It’s been quite the busy month for my disability writing, apparently! In fact, I’m thinking of just declaring 2017 The Year of Fearless Writing — it’s got a nice ring to it, don’t you think? Last month, I took reality TV to task (Hi, Bachelor/Bachelorette!) for not casting women with disabilities, which, let’s just be real, shouldn’t even be an issue in the 21st Century. And now, in my essay on Glamour, I’m challenging ALL the networks to feature MORE women TV characters with disabilities in our favorite shows.
My essay I’m a Woman in a Wheelchair—and I’m Tired of Not Seeing Anyone Like Me on TV is something I’ve been wanting to write for awhile now. Growing up, I never saw women with disabilities on my favorite shows and if I did, they were typically portrayed in either some sickly way or merely in the plot to teach us some sort of lesson. Nothing about their appearance on the screen was flattering! Instead, it was just downright insulting because I knew that wasn’t how the disability community was living. That most certainly wasn’t how I was living. I needed to see other people like me, you know?
Here’s an excerpt of the essay, in which I give my *true* feelings on a certain book-turned-movie from last year…
But in the real world? Women with disabilities exist beyond mere props used to teach some worldly lesson. Having someone who looks like you and faces the same issues you do is so important. We need to be represented, not just as an object meant to be inspiration porn, which is something that’s always made me cringe. Truthfully, the whole phenomenon has always made me feel like an “other,” an outsider who will never belong…
Take the film Me Before You, for example. The main character is a paraplegic who falls in love with an able-bodied woman. How many times has it been the other way around on TV or in movies, where a woman in a wheelchair falls in love with an able-bodied male and it’s not some unrequited-love situation? Why is it so hard to believe that women with disabilities could be in a relationship with an able-bodied person? I’ve often wondered why those examples are few and far between.
You can read the full essay here and I’d love to hear your thoughts. Feel free to email me anytime at email@example.com and let’s chat! And of course, feel free to share my essay on Facebook, Twitter or even your local refrigerator. If you share on Twitter, be sure to tag me @melissablake so we can connect! I can’t wait to hear from you! Love you all… xoxo
Nice one. I recently watched the episode of Curb Your Enthusiasm where he dates a woman in a wheelchair (actually two women in wheelchairs). In Larry David style, it’s “about” the disability but I think he makes the point on this when the character thinks he can substitute one for another. Or perhaps it’s just incredibly insulting. Would be interested to know your thoughts!
A friend with a disability just shared your Glamour article on Facebook and I’m so glad she did. I have mostly avoided TV and most movies for the past decade so I never noticed what you are talking about but now that you have mentioned it it makes so much sense. You’re right – it is always about the disability when these characters are portrayed and not really about the person. The whole male-with-a-disability and able-bodied-female relationship is not surprising considering men have the advantage all over the media (old man/young girl relationships (like how Tom Cruise gets older but all his on-screen relationships stay the same age), older women not getting roles they should really be getting.) You’ve opened my eyes and I thank you for that.
Melissa, I’m curious if you’ve seen any episodes of Speechless on ABC. Though the main character is a high school boy 😉 with cerebral palsy I believe he is also being played by an actor with cerebral palsy, which I think is a huge step in the right direction. So far, I think they’ve tackled the family life and school issues pretty well.
I’ve been meaning to watch that show!! I’ve heard such good things about it!!!