Wow, they beat the odds, they overcame adversity, they’re an inspiration to us all. They’re so courageous!
This is the usual positive way peoples with disabilities are portrayed in the media. The most prominent example is Christopher Reeve who the able bodied population admired because of his determined struggle to overcome his paralysis. But stories like his are commonly played in local news programs, magazines, or in TV shows.
Judging from how often such stories air, I must conclude that people like seeing them. Certainly no one seems to be complaining. I can understand their appeal. They offer a compelling narrative that viewers want to hear because it affirms their own struggles and shows that even the most difficult goals can be achieved. The narrative is often presented as a story of challenge, struggle, and unlikely success.
I gather from my own experience and from that of other disability bloggers that the “So Courageous” spirit exemplified in these stories is also a little troublesome and not as innocent as media would have us believe. In this series I will present multiple examples of this phenomena in order to winnow out the issues that are present in what has become the definitive “positive” presentation of disabilities in our culture.
For a little background about my “So Courageous!” terminology, check out this South Park episode when you have 20 minutes to kill. In this episode, the children of South Park are spurned by their parents for their intolerance of their gay schoolteacher’s outrageous behavior. The parents give the teacher an award for being “so courageous” in the face of their children’s discrimination, only to realize later that his behavior was actually inappropriate. Note that this episode may be offensive to some viewers, although I just think it’s hilarious.
Stay tuned for Act 2 where I'll explore the issues surrounding this topic.
This blog is about reconciling the two worlds of disability understanding. On one side are the strong voices of activists in the disability community. On the other is the well meaning but naïve/ ignorant able bodied population who see disability as something pitiable. As an able bodied person who has realized the very compelling and interesting arguments about society and life coming from the disability community, I am compelled to referee the exchanges between the two sides. Often times it seems that everyone is speaking so loudly and with such great conviction that the other doesn't even listen. Since I am not personally motivated by either side, I can weigh both sides of the arguments and hopefully facilitate an open and accepting space for both sides to express themselves and learn about each other. Please join the discussion!