Posts Tagged ‘television

30
Mar
13

Fantastic ableism and disability: the Amnesia Girl

Warning: this post contains brief discussion of lynching, sexual assault, and caregiver abuse. Spoilers for season 2 of Grimm and Once Upon a Time and the series finale of Chuck.

When Grimm and Once Upon a Time premiered in fall of 2011, there was a lot of buzz about there being two shows on the schedule featuring fairy tale characters in modern settings, capitalizing on the popularity of revamped fairy tales sweeping Hollywood at the time. Based on this similarity, media outlets and even fans were apt to put the shows in competition with one another. Obviously, only one could survive the season. The competitive spirit faded as the season wore on and the shows demonstrated how very different they were from each other. Once Upon a Time proved itself to be a family-friendly show committed to the power of True Love, while also being a spiritual heir of Lost (the difference being that Once actually answers the numerous questions it raises; unfortunately, everyone in the audience has figured out the answers long before they are revealed). On the other hand, Grimm is a gritty noir procedural where love is vulnerable to secrecy and the chaos of the universe, while also bearing a structural resemblance to Buffy: the Vampire Slayer (the difference being that Slayers are women oppressed by patriarchy but empowered by magic; Grimms (and Nick specifically) bear great institutional power and are empowered by magic, which can make them scary as all hell).

Continue reading ‘Fantastic ableism and disability: the Amnesia Girl’

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”’

04
Nov
12

What’s got me Rumpel’d?: Once Upon a Time wasn’t enough

Warning: this post contains discussion of emotional abuse, ableism, and rape. Spoilers through “The Doctor.”

Additional note: Moff’s Law presiding, as usual. If placing Once Upon a Time within a larger social context of racism, ableism, and sexism is upsetting to you, please don’t read and leave nasty comments. I’d hate for you to waste your free time on something that frustrates you so.

About a year ago, I wrote a post about Rumpelstilskin from Once Upon a Time, noting the ableism and racism in his two personas while living in the Enchanted Forrest. If you’ll recall, Rumpelstiltskin the Town Coward walks with a limp and a cane, while Rumpelstiltskin the Dark One is able-bodied with dark, glittery skin. Meant as an introduction to the character, I didn’t say much in that post besides, “You know, racism is the most-likely influence behind one of OUaT’s biggest villains being called ‘the Dark One’ and having the start of his evilness coincide with the darkening of his skin.” In other words, Rumpelstilstkin as the Dark One, while being portrayed by a white man, embodies certain racist tropes that hold up whiteness and lightness as good and darkness as bad or evil.

Today, I wanna expand on that post by looking at how those two personas (Town Coward and the Dark One) relate to Baelfire and the women in Rumpel’s life.

Continue reading ‘What’s got me Rumpel’d?: Once Upon a Time wasn’t enough’

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”’

23
Jul
12

Twin Peaks: Manufacturing Quirkiness… and Danger

Warning: this post contains discussions of rape, child sexual abuse, and incest. Spoilers for Twin Peaks and Fire Walk with Me.

For those of you who don’t know, Twin Peaks is a cult drama that ran for two seasons from 1990-1991. In simple terms, the show is about the ripples created in a small Washington town after homecoming queen Laura Palmer is found dead. FBI agents come to town, secrets are revealed, new secrets are created, and everyone gets involved in at least one or two love triangles. Despite being a crime drama/primetime soap opera, Twin Peaks featured a lot of spiritual or supernatural elements and mysteries that would lay the groundwork for series like LOSTCarnivàle, and even Fringe (in which “science” becomes its own type of spirituality that allows people to share consciousness, speak to the dead, and transport souls). However, Twin Peaks will probably be remembered most for being weird, popularizing the Quirky Town trope through the town of Twin Peaks, and delving into some pretty weird shit in the spiritual realm (i.e., the Black Lodge, the Red Room). How the series creates this aura of quirkiness and weirdness is suspect.

Let’s start with the Quirky Town trope. As anyone knows, Quirky Towns are made up of Eccentric Townsfolk. On Gilmore Girls, Stars Hollow, the quirkiness capital of Connecticut, is home to Kirk (who holds a different job each episode), a troubadour, and Miss Patty (grand dame of dance and frequent name-dropper) just to name a few. Watching Twin Peaks, the purported mecca of Eccentric Townsfolk, I was struck by how very few residents were quirky compared to other Quirky Towns. I admit this is my own perception of the show colored by my own personal experiences. So why did I read Twin Peaks residents as less eccentric than I expected given the show’s hype? I can think of three possible reasons: 1. I grew up watching shows inspired by Twin Peaks‘ Quirky Town-ness that turned the trope up to 11 (e.g., Gilmore Girls). 2. I am weirder than the people of Twin Peaks and therefore find them normal. 3. I don’t find people with disabilities quirky or eccentric just for having disabilities. In my opinion, Twin Peaks tries to create of an aura of quirkiness by having a lot of characters with disabilities. How many? Let’s break it down.

Continue reading ‘Twin Peaks: Manufacturing Quirkiness… and Danger’

09
Jun
12

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’

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’




Space Crip

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