Category Archives: creative work

Recommended Reading: Comics and Graphic Novels

As some of you may know, I am a cartoonist and graphic novel fan in addition to my regular duties blogging here at FWD. While I don’t get the “HEY ANNAHAM WHAT COMICS AND STUFF DO YOU LIKE TO READ?” query too often, I thought it might be useful to give an overview of graphic work that I think FWD readers and commenters might enjoy. Many of my recs have to do with illness and disability; a few, however, don’t. I’m always working on a new cartoon of some sort (mostly single-panel or multiple pages), and want to share the fruits of my research with folks who may want to read graphic novels, but have no clue where to start. Alternatively, some of these might make useful gifts for the holidays, either for the comics fan in your life or for yourself!

Lynda Barry: This woman is pretty much my hero. Although Barry has a background in art, her work shows that you don’t have to draw comics “realistically” for them to have an impact, or for the artwork to be strikingly beautiful. I probably would have stopped drawing autobiographical cartoons long ago were it not for her work; I do not have much artistic training to speak of, and there seems to be a widespread misconception that only “trained” artists can draw cartoons worth reading! While Barry does not address disability in her cartoons, many of her colorful slice-of-life strips bring readers back to the confusing and bizarre world of childhood and adolescence. If you were — or are — a “weird kid,” you will absolutely connect with Barry’s comics. Her 2008 creativity manual-slash-collage dreamworld What It Is may be particularly useful for the artists (or wannabe-artists), or indeed anyone who needs a push to start writing and creating; a follow-up, The Near-Sighted Monkey Book, was recently released. For those not familiar with her work, I recommend The Greatest of Marlys (a compilation of her long-running alternative comic strip Ernie Pook’s Comeek) and the autobiographical collection One! Hundred! Demons! to start, followed by What It Is; for those of you who like darker material involving (fictional) teenaged misadventures, drug use, and general weirdness, her illustrated novel Cruddy is a must-read.

Alison Bechdel, Fun Home (2006): Known primarily as the writer and illustrator of the alternative comic Dykes to Watch Out For (also worth checking out!), Bechdel really hits her stride with this lengthier autobiographical tale of family drama, the tensions between appearances and reality, destructive secrets, and sexual awakening. I could provide a synopsis, such as “This is a story about the writer’s complex relationship with her father,” but it is so much more than that. This is one of those books that I want to recommend to everyone who enjoys reading; it’s a work that rewards the time put into it tenfold. I get something new out of it every time I re-read it. The way that Bechdel draws facial expressions is nothing short of priceless, and the narrative as a whole is consistently amazing, complex, and intense.

Al Davison, The Spiral Cage (1989): This one can be sort of hard to track down, but: it’s very much worth the effort. Davison has spina bifida, and this graphic novel chronicles his life with both that condition and Chronic Fatigue Syndrome/M.E. The result — with its many nods to surrealism, and interesting explorations of masculinity and disability, as well as spirituality — is an honest, beatifully written and illustrated look at life with multiple disabilities.

Rantz Hoseley (editor) et al., Comic Book Tattoo (2008): Do you like (or love) Tori Amos’ music? Do you enjoy comics? If so, this is probably an anthology that you will get lost in for a couple of days. I was way, way into Tori’s music before I discovered comics and graphic novels, and the amazing range of this anthology — a collection of short graphic works and interpretations inspired by the singer’s massive back-catalog — makes it worth a look. For a compendium with such a huge variety of artistic styles and song interpretations, this collection has very few duds, and the overall quality of the stories included makes it worth the $30 price tag. This is not an anthology that you will read only once and then shove it onto the bookshelf to collect dust, in other words.

Harvey Pekar and Joyce Brabner (with illustrations by Frank Stack), Our Cancer Year (1994): Comics writer Harvey Pekar (he died earlier this year) was known as the cranky protagonist of American Splendor, but this collaboration with his wife, peace activist and journalist Joyce Brabner, brings illness and disability into the mix, and the result is positively great. Although the Pekar-Brabner-Stack team do not gloss over the realities of cancer at all — there are ample panels, and pages, that show the gruesome, life-altering effects of testicular cancer and its harsh treatment protocol — one does not get the sense that showing the worst aspects of this disease is for shock value. As Pekar and Brabner assert at the start of Our Cancer Year, this graphic novel is not just about cancer — it is also about partnership, the everyday (or not-so-everyday), and life.

David Small, Stitches (2009): For a full-length graphic work that doesn’t use much text or dialogue, this is certainly an astonishing piece. Small, who is a children’s book illustrator, utilizes his unique artistic style for this memoir, which tells the affecting tale of his battle against cancer — and near-fatal family secrets — starting when he was 11 years old. Small’s success at creating an overarching mood in this book is difficult to describe; all of the seemingly small choices that he makes as an author and illustrator here add up to a memoir that is both harrowing and ultimately life-affirming. In a review of Stitches for PopMatters, writer Sean Ferrell comments that “[the] book does not exemplify rising above, it exemplifies the continuing, life-long struggle to release the toxic histories we drag around with us.” It is truly to Small’s credit that he has used such painful past experiences to create an unforgettable work.

Commenters, what are some of your favorite comics and graphic works?

Creative Work: Sculptor Steve Eastwood

Sculptor Steve Eastwood is disabled as a result of a stroke at 19. Initially the prognosis for recovery was poor, and during his lengthy period of time in rehabilitation, he was exposed to pottery and started exploring sculpture. Today, he produces sculpture and also teaches a pottery class for disabled students.

Here’s some of his work:

A limestone sculpture of a man with flowing hair and a very expressive face, and a giant pair of wings.

‘Angel of the Midlands,’ a sculpture done in limestone.

A resin sculpture of David triumphant over Goliath's head. He's leaning on his sword and has his head propped on his other hand, looking down at the head on the ground.

‘David and Goliath,’ a resin casting.

And a segment on him, done by the BBC. It’s a bit patronising, especially at the end, but I thought some people might be interested in seeing him at work in his studio:

Transcript below the fold! (Note, this appearance is from 2008.)

Continue reading Creative Work: Sculptor Steve Eastwood

Recommended Reading for 10 December, 2010

Well, if it isn’t Friday again. I suppose it is for you, readers of the future, but I am writing this from Tuesday, in the past! Such is the power of the blog’s scheduling function.

Gentle reader, be cautioned: comments sections on mainstream media sites tend to not be safe and we here at FWD/Forward don’t necessarily endorse all the opinions in these pieces. Let’s jump right in, shall we?

An Actor Finds Truth & Power Negotiating her Vision Loss by Marilee Talkington guest posting at Brains of Minerva. Extremely relevant to this disabled actor’s interests, and a pretty wonderful piece in any case.

So I decided I wouldn’t tell the directors or anyone on the casting end that I was visually impaired. Which always felt like a betrayal. And I would show up as early as I needed to to re-write the entire script by hand in large print.  I hadn’t learned how to vocally advocate for myself yet in a way that didn’t feel angry or demanding, so at times I flat out lied. I remember calling an audition hotline once using a different name and asked if someone who was visually impaired could get the script ahead of time to memorize.  I was told that they couldn’t because it would pose an unfair advantage over the other actors.

Why CART in Government? by Martha Galindo at CCAC In Action:

1. Good government leads the way for all its citizens by setting best standards for equality and inclusion.

2. To reduce discriminatory gaps which now still exclude many able citizens (who happen to be deaf, deafened, or have a hearing loss, or who need quality text for many other good reasons) from regular and important government meetings, workshops, rallies, advisory committees, and public input to city, state, or federal bodies.

Lene Anderson at The Seated View: Disability Time

So there I am, sitting in the waiting room a full hour and half before my appointment and although I had a book, I was annoyed, so instead I started thinking about Disability Time. You don’t find it mentioned much in Google in the way it’s used in the disability world, but maybe some day, it’ll make its way into search engines. Disability Time refers to the way in which most things take much longer when you have a disability. There is personal Disability Time, as in it probably takes me double the time to make a cup of hot water in the microwave that it would you and then there is the Disability Time that’s imposed by others and there are a couple of those.

Donna Jodham: Out of sight out of mind

A few months ago I had a meeting with some officials of a financial institute to discuss making more financial planning services available to blind and sight impaired persons and at that time I raised the issue of making information available in alternate formats such as Braille, large print, and electronic text. To my chagrin but not to my surprise, the officials admitted that they had never thought of doing so. I also had a similar meeting with a major supermarket chain in Toronto to discuss making their weekly specials more available to their blind and sight impaired customers either online or through a phone service and again, I was told that this had not been thought of up until now.

Claudia Dreyfus for the New York Times: A conversation with Julian L. Seifter, Nephrologist and Patient. It’s an interesting interview with a physician, Dr. Julian Seifter, who just cowrote a book on living with chronic illness.

Q. Has being a patient helped you be a doctor?
A. I’ve certainly learned things I’ve brought back to the clinic. I have a retinopathy, for instance, which can be a complication of diabetes. I don’t have good vision in my right eye, as a result. When this first happened, I said to my ophthalmologist, “I can’t lose vision. I need to read.” And he said, “Any vision is better than no vision.”
That was important. I started thinking, “Concentrate on things you still can do and develop some new things.” I’ve since started gardening, which doesn’t require the most acute vision. It’s something I probably wouldn’t have done otherwise. I counsel my patients to replace what they’ve lost with something new.

Send your links to recreading[@]disabledfeminists[.]com. Let us know if/how you want to be credited. And have yourself a fabulous weekend.

Today in Journalism: The Film Critic Who Wouldn’t

Pity Jeannette Catsoulis. This poor New York Times film critic recently faced quite a conundrum when she was sent out to review Me, Too, written and directed by Álvaro Pastor and Antonio Naharro. I’ll let her tell you about it:

Fiction films with disability as a central theme (especially those that feature disabled actors) are not only tricky to assemble but also minefields to critique. Praise can sound patronizing and criticism cruel, the disability casting a bulletproof cloak of political correctness around the entire project.

I always love it when people make sure to bring up ‘political correctness’ in this context, because it’s such a nice little codephrase. The art is suffering! It’s because of them! Those politically correct people over there. A poor critic can’t even talk honestly about something without fear of being harried by a horde of angry crips. I know, I’m sniffling too.

Now, criticism in the sense of art criticism is a bit different than the type of critique we tend to focus on here, which is specifically analysing the depiction of disability in art. My discussions about, for example, Covert Affairs focus not on the quality of the show (terrible) or whether I think it’s a successful piece of art (no), or even its place within a larger artistic context, but specifically on how disability is handled. And obviously, what we do  here is also aimed at a specific audience, people interested in talking about disability in art and pop culture, rather than the general community.

I say this because I don’t want to conflate what I do with what Catsoulis does; her job is to look at works of art and criticise them as creative wholes, considering their influences, the genre, similar works, the history, and a myriad of other topics. This is not a sour grapes ‘I could do this better than her’ post, because we do two different things. That said, I don’t have very much sympathy for her. I think that good criticism stands for itself. If she’s being attacked for being ‘patronising’ or ‘cruel,’ she’s doing something wrong. Like, maybe her reviews actually are patronising or cruel.

I’ve read a lot of art criticism in my day, including critiques of pieces featuring disability. Those have indeed included discussions that were clearly patronising along with evaluations that were needlessly cruel. But they’ve also included good, solid criticism that actually engages with the work and tells me something about it, coming from people who don’t fall into the trap of only thinking about the disability and the ability status of the actors or creators. It can be done, I know, because I’ve seen it, and I enjoy reading it, whether the critic is shredding the piece or praising it.

Her attitude suggests that critics shouldn’t engage with works involving disability, and that if they do, they should not be honest. This does a service to absolutely no one. People with disabilities are just as interested in good criticism as everyone else. We make decisions about the art we want to consume on the basis of a broad assortment of characteristics, including things like critical response, and we don’t regard works featuring disability as inherently unassailable and would like to know, for example, if a film is just bad and we shouldn’t bother going to see it. Disability is not a free pass to do whatever you want in a creative work and that’s an attitude we spend a lot of time pushing back against.

I’ve noticed this attitude popping up in a lot of areas of media and pop culture. People are acting like it’s not fun anymore because of ‘political correctness,’ implying that a bunch of humourless people with no appreciation for art and culture are running around destroying creativity as we know it. Apparently, asking creators to stop relying on tired tropes and poor depictions of, say, disability, is ‘ruining art.’ Engaging with common tropes and the history of those tropes in art and asking why they keep appearing is ‘politically correct.’ Now the critics are joining in to complain about how legitimate complaints from people who don’t like hackneyed ‘criticism’ of the way their lived experience is portrayed is ‘ruining things.’

The snide remarks Catsoulis added to the top of her review didn’t really add anything to the discussion, other than serving as a warning that I shouldn’t trust her as a reviewer when she’s discussing works where disability is involved.

Creative Work: Yinka Shonibare, MBE

Everybody, I have found my new art crush. Yinka Shonibare, MBE is a British-Nigerian artist with an impressive list of awards, publications, and gallery exhibitions on his resume. And I am all kinds of in love with his work, from his art installations to his gallery pieces. I do love an artist with flexibility who  is just as likely to be found on the stage as in a gallery. And I like an artist who forces me to confront things about myself, to boot.

A headless mannequin in an ornate batik dress, leading three ocelots.

This piece is ‘Leisure Lady (with ocelots)’ and it pretty much sums up everything awesome about his work. For this sculpture series, he explores batik and other traditional textiles in ornate, beautiful gowns (seriously, if he did garment construction, I would totally be ordering from him) with clear Victorian influences. The headlessness of the mannequin provokes all kinds of thoughts in my head about identity; you could also read it as dehumanising, but I think it’s more complicated than that.

Two headless mannequins dressed in ornate and beautiful gowns. Each is holding up a pistol to aim at the other.

‘How to Blow Up Two Heads at Once (ladies).’ It’s disturbing. It’s challenging. It’s beautiful.

This quote about his work sums it up better than I can:

Known for using batik in costumed dioramas that explore race and colonialism, Yinka Shonibare MBE also employs painting, sculpture, photography, and film in work that disrupts and challenges our notions of cultural identity. Taking on the honorific MBE as part of his name in everyday use, Shonibare plays with the ambiguities and contradictions of his attitude toward the Establishment and its legacies of colonialism and class. In multimedia projects that reveal his passion for art history, literature, and philosophy, Shonibare provides a critical tour of Western civilization and its achievements and failures. At the same time, his sensitive use of his own foibles (vanity, for one) and challenges (physical disability) provide an autobiographical perspective through which to navigate the contradictory emotions and paradoxes of his examination of individual and political power. (source)

Video: Deaf Actress Shoshannah Stern On Her Role In ‘Children of a Lesser God’

I think it’s pretty well known around here that I have a huge crush on Shoshannah Stern, who appeared in Deaf West‘s production of Children of a Lesser God last year as Sarah, the role made famous by fellow Deaf actress Marlee Matlin (on whom I also have a huge crush). Sadly, the run of the play is long over, but this interview is still relevant and interesting, so I thought I’d share it!

Shoshannah Stern, a young Deaf woman, Signs throughout this video (transcript is of the subtitles, any errors mine!).

This role means the most to Deaf theatre, I think. It really put Deaf theatre on the map. It opened doors and made people interested in Deaf culture. They were willing to see Sign and Deaf people on stage. The door opened to Broadway, the Tonys, and of course the film with Marlee Matlin. I remember the day she won her Oscar. And now it feels like an honour to be able to play that role now.

I had the perception that the play was geared for hearing audiences, not for Deaf audiences. That it taught the hearing audience what Deaf people were all about, what Sign Language was. The director says many times this play inspired people to Sign and teach Sign Language. I understand why Deaf people feel frustrated about that and they want it to be Signed fluently without that feeling of responsibility. But I feel that responsibility is a blessing: to be able to get both audiences to enjoy the show. I think that if it’s done right, I don’t think we have to sacrifice anything. I don’t think the Deaf audience should feel they missed out. Especially now, because we’re doing a modern take on the play and it’s more accessible. Almost everything is Signed.

The problem I have is that many times in the script, Sarah says ‘what?’ a lot, but now I understand what’s said. I think it’s made interesting by today’s lens and with the ADA, with more awareness of theatre, Sign Language, and Deaf theatre availability. I think this play is more accessible than ever. The idea that ASL was a recognised language hadn’t come about. Now ASL has become more mainstream. People know about it, and it’s cool. So I think there’s more wiggle room for creative use of ASL, while remaining loyal to the script. We can be more creative with the language.

I am grateful for our director, because he understands the play so well. He knows what’s under the rock and the intent. ‘Mark Medoff really meant that, not this.’ Fascinating. What happened on Broadway, and why the line was written that way. Many times he’ll correct himself and say that this line really meant that, not this. It feels like he’s an encyclopedia on the play.

Myself, I will feel really frustrated sometimes. I’ll arrive home angry because people didn’t understand me. But never to the extremes that Sarah does. So I felt it was too…but once I went there, it really felt like she had a reason for that anger. That anger comes from hurt. She’s a very hurt person and she tries to explain why. And once I felt that, I really cherished Sarah and I realised that she was an emotionally intelligent person and tried to open up but no one gave her the chance to. I respect where she comes from and I am grateful for what we have today, and I realise we have a lot more ahead of us. We have to keep fighting, and that will never stop. Some things are still the same no matter how much things have changed since then.

If you’re interested in seeing Ms. Stern in action, she’s currently on Lie To Me, and she’s also teaching a workshop on ASL storytelling this 4 December at the Deaf West theatre in North Hollywood. Voice interpretation is available.

Poetry! Joshua Bennett Performing ‘Tamara’s Opus’

From the White House Poetry Jam! Transcription and description by Anna.

Joshua Bennett is a young Black man. While is poem his entirely in spoken English, he Signs some of the lines, and I have highlighted those lines with asterisks on either side.

Tamara has never listened to hip hop.
Never danced to the rhythm of raindrops or fallen asleep to a chorus of chirping crickets. She has been Deaf
for as long as I’ve been alive.
And ever since the day I first turned five my father has said:
“Joshua.
Nothing is wrong with Tamara.
**God just makes
some people
different.**”

And at that moment
those nine letters felt like hammers
swung gracefully by unholy hands to shatter my stained glass innocence
into shards that can never be pieced back together
or do anything more than sever the ties between my sister and I. I waited,
was patient numberless years anticipating the second her ears would open like lotuses and allow my sunlight senses to seep into her insides
make her remember
all of those conversations we must have had in heaven back when God handpicked us to be sibling souls centuries ago.
I still remember
her 20th birthday.
Readily recall my awe-struck 11 year old eyes as I watched Deaf men and women of all ages dance in unison to the vibration of speakers booming so loud
that I imagined angels chastising us for disturbing their worship with such beautiful blasphemy.
Until you have seen **a Deaf girl dance, you know
nothing
of passion.**
There was a barricade between us that I never took the time to destroy never even for a moment thought to look up the sign for **sister**, for **family**, for **goodbye. I will see you again someday.**
remember the face
of your little brother.

It is only now I see
that I was never willing to put in the extra effort to love her properly.
So as the only person in my family who is not fluent in sign language
I’ve decided to take this time to apologize.

Tamara
**I am sorry
for my silence.**

For true love knows no frequency, and so
I will use these hands to speak volumes that can never be contained within the boundaries of sound waves
I will shout at the top of my fingertips until digits dance and relay these mental messages directly to your soul.

I know
that there is no poem
that can make up for all the time we have lost so
please,
if you can,
**just listen.**

Things That Make My Life/Art Easier: Pens

As s.e. wrote about in a post earlier this week, I am a cartoonist in addition to all the other crap that I do. I’ve been drawing (and writing) for most of my life, and finding the perfect pen has been something of a wild turkey-chase with mixed results. I know that an entire post devoted to pens may seem silly, particularly given the more serious things that I have written about here on FWD. Re-reading some of Amanda‘s Things That Make My Life Easier posts has inspired me to write about…well, writing (and drawing) implements, because the right ones do make things easier for me.

I first read about the pain-reducing benefits of felt-tip pens in the second edition of Starlanyl and Copeland’s Fibromyalgia and Chronic Myofascial Pain: A Survival Manual; the authors, both medical professionals, include the use of felt-tip pens in a lengthy list of tips designed to reduce pain on an everyday basis. Felt-tip pens tend to be easier on the hands and joints. My one huge issue with felt-tips, however, is that many of them produce stronger lines than I would like. This is more of a problem when I attempt to use them for artistic purposes, as I don’t mind a little more heft in my hand-written notes and scribbles. I do use felt-tips on occasion in my cartoon work — especially for panel borders and heavy lines — just not very often.

Felt-tips are good for writing, but depending upon what sort of lines you’d like in your artistic works, the ease of use that felt-tips produce may be their only advantage. Obviously, they’re not the greatest for detail work. I tend to shy away from brushes and pens that require the use of an inkwell or a separate bottle of ink, as the gorgeous lines one can produce with those tools so often translates into absolute hell on my hand and wrist joints, plus a lot of repetitive motion from dipping the brush or pen into the ink and bringing it back to the page (which often equals further hell).

Ball-point pens that don’t have a lot of ink “flow,” in my experience, aren’t great for cartooning either, though they can be useful for storyboards and quick sketches. The ball-points that have worked the most effectively for me have been the “business”-type pens that most folks associate with actual business work. Perhaps people in business have to write things quickly and therefore cannot depend on crappy ball-points and/or face the frustration that inevitably arises when said crappy ball-point runs out of ink. Non-crappy ball points, such as the Uni-ball line of products, may be a bit more expensive than “traditional” ball-points, but if you want a smooth line that is not going to translate into extreme wrist or hand pain, a “business” pen of this sort might be for you.

Another pen type with which I have had some success has been actual drawing pens; many brands are available at art-supply stores or bookstores. I have found that experimentation with different types of pens is a good bet, if you’ve got the time for it (and assuming that you are cool with dropping a couple bucks on pens that might be either awesome or a total disaster). The Preppy fountain pen, made by Japan’s JetPens, may be a good bet for people who would like to experiment with fountain pens and the lines that these pens can create, but who may not have the time, energy or inclination to use a more traditional fountain pen (it has a reloadable ink-cartridge system that is very convenient). There is also the Stabilo brand, which I discovered quite by accident in the clearance rack of an art supply store (I bought a couple specifically because they were on sale). I use the Point 88 type because it’s light, comfortable to hold and can do excellent detail work, but your artistic/writing mileage may vary.

There is no “perfect” pen, of course, but there are some damn good ones out there if you’ve got the inclination to experiment.

Self-Portraits With Disability: Josephine King

Joesphine King is an artist with bipolar disorder who produces startling and evocative self portraits.

Josephine King remembers her first self-portrait and how it showed up out of nowhere. She was “really ill” with bipolar disorder, living alone in a flat in Amsterdam. “I was in psychosis. I was desperate, not at all well in my head. I thought, the only thing to do is a painting.” She worked until a woman emerged against a brilliant pink background. This was the painting that launched five years of obsessive self-portraiture, framed with texts spelling out what it is to be manic depressive. (source)

Originally establishing herself as an artist in ceramics, she turned to portraiture after her diagnosis in 1999.

A painting in several scenes. Across the top, representations of childhood: The artist sleeping in bed; a cozy house; the artist standing as a young child; a lighthouse. Two smaller scenes below, one of the artist sitting in a kitchen with a defeated expression, another of a cheery stove with a quilt behind it, a dog curled up on the hearth. Below, a larger image of the artist turning away from a canvas and being slapped by her brother. Around the frame, the text: 'My brother hit me in the atelier. Childhood fear + pain made me do it. Unbreakable bond.'

‘Unbreakable Bond’

The artist in a bold red skirt and grey striped top, holding a tiger with legs outstretched. Around the frame, the words: 'After the clinic, I went to India to look for tigers: I found none, just paper tigers.'

‘Paper Tigers’

The artist in a brown patterned dress with an apron, a small white and brown dog curled up next to her. Around the frame, the words: 'My beloved dog Primo decided to close his eyes forever. Grief released depression.'

‘Grief’

The artist in a blue shirt and skirt, standing stiffly with her arms by her side. A cigarette dangles from one arm. Around the frame, the words: 'My psychiatrist was a chain smoker. I didn't get a cure, but I took up smoking.'

‘Chain Smoker’

Each portrait tells a little piece of her story. I really love her use of colour, textures, and shapes and I like that while each picture stands on its own really well, they can also be viewed together as part of a larger narrative about her life and her disability.

More pictures of her work can be seen at The Independent and FWD readers in and around London can see her work on display at the Riflemaker gallery.

Representation: Actors With Disabilities Playing Characters With Disabilities

Here in the United States, the 2010/2011 television schedule is kicking off, and my mind naturally turns to representation for people with disabilities. I decided to compile a list of actors with disabilities playing characters with disabilities. This list is not necessarily complete; there are probably characters and shows I am forgetting about and unaware of, and it is entirely possible that actors with undisclosed disabilities are appearing in disabled roles.

One thing I note about this list is that these actors all share disabilities with their characters; we have, for example, Shoshannah Stern, a Deaf actress, playing a Deaf character.

And, although this list is in the US, fans of shows airing outside the US who want to add more representations, please do so!

Michael Patrick Thornton, who has a spinal cord injury, will be returning as Dr. Gabriel Fife on Shonda Rhimes’ show Private Practice. I’ve written about Dr. Fife here before, and I am looking forward to seeing more of him. Evidently he will be returning later in the season because he was working on a play when the first half was being shot.

Luke Zimmerman, an actor with Down Syndrome, will presumably be reappearing as Tom Bowman on The Secret Life of the American Teenager, an ABC Family drama. I haven’t caught very many episodes of this show so I can’t speak to how well the character is depicted, but I do not that Bowman is a sexual character and he appears to be a fairly complex character, rather than a one dimensional stereotype.

The Fox drama Lie To Me has hired Deaf actress Shoshannah Stern (whom I adore after her work on Jericho) for an unspecified number of episodes where she will be appearing as a graduate student assisting Dr. Lightman (Tim Roth) with research. Evidently, her presentation on the show revolves around concerns that because she is Deaf, she will have difficulty doing the work, but Dr. Lightman decides to hire her anyway. I think this storyline could either go really well, or really badly. I guess we’ll find out!

I think it’s safe to assume that both Lauren Potter and Robin Trocki will be reappearing on Glee. Lauren Potter as Becky Jackson has been spotted in some promotionals and an appearance has definitely been confirmed for the season opener. Robin Trocki, playing Jean Sylvester, will presumably show up at some point as well, undoubtedly in another ‘touching’ scene designed to humanise Sue Sylvester.

Long-running CBS hit CSI will be bringing back Robert David Hall as pathologist Al Robbins. One of the things I like about Robbins, although it has been a number of years since I watched CSI, is that he plays a character who happens to disabled, rather than a character who is all about his disability. His disability rarely comes up and while he walks with canes on the show, a big production isn’t made about his disability or  how he acquired it.

These representations span the map in terms of how well they depict disability. I think they pretty neatly illustrate that any representation is not necessarily a good representation. However, when you contrast them with roles where nondisabled actors are playing disabled characters, the picture changes; these depictions are fairly positive, while nondisabled actors in disabled roles are not so positive and in some cases heavily criticised for setting depictions of disability back. Clearly the cripface is a problem in these roles, but is that the only thing? Obviously, the writing of these characters is also a major issue, as is the research (or lack thereof) that goes into those roles, and it’s not always clear how much influence actors have on the writing of their characters; is it that shows using disabled actors put in a little more effort?

When we talk about pop culture at FWD, we tend to get a slew of trolling comments claiming that we don’t want to see disability on television at all or that we never want to see nondisabled actors in disabled roles. On the contrary, I want to see more disability on television, I just want it to be good depictions. Since the bulk of the good depictions are played by disabled actors, it begs the question: Can nondisabled actors appear in good depictions of disability, or are there inherent barriers that just make it impossible? Are there some depictions of disability played by nondisabled people that stand out in your mind as good depictions?