Tag Archives: pop culture

Mental Illness: Still Stigmatised! (I’m Shocked Too)

I happened to be browsing through The American Journal of Psychiatry the other day1 when I noticed an article discussing the persistence of stigmatised social attitudes about mental illness. Researchers conducted a study using brief vignettes and asking respondents to discuss their reactions to them2. The study found two interesting things:

The first was that a greater percentage of the population understands the neurobiological origins of mental illnesses. Not only do people have a better understanding of the origins of mental illness, but they are also more likely to recommend treatment for the people described in the vignettes. People support services for individuals with mental illness, in other words, although it’s important to note the publication this appeared in; it’s clear that these ‘services’ are heavily skewed towards psychiatrisation, and it’s also important to consider that this can correlate with increased pressure on people who choose not to pursue treatment.

The second thing they found was that although people understand mental illnesses better than they did before, there hasn’t been a significant change in terms of attitudes about mental illness. Despite social campaigns organised by a number of groups, social attitudes about mental illness are primarily negative and people continue to hold a lot of false beliefs about mental illness.

People understand mental illness better, but it hasn’t changed the way they think about people with mental illness. Given that 20% of people in the US experienced symptoms of mental illness in 2009, this is a disturbing finding. Many of the respondents probably had mental illness themselves, though not necessarily the illnesses discussed in the study, or know some of the one in five people who experience mental illness in the United States.

As the article itself says:

Public attitudes matter. They fuel ‘the myth that mental illness is lifelong, hopeless, and deserving of revulsion.’ …Attitudes can translate directly into fear or understanding, rejection or acceptance, delayed service use or early medical attention. Discrimination in treatment, low funding resources for mental health research, treatment, and practice, and limited rights of citizenship also arise from misinformation and stereotyping. Attitudes help shape legislative and scientific leaders’ responses to issues such as parity, better treatment systems, and dedicated mental illness research funds.

What this study shows is that beliefs about reduction of stigma appear to be erroneous, suggestive that campaigns to end stigma are, perhaps, not working as well as intended. Indeed, some of these campaigns seem to actively reinforce stigmatised attitudes about mental illness.

I write a lot about pop culture, here and elsewhere, both because I love pop culture and I think it’s important. This study reminds me of the information about mental illness that people absorb through pop culture consumption. What people learn about mental illness from pop culture is that it is scary and that people with mental illness are frightening and dangerous. But, ‘they’ can be controlled with the use of medication. Both of these attitudes are clearly reflected in the study, which tells us that more people support treatment while still feeling negatively about mental illness.

The increased understanding of the neurobiological origins of mental illness can be attributed to a lot of things, I suspect, but one of them may well be the popularity of mental illness storylines on medical dramas. House, for example, often uses mental illness and includes expository scenes with (some) medical information. This, along with Dr. Google, results in a lot more understanding about the workings of the mind. On the surface, this might seem to be a good thing, but not when it fails to be presented with a shift in depictions of mental illness.

It’s all well and good for people to learn that, for example, people cannot control or prevent the onset of schizophrenia, and that people with mental illness aren’t at fault for what is happening in their minds any more than people who have asthma are at fault for having difficulty breathing. This is an important thing to convey to members of the public. But when it’s paired with a storyline involving violence or deceit on the part of the patient, it still leaves people with the impression that mental illness is bad. It might not be someone’s fault, but people are still bad because they’re mentally ill.

This is why we talk about things like the depiction of mental illness in pop culture: Because people take things away from what they engage with and they apply those things to their larger lives. Someone who learns about mental illness primarily by watching, say, House or Grey’s Anatomy may learn more about the medicine behind mental illness, but doesn’t take away anything new about the human beings involved. When TV shows tell us primarily that mental illness is a frightening unknown that can be controlled with medication, that doesn’t do much to break down social stigma.

Campaigns attempting to destigmatise mental illness have used a variety of creative media for trying to get their point across, from having people with mental illness enter classrooms to talk to students to running advertisements. If you ask me, they might be more effective if they went straight for the heart of pop culture; getting more mentally ill people involved in consulting when it comes to how we are depicted, publicly addressing stigmatised depictions of mental illness in pop culture, and challenging creators of pop culture to integrate more positive and factually accurate depictions of  mental illness.

  1. No, really.
  2. If you’re interested in seeing a critique of the study methods, they handily printed an editorial in the same issue.

Girls in Pants: The Very Special Lesson on How to “Draw the Chair”

Cover for "Girls in Pants: The Third Summer of the Sisterhood" By Ann Brashares, a light orange cover with the title in bright blue, authors name at bottom, and a pair of well worn blue jeans centered over the names of several universities "Brown, RISD, University of Maryland, Williams) in the background in darker orange.Gentle Readers! It has been a long time and I know you were afraid that I had forgotten to read and review Ann Brashares’ third installment of the much beloved YA series The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants! Well, fear not! I managed to fit it in whilst chewing my way through Terry Goodkind’s Sword of Truth series (don’t you worry, I have something for all of you on that, as well!), which is not a small feat. Sometimes it is nice to read a book that isn’t beating me about the head with an Ayn Rand-ian philosophy cudgel.

*ahem*

*stops derailing her own post*

For those of you who haven’t read The Sisterhood of the the Traveling Pants series, I can give you my brief brush up, and if you have, feel free to skip ahead to the rest of this post.

The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants is a wonderful series about four young women: Bridget (Bee), Carmen, Lena, and Tibby, born withing seventeen days of each other. They are more than just friends, having grown up together due to their mothers being best friends, and having grown so close that they forget where one ends and the other begins. It is not uncommon to find Tibby tapping her foot on Lena’s leg or Bridget leaning her chin on Carmen’s shoulder while playing with her hair. They can tell when each other are hurting or hiding something or bubbling over with joy or exciting news. They have grown up sharing in each others’ joys, triumphs, losses, and sorrows. They have experienced growing pains and growing up as a unit and have leaned on each other for support through things like Carmen’s parent’s divorce, Tibby’s parent’s decision to have more children when she was much older, and Bridget’s mother’s suicide. Even as the other three mothers drifted apart, they seemed to hold tighter to each other Continue reading Girls in Pants: The Very Special Lesson on How to “Draw the Chair”

The “Gifted” — Who Needs Assistance When You Just Work Hard Enough?

Terry Goodkind’s Sword of Truth series, recommended to me by The Guy, my partner of several years now, whom I thought loved me, seemed innocuous enough. I thought it a simple fantasy series woven with a love story (“woven” here should read more like a nice cudgel to the head), which I was looking for. I thought it would be a nice epic fantasy, like Kushiel’s Dart, or something to sate my need for a good run of fantasy novels.

I however, didn’t heed Anna’s warning, when she asked me whywhyWHY would someone who loves me recommend a book series to me where a chicken is written in as EVIL personified (this is actually a simplification of the storyline, but it is true, nonetheless…), and as it turns out I think Anna may love me more. Who knows. Maybe I was hooked by the way the first two books ended with just the most convenient and precious heterocentric endings ever (there is one brief nod in the fourth book to homosexuality that seems it could be positive, but then it ends sadly, and seven books later there is no happy ending for this character).

The Sword of Truth series, however, does have many good qualities. It has several well written female characters whom I fell in love with, but, as I will write more about at my home blog, all seem to be written to be smitten with and to be in the service of the central protagonist, Richard Cypher/Rahl. They simply fall all over themselves to serve him, to love him, and to swear their lives to protect him with everything they have. Even if they were once evil or if they have tendencies to be evil (it’s just their way, you see, some women can’t help it), they somehow over come it because his presence is enough to ignite a spark to make them want to fight for their own lives him. I mean his cause.

But the Sword of Truth series isn’t just an innocent fantasy series. It isn’t even a series filled with tropes about women characters that I love that happens to beat me upside the head with forbidden romance and a love forbidden to procreate. It is a cautionary tale that warns of the evils of allowing communism to take over your life. This strange story of caring for your fellow man is bent into a monolithic monster of a machination that kills everything it touches. It simply asserts that you must live in misery for that is the only way that everyone can possibly meet the needs of every human evil, and makes the horrible and incorrect logical leap that religion is somehow tied to it, that this life is meaningless and that goodness can only be obtained in the hereafter. I can’t say I disagree with the atheistic themes, but really, a horse can only be beaten so many times before I glaze over and gloss over entire pages of exposition and soliloquy.

To be righteous in this world that Mr. Goodkind has created you must be willing and — key word alert here — able to fight for your own life and protect it with everything you have, up to and including killing those who would take it from you. With sword, with your bare hands, with magic if you are … gifted.

Yes, “gifted”. Being born with the ability to use and be touched by magic is considered a gift, which is not an uncommon theme in fantasy fiction and pop culture, but Goodkind takes it a step further, it seems to me. It is almost as though magic is another sense, an ability above and beyond that makes up for any other sense you may lack. Because if there is one thing that is all but lacking from this world that Mr. Goodkind has created, it is disability on the side of the bringers of good.

Even Adie, the “bone woman” (who oddly enough, having the speech pattern “I be” in the books*, is depicted as a non-white woman in the television series equivalent Legend of the Seeker even though that is now how she is described, but she is All Exotic! with Bones!), who had her vision stripped from her in her youth by a group of anti-magic zealots known as The Blood of the Fold by pouring bleach in her eyes, has learned to see. Her “gift” has enabled her to see. In fact, her vision, as is noted many times in the books, is often better than those who must rely on their ‘non-gifted’ vision.

I am going to drop the quotes from here on out, because it is getting tedious, and I think you get the point.

Adie never had to learn how to access the world around her. She never had to learn how to stumble around and feel with her other senses. She did, however, have to learn how to see with her magic, which made up for the vision which wasn’t there. This gave her the ability to be worthy, in the world that Goodkind created, to be able to fight for her life, and be allowed to live. People should just try harder, as Adie did. If you can’t get by in life, it is your own fault, and you are not contributing properly to the artwork that is the nobility of man!

You can understand why I was having a problem here.

Normally with pop-culture and fiction, there aren’t really absolutes, and I admit that there are multiple ways of interpreting things, but Goodkind has done a unique thing here: he has created a world of moral absolutes. This is right and this other things is wrong. What Richard Rahl (the protagonist) believes is right, and what he is against is wrong. There is clear good and evil, and the lines are rarely blurred. This use of a gift of magic allows people who otherwise have flaws to remain on the correct side of Richards moral compass. Richard, and Goodkind himself, could be described as Objectivists, which I think would clear up my frustrations. It should have set off alarms as soon as the philosophy lessons started to seep into my fantasy novel. Except OOPS! Mr. Goodkind says he is not a fantasy writer, merely a fiction writer he says (fuck you, fans!), so I have been wrong all along…

But Adie couldn’t be useful to the story, she couldn’t be the powerful and badass sorceress that she is depicted as being if she was indeed blind, amirite? Because if she was wasting all of her time trying to adapt to a world that was refusing to make accommodations for her she wouldn’t be able to fight for her individual life, or for Richard’s noble cause of laissez faire Capitalism freedom for all mankind (and I guess some of those womenfolk too).

The only time that her magical eyesight didn’t work was when she was faced with a woman, Jennsen, who was born without even a spark of the gift, called a “pristinely ungifted” person. She can not be touched by or interact with magic. Turns out, that Jennsen is Richard’s half sister, and her being ungifted is the bi-product of Richard’s gift. There can be only one! She has to be ungifted so that he can be gifted. It is very complicated, and there is an entire race of people on whom Adie’s magical eyesight doesn’t work! And Jennsen had to help Richard rally them up, because they were blind (oh the tropes and ableist language abound!) to evil, and their pacifist asses wouldn’t raise a finger to fight for their artwork of individual self interest.

I was just frustrated beyond all belief.

So if you want a nice stew of -ism and fuckery passed off as philosophy and disguised with characters that you will certainly love, I recommend Goodkind’s Sword of Truth series. All eleven (soon to be twelve!) books of it!

EDIT: 01 Sept: I forgot a couple of links when I finished this post. Apologies!

Recommended Reading for Wednesday, 4 August 2010

Warning: Offsite links are not safe spaces. Articles and comments in the links may contain ableist, sexist, and other -ist language and ideas of varying intensity. Opinions expressed in the articles may not reflect the opinions held by the compiler of the post and links are provided as topics of interest and exploration only. I attempt to provide extra warnings for material like extreme violence/rape; however, your triggers/issues may vary, so please read with care.

2010 WWBC: An Australian wheelchair basketball athlete goes for a shot.

Photo by Flickr user Ben_Smith_UK, Creative Commons license.

Rhydian Fôn James at The Guardian: Comment is free: We want to work – but government would rather cut costs than help us

The vast majority of pension credit claimants make genuine claims for money to support them in old age. Only a few very strange people would suggest that pensions should be cut for everyone, just because a handful of pensioners play fast and loose with the system. And yet, that is the argument made for the sick and disabled. Why? It is all about the tabloid-stoked perception of anyone claiming disability-related benefits as potential scroungers who are able to work. This line of thought suggests that most disabled people are capable of some kind of work – however minimal – and that benefits disincentivise work. Such thinking allows the government to take a hacksaw to the welfare state in the guise of benevolence aimed at reducing fraud.

Jim Kenyon at Valley News: ‘Temporary Custody’ (content note, descriptions of police brutality)

After going outside, McKaig spotted a police officer standing on the steps leading into Burwell’s townhome. The officer wasn’t hard to miss — he held a high-powered rifle. “I know the man who lives there,” McKaig recalled telling him. “He’s a black man with a medical problem who was recently taken by ambulance to the hospital.”

Two officers — one female — apparently were already inside Burwell’s home. Upon arrival, Cutting said, officers discovered the man inside was unresponsive, and found smoke in the home emanating from a lamp that had been knocked over.

If the officers had stopped on the second floor to look at the pictures of Burwell and his elementary-school aged daughter displayed under the dining room table’s glass top, they probably would have had pretty good confirmation that their burglary suspect was in fact the townhome’s resident.

Shaun Heasley at Disability Scoop: Chemical Castration Drug Peddled As Autism Treatment (h/t Lauredhel, content note, neurobigotry)

However, many medical experts are questioning the claims, saying that there’s no reason to suggest a link between autism and mercury and that there is no proof that Lupron would help remove excessive amounts of mercury from the body. What’s more they are highlighting the risks that Lupron can bring patients including heart problems, stunted growth and impotence, reports the (Fort Lauderdale) Sun Sentinel.

Anna Gorman at the Los Angeles Times: Mentally ill immigrant detainees should receive legal representation, suit says

Immigrant detainees with severe mental disabilities have a constitutional right to legal representation in immigration court, according to a lawsuit filed late Monday by a coalition of legal organizations.

The lawsuit was filed in federal court in Los Angeles on behalf of six immigrants from California and Washington who have been diagnosed with schizophrenia, depression and mental retardation and are being held in immigration detention centers around the country or are fighting their cases in immigration court.

“If someone cannot understand the proceedings against them, due process requires that they be given a lawyer to help them,” Ahilan Arulanantham, director of immigrants’ rights for the American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California, said in a statement.

AllAfrica.com: Disability Movement Contributes to NCC

Mr Ngwale said 18 disabled people’s organisations (DPOs) with representation from most provinces met from Thursday to Saturday last week at Capital Hotel in Lusaka where it was resolved that Article 53 clause one of the Draft Constitution be amended to address concerns of persons with disability.

Mr Ngwale said in an interview in Lusaka yesterday the disability movement discussed and adopted principally, Article 53 of the Draft Constitution.

Article 53 clause one reads that persons with disabilities are entitled to enjoy all the rights and freedoms set out in this Bill of Rights on an equal basis with others.

Potentially relevant to your interests! I am back at Bitch Magazine for the next eight weeks under the title ‘Push(back) at the Intersections.’ A bit more about what I will be talking about:

I’m interested in how people interact with feminist critiques of pop culture, and I’m not just looking at nonfeminist responses, but also feminist ones. Some of the strongest pushback when it comes to feminist explorations of pop culture comes from within the feminist community, rather than from outside it.

Push(back) at the Intersections is about challenging dominant narratives, starting with ‘feminists united against the world.’ There are, as we know, all kinds of schisms within feminist communities, many of which play out over old and tired ground, including in the world of pop culture discussions.

Recommended Reading for 02 August 2010

Warning: Offsite links are not safe spaces. Articles and comments in the links may contain ableist, sexist, and other -ist language and ideas of varying intensity. Opinions expressed in the articles may not reflect the opinions held by the compiler of the post and links are provided as topics of interest and exploration only. I attempt to provide extra warnings for material like extreme violence/rape; however, your triggers/issues may vary, so please read with care.

RH Reality Check: Decriminalizing and the Global AIDS Epidemic

The International AIDS Conference’s theme of “Rights here, Right now” was clearly in evidence throughout the five days of the international meeting. An exuberant march through the streets of Vienna, a large human rights networking zone, multiple sessions on various aspects of human rights and numerous poster presentations addressed topics such as rights of sex workers and people with different sexual orientations, monitoring human rights violations, and combating stigma and discrimination. The subject receiving the highest level of attention, however, concerned the law: criminalization of behaviors and groups of people in the context of HIV/AIDS.

MÉDECINS SANS FRONTIÈRES (MSF): HIV/AIDS: The Stories and Trends Behind the Science

Despite the growing evidence that rapid scale up of HIV/AIDS treatment reduces unnecessary death, staves off disease, and reduces transmission of the virus, international donors are wavering and sending the message to scale back treatment plans.

European Disability Forum: From Spain to Belgium: The Disability Itergroup Explores the Job Yet to Be Done

29 July 2010 /// In the whilst of latest European warm wave, slightly before the European Parliament summer break, the Disability Intergroup held two meetings to sum up the achievements of the Spanish Presidency leaving office, and the challenges ahead for the incoming Belgian Presidency. Early July, a second meeting in Strasbourg focused on violence against women with disabilities. Ana Pelaez, one of the leaders of the European disability movement reminded the growing rate of violence against woman with disabilities in the EU.

Change.org’s Race In America Blog: Why Pop Culture Matters to Race Bloggers (Via Racialicious)

It may seem as if race bloggers are exceptionally preoccupied with blogging about pop culture. Indeed, whole sites are dedicated to debating the racial missteps associated with The Last Airbender, with a national boycott of the film underway in protest of the movie’s colorstruck casting. But, before you dismiss these efforts as unimportant, remember that the racial narratives in movies like The Last Airbender don’t just reflect contemporary racial attitudes — they also help define them. In short, challenging these pop culture icons is a key part of understanding — and changing — attitudes towards race in today’s America.

Pizza Diavola: ALERT: HHS Rule Banning Abortion Coverage in High Risk Pools

The Obama administration issued a rule yesterday that denied abortion insurance coverage for women in high-risk insurance pools (limited exceptions for rape, incest, and endangering the life of the woman). What exactly does this mean, aside from the steady eradication of a woman’s right to make decisions about her body, her future, and her reproductive choices herself? Well. The high-risk insurance pools are meant to provide health insurance to people who have been denied access to private health insurance due to pre-existing conditions. As a Planned Parenthood email puts it, these high-risk pools are for “some of the most medically vulnerable women in the country — those with pre-existing conditions such as breast and ovarian cancer, AIDS, diabetes, and other conditions that may make pregnancy extraordinarily dangerous.”

If you’re on Delicious, feel free to tag entries ‘disfem’ or ‘disfeminists,’ or ‘for:feminists’ to bring them to our attention! Link recommendations can also be emailed to recreading[@]disabledfeminists[.]com

Recommended Reading for July 14

Warning: Offsite links are not safe spaces. Articles and comments in the links may contain ableist, sexist, and other -ist language and ideas of varying intensity. Opinions expressed in the articles may not reflect the opinions held by the compiler of the post and links are provided as topics of interest and exploration only. I attempt to provide extra warnings for material like extreme violence/rape; however, your triggers/issues may vary, so please read with care.

Via Delicious:

RMJ at Bitch Magazine Blog: TelevIsm: Ableism, Appropriation, and United States of Tara

There are a lot of things that USOT does with its conceptual portrayal of disability that I like as a woman with disabilities. The producers did a lot of research—they consulted and worked with a DID specialist. In my [subjective] reading, main character Tara’s disability is not framed as a tragedy or particularly pitiable. It’s something that she lives with, and in my reading of the first season it’s explicitly used as a tool to cope with the repercussions of trauma. It’s something that she and her family work with and through on a day-to-day basis. She rejects medication that would “cure” her, reflecting the complexity of making decisions about medical care and pills. She experiences discrimination, and often argues against it.

But the show’s depiction of disability is inherently problematic because while it’s somewhat relatable, it’s not normalized. The point of the show is “look at this woman with multiple extra-wacky personae! Isn’t that hilarious and crazy and weird?” Furthermore, Tara’s form of DID is representative of only about 5% of all DID cases—instead of normalizing DID, the producers have chosen the most sensational form of the disorder.

RMJ at Deeply Problematic: Disability is Relevant to Feminism Part Infinity: Study Shows that Long-Lived Women have higher rates of disability:

Disability is naturally ocurring, and not something to be eliminated. But when women experience disability at disproportionate rates, it is indicative not of a wide variety of different human experiences and bodies. It’s indicative of sexist demands placed on women’s bodies throughout our lifetime.

Blogs:

terajk has done up another thorough transcript at Transcripts for Everyone: Transcript of interview with Neli Latson’s mother

This is a transcript of Nicole Flamer’s (of “You Aut to Know!” on Blogtalk Radio) interview with Lisa Alexander, whose autistic son Neli Latson was arrested after being harassed by the police.

Maria at the Hathor Legacy: WISCON 34: Activism: When to Speak Up, When to Let it Go

BCH pointed out that it’s sometimes easier to engage when you’re not seen as personally invested, and also said it’s good to know exactly what your rights are. The BUST card from the ACLU is useful for this. CTJ said she needed to ask herself the following: “Do I feel safe? Do I have backup? Will they listen? Is there someone nearby for whom I want to set a good example? I’ll only try to teach a pig to sing if there’s someone nearby who might find that song useful.”

Nebby at Hopeful Nebula: On Erasure in the Eureka Season 4 Premier SPOILERS!

So, just watched Eureka 4.01 “Founders Day.” Loved it, right up until the last few minutes.

Jedifreac at Racebending: Tinkerbell’s Amazing Ethnic Friends

So if when animated characters are made flesh, they become real, then what does it mean when an animated character with indigenous ethnicity and an anorak–one of the very few animated female heroines to ever be depicted with dark skin–is transferred into the real world, but looks and is portrayed by someone who is white?

At Racebending.com we hear a lot about what this might mean from an adult perspective, ranging from “racism” to “cultural appropriation” to “nothing to get your panties in a twist over.”

But I want to know what it means to a kid. Because children notice skin color. And they quickly notice, from observing how adults treat one another, that skin color clearly matters.

Alias-sqbr: A question for people who use image descriptions (Comments are of interest)

I always try and add alt tags, descriptions, and (when relevant) transcripts to my images. But I thought it was worth checking to see if anyone who uses these things (because of visual impairments, text-only browsing, speaking English as a second language etc) has any preferences for me doing them differently (and thus I ask here, where I post my art, rather than at my Serious Business journal). If I’m going to do them I might as well make them as useful as possible.

I guess my main questions are…

If you’re on Delicious, feel free to tag entries ‘disfem’ or ‘disfeminists,’ or ‘for:feminists’ to bring them to our attention! Link recommendations can also be emailed to recreading[@]disabledfeminists[.]com

Recommended Reading for July 6, 2010

jadelennox (DW): How to fight ableism: some easy steps

So I thought it might be valuable to gather together some ways in which able-bodied people can do something about ableism in the world. Then, next time a person is feeling frustrated about ableism, and is thinking about doing some signal boosting of, say, some crappy thing the writers did on the latest episode of Glee, maybe that individual would have the option of committing to spending the same amount of time doing some more concrete fighting of ableism. Not that I’m critiquing the kind of signal boosting that a lot of us do on the blogosphere! But I’m assuming some people would find utility in hearing about other things they could do that might be useful.

Venus Speaks: Between the Lines

Today I realized something: How my disabilities shape the words I do, and more often don’t, say.

For instance: Whenever anyone uses the word “crippled”, I spot it from a mile away. Context doesn’t matter – it could be in anything – a novel, a newspaper article, a headline. “Recession cripples the American economy”, or “The onslaught cripples the meager defenses” or simply “crippling blow”.

Lauren McGuire at Sociological Images: On Disability and the Public Service Announcement [accessibility warning: embedded content lacks transcripts]

Disability-related PSAs cover a wide range of topics, but generally there are three main categories that the message falls into: how people with disabilities are viewed/treated by society, their value in the job market and society, and what their lives are like. Although these are pretty straightforward messages, there is a great deal of variety in the ways in which these basic messages are presented.

Michael Le at Racialicious: An Open Letter to Racebending.com Detractors

It’s easy to draw comparisons between the Airbender casting and an English actor playing an Irish one, or a Spanish actor playing an Italian actor. But it’s not really the same, and the reason is that Hollywood and media don’t consider whether an actor is Irish or Spanish or English. They think of that actor as “white.” The same is not true of actors who are Asian or Latino, who have to fight over the few roles specifically written for those ethnicities. And a lot of times, even when a role is steeped in Asian culture, even when a role is based on real-life individuals of Asian descent, those roles still go to white actors.

Garland Grey at Tiger Beatdown: CRAWLING OUT OF BED: Internalized Ableism and Privilege

In the two years since I have learned things about my own body. I have learned that once my knees start wobbling, GAME OVER. There is no powering through. There is no mystical internal light of determination that I can draw on – if I keep going my body will fail me. This has been a humiliating lesson to learn. But I can still walk. I can still exercise within limits and these limits expand the more I push them. I have also learned how much privilege I carry. I don’t have chronic insomnia like other members of my family. I’ve never lost a job because of being hospitalized, like my friends with Fibromyalgia. If I’m spending time with someone, and I don’t want to have to go into the whole story I can take an anti-inflammatory and ignore the pain, or blame it on fatigue.

Depictions of Disability That Make Us Happy

Movie poster from Dreamworks' How To Train Your Dragon: a night-blue sky with a full moon, and a midnight black dragon with large, pale eyes stares down at a pale, brown haired boy who reaches up to try to touch its face. The poster text reads: Dreamworks [next line] How to Train Your [next line] Dragon [next line] 3D.We took The Kid to the base theatre on Wednesday night to see Dreamwork’s How to Train Your Dragon, which is loosely adapted from a YA Book series of the same name.

[Tame OYD Review with mild SPOILERS ahead]

It is a story of a teen boy, Hiccup, who lives in the Viking village of Berk, which is on an island. His village of one of fierce dragon slayers, and Hiccup is the only son of the chief, Stoick the Vast. Except, he isn’t really very good at slaying dragons, because he is kind of clumsy (I can relate). Longing to be accepted, despite his awkwardness, among his tribe and the other viking teens, and naturally wanting to win the heart of the beautiful girl, Hiccup wants to be a great dragon slayer, too, until he actually catches one of the fiercest and little-known about breeds of dragon, the dreaded Night Fury.

Just when Hiccup has the chance to Slay the Dragon, he realizes that he doesn’t have the heart to kill the creature that looks up at him and surrenders its will in such a helpless manner. He lets the dragon go, and in turn, the dragon doesn’t kill him, which goes against everything he has ever been taught. Slowly over time he earns the dragon’s trust, and learns that that the reason the dragon hasn’t left is because part of his tail has been lost when Hiccup captured him.

Using his knowledge of the forge, Hiccup fashions a sort of prosthetic half-tail for the dragon, and together he and the dragon learn how to fly together, because the dragon now needs assistance using the new tail piece.

There are many themes in the movie that I am not going to excuse. If you think by now that you are going to see a Dreamworks movie that has a fair representation of girl characters, you are wrong, as they even manage to throw in some boob jokes, and once again, the main character has lost his mother in another ridiculous excuse to not have to write one in or to draw out some sympathy for him. Mothers in pop-culture and YA literature/movies are never to be known and always to be mourned. If you think there is anyone who is non-white in this movie, think again. And if anyone tries to excuse it by telling me that “This is a Viking village!”, I can tell you that there were probably more non-white people around Villages than actual dragons, so they could have maybe thrown a bone in there, especially since they had America Ferrara voicing the female lead, because I think that might have been a nice nod to her character. (But at least she wasn’t a wilting lily of a wee girl.)

But I can tell you that I don’t have to love every aspect of things that affect my marginalization to be impressed when something actually goes right once in a while.

At the end of the Epic Battle (no I won’t spoil that), Hiccup loses his foot, and is fitted with a prosthetic one made in the forge, and other than two brief mentions of it, and a heart warming moment when his dragon helps him start to adapt to learning to use it, that was pretty much all the attention given to it. Hiccup, being a mechanical tinkerer, says he might play around with it and improve upon it, but, no one makes a Big Deal. While this might not be realistic and probably dismisses the reality of dealing with that type of loss (and in the mythical world they created this is a common thing they deal with), I liked that this loss of Hiccup’s foot was not treated as The Worst! Thing! Evah! Hiccup actually just goes out, and climbs aboard his dragon. Life as usual. In fact, his fancy new foot fits better into his riding harness, the one he made for the prosthetic tail for his dragon.

I like it when we can see people with disabilities in a positive light. Moreover, I like it more when the characters in pop-culture around this character aren’t reacting in a way that makes it seem as if this is the worst tragedy to ever hit their lives. They are Vikings, and in the long view of things, they have managed to avert a major crisis and now have dragons for pets, which is pretty cool. Stoick is thrilled to have his son, the person, with him, and the depiction of the girl is still…well, painfully stereotypical.

But this depiction of disability, it made me very happy.

When She Was Bad

Moderatrix Note: This is a post from my “Summer of Buffy” series (or “Season of Buffy” for my Southern Hemisphere friends, who want to be MONSTERS and have different seasons and ruin my pun, but you are my favourite people EVAH and I love you!), which I thought was appropriate for cross posting, due to the subject matter. I hope you enjoy it, or find it worthy of discussion if nothing else. You may read more of that at random babble… where I frequently blog about and critique pop-culture.

When Buffy Season 1 ended with “Prophecy Girl” we saw a lot of things happen.

The Hellmouth actually opened, for the first of what will be many times (I really hope that isn’t too much of a spoiler for many of you), Cordelia drove her car through the school, and Buffy faced The Master and died. For a minute or two (Hey! It’s TV!).

Also through the miracle of TV, Xander (who can never do what he is told, ever, and it always works out to a convenient plot device) and Angel showed up just in time to revive her and send her on her way to be the prettiest Not Zombie ever (that was The Guy’s thing, OK).

So when Season 2 picks up and Buffy is returning from a summer with her dad we have a whole new Slayer who comes back as a whole new, shall we say, snarkier Buffy with a better haircut.

So here’s the part where Joss is gonna get some shit from me: Buffy is so incredibly obviously dealing with Some Issues. She is having flashbacks while training. She is having some really shit-tastic nighmares where Giles tries to choke her to death while her best friends watch, Giles actually being The Master in a Giles mask. To me the most disturbing part of the dream is that Buffy dreams that her friends are asking how she is doing… something that isn’t happening in real life, and that in a way she dreams that Giles allowed her to die, which I think she might actually believe…

So she is lashing out at her friends. Full scale snark at Xander and Willow and Giles. She mocks Willow —  something she dropped Cordelia faster than Kid drops food under the table on a clean floor for doing. She pulls Xander out onto the dance floor at The Bronze and proceeds to do what was henceforth known as her “sexydance” that made both Angel and Willow jealous. In fact, if you mention Season 2 Ep. 1 “When She Was Bad” to some vaguely familiar with Buffy, the first thing they remember is “sexydance”. She romps about with a new personae that manages to get Cordelia to pull her aside and ask if she was running for “Bitch of the Year”.

If Cordelia is up in your shit about your “Joan Collins ‘tude”, then it is time for a deep inward assessment.

But what no one did was try to actually talk to Buffy, which is what bothered me about the writing of this episode.

See, Buffy died, and I am pretty sure that upset her a bit. I know it might peeve me a bit, if I was 16 and had to deal with that. That might have been something she had to work through a bit, the way she felt about dying. So, instead of anyone talking to her about how that felt, Joss wrote everyone doing the logical thing and talking about her. Instead, it kind of felt like her friends just … got annoyed with her and didn’t try to understand what she was dealing with. Sure, Buffy was behaving in all the wrong ways, but her friends weren’t exactly the pillars of strength she needed to get through her situation, either. But, of course we will see that this becomes a theme.

The only person who tries to reach out to her is Angel, the one person most closely associated with the thing that has caused all of this pain, and the one person most likely to elicit the most harsh reaction from Buffy. She brushes him off, is harsh with him, even though we see peeks of her emotionally reaching out to him at the same time (cue heart wrenching music to imply the Cosmically Forbidden Relationship)… Angel is the personification of all that went wrong with her life. The Slaying, the Vampires, and ultimately death. He couldn’t even save her life before or after her death…

The harsh reality of the weight of her responsibility, the painful truth that even her life is fragile hangs on her weary shoulders even as life doesn’t stop to allow her to mourn her own death. Buffy is obviously angry, hurting, and possibly confused about her future. We see this theme again throughout the series, as she has to decide if she should bother planning a future in her life: career, love, even just graduating or getting through tomorrow. The fragility of her role in the world crashed into her path of vision, and she had to face that in the 60 seconds of clinical death (and later with the appearance of another Chosen One).

This stings close to home for people who deal with real life depression, over loss in their lives, or any of the other reasons that mental illness comes crashing down or tries to suffocate us. Often, the people around us give up trying to support us, and withdraw, leaving us to lash out or sometimes give up.

Perhaps Joss didn’t fail as much as I first said.

Perhaps, in Buffy, he has attempted to personify the utter helplessness and angst that people in a deep depression sometimes feel. Perhaps, he has done a perfect job of showing what it feels like to not be able to yell out exactly what is going on inside, how it feels to have suffered what you have suffered because no one really can truly empathize, no one can truly feel your pain

Perhaps.

If only defeating your demons was as simple as smashing a set of bones with a giant mallet.

Wii Fit Making Exercise More Accessible?

A black box containing a Wii Fit Plus sits on top of a white box with grey and bright green letters containing a Wii Fit Balance Board.I read recently in an issue of Family Circle Magazine (DON’T JUDGE ME!) (There was a fried chicken recipe I wanted to try out!) that “Japanese research” (could they be any more vague and list any fewer resources?) indicates that using a Wii Fit burns just as many calories as doing moderate exercise. There was no resource listed, nothing. Just a blurb stating that there was some research going on in Japan telling us that the Wii Fit was good for us. I have read on random gaming and parenting boards that there is hubbub about the Wii Fit that it is exercise vs. still being “just a video game”…

Now, I don’t really care about calories as much (or at all) as I do having access to some kind of exercise or movement that I can do without having to leave my house and trek all the way up to the base, or pay for a pricey gym membership, or exhaust my silverware drawer trying to get there, or trying to get through a class of exercise that is of a safe level for my body. Sometimes I need to move. I’ve found our Wii Fit to be small chunks of movement that I can handle when I am ready for some, and unlike a yoga class, something I can stop quickly when I am out of resources. I could go on…but you get the idea. I still prefer a good swim when I have a good day, but we all know that our bodies do not always give us what we want…

Having a Wii Fit in my house has been something useful for me, and I acknowledge that there is quite a bit of privilege there as well. There are disabilities that don’t make the amount of movement required for the Wii Fit accessible at all. It isn’t affordable for everyone (and we had the console already when the balance board was released, but the board is not required for all the games), and the games aren’t released in all countries. Even on a good day I can not always use the board safely, and sometimes my old issues with eating disorders can’t handle some of the game details that include measuring your weight and abilities to balance…

But the Wii Fit has made exercise, and moderate amounts of movement, available to some people for whom it wouldn’t otherwise have been available and accessible.

What are your thoughts, gentle readers? Have any of you used the Wii Fit and been pleased with it, as I have? What are your major complaints with the idea that it is an accessible form of exercise/movement? Love it? Hate it?

Photo Credit: Keith Williamson