimes, but other times it’s really fucking funny. I want stories that acknowledge that. Community does.

(Community also acknowledges that autistic people of color exist. Characters with quirky-smart-Asperger’s are almost uniformly white. So, not only are those portrayals ignoring the discrimination faced by people with ASD, but they’re feeding into this stereotype of ASD as something that only happens to white people. Which is deeply, deeply frelled in a world where autistic people of color are killed for being autistic people of color.)

I wanna take a microt right now before we get into the nitty-gritty to address something important. Talking about autism spectrum disorders on a disability blog is messy. Some autistics don’t consider themselves disabled; others do. I’m not on the autism spectrum, so it’s not my place to take sides in this debate. I’m gonna talk about Abed’s experience of ableism as a character with an ASD who also has unspecified (and likely undiscovered) mental impairment. Not all of Abed’s Abed-ness can be contained under the label of autism–that’s what makes him Abed the Undiagnosable.

Continue reading ‘Episode Recap: “Virtual Systems Analysis,” the Fears of Abed the Undiagnosable’

18
Apr
12

Why Scorpius is Awesome, part 1 of infinity

Trigger warning: this post contains discussion of rape, forced pregnancy, child abuse, and abuse of people with disabilities.

Spoilers: all of Farscape, including the miniseries.

Image: a screencap of Scorpius in the Farscape episode, "Season of Death." Scorpius is a Humanoid male with pale, almost reptilian skin, blue eyes, and thin black lips. His entire body save for his eyes, nose, and mouth is covered with a leather bodysuit.

The time has come, my friends, to introduce my absolute, hands-down, favorite character with a disability in all of fiction. Much like Madonna, Prince, and Yoshua, he goes by one name: Scorpius. Did anyone else feel shivers down their spine? Just me? Okay. Aaaanyway, here’s your primer on Scorpius, the central villain on Farscape. (If you’re reading/hearing this and you don’t watch Farscape, what is wrong with you? Seriously. Think about your life, think about your choices.)

Continue reading ‘Why Scorpius is Awesome, part 1 of infinity’

21
Mar
12

“The Menagerie”: Introducing the Original Space Crips

Warning: spoilers for “The Menagerie,” “Requiem for Methuselah,” Star Trek (2009), Star Trek V: The Final Frontier

Image: a screencap of "The Menagerie part 1." Dr. McCoy and Scotty push Christopher Pike's wheelchair out of a conference room aboard the Enterprise. A security officer in a red shirt stands guard behind them.

As anyone who’s watched at least a minute of the show has likely noticed, Star Trek: the Original Series (TOS) was shot on, let’s say, a limited budget. All sorts of money-saving measures were put in place. Remember Elaan, the monarch with magical tears? Her bodyguards’ armor was made out of place mats. Too obscure? Okay. The transporters were created to avoid filming expensive shots of the Enterprise landing on each planet the crew visited. Obviously, some of these cost-cutting measures were more successful than others. “The Menagerie” two-parter was one of the more successful efforts, at least according to the Hugo Awards who awarded it Best Dramatic Presentation.

For those of you who don’t know the story, “The Menagerie” was cobbled together at the last minute to prevent production from shutting down. Gene Roddenberry took the original pilot (“The Cage”), which had a completely different cast than the series with the exception of Mr. Spock, and incorporated it into a new story which framed “The Cage” footage. You really have to wonder what was going through Gene’s head when coming up with the frame at the eleventh hour. “I know! We’ll have Spock steal the Enterprise and kidnap a cripple!”

Continue reading ‘“The Menagerie”: Introducing the Original Space Crips’




Space Crip

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