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Friday, September 16, 2011

FlusterCluck: Disability in Fiction why I hate the "disability superpower" trope

This topic has been floating in my head for a long time and something that I want to approach it and actually talk about it.

aiffe brought this up recently in her post about TV shows she is watching and I responded to the parts about the show "Alphas" here. One of the issues I have within in fiction, or rather Sci-Fi and fantasy is the idea that people of disabilities needs a "karmic balance" or able-body "personal Jesus". It's something I've noticed in books and in movies when the disability is turned into a hurdle to get over or the disability must be balanced with a great power or skill in order to make up for the disability.

This is a big pet peeve and one I am going to address. While the link doesn't explain the problems concerning karmic balancing it did bring up the feelings of worry I have when I see a rise of autistic heroes especially within the Sci-Fi/Fantasy quagmire. It feels that writers have to make them a tragic hero or a naive one (like Lou Arresdale in Speed of Dark), they are normally male and asexual (and yes there are asexual auties, but their also NT asexuals too and queer auties, but autie in books/movies/tv have been portrayed as hopeless cases or asexual which is because writers want to dodge sexually active autists) and he must love numbers and math and be good at computers and in sci-fi books, must have superpower.

And this is where I sigh.

I have not seen an autistic hero, be female/queer/or sexually normal. I have not seen an classic autist be useful in a plot that isn't a plot tool. I haven't to seen a happy aspie hero, that is happily adjusted as he is and contributes to the story in other ways that has nothing to do with his disability. Instead, writers feel like they have to weigh in on their opinions on autism and thus their character ends up being a soap box, like Lou from Speed of Dark and Jacob Hunt from House Rules. While characters like Hikaru Azuma from With the Light are out there(a happy and severely autistic kid in a slice of life manga), they are few and far between and autistic writers are just as rare. Yet that is another topic....

You don't need to make your autistic or disabled hero "balanced" but giving him a superpowerful skill (now before someone shouts out 'what about Tikaani', I want to say, while I don't regret giving Tikaani edidic memory, I do think I should build more of his character and re-designed his savant talent in a way that wasn't used to make him "useful" then again Tikaani was beta character and his concept is in constant refinement, to maybe it's lesson learned), you can however develop him like all your other characters with his own talents and flaws and wishes in a way that isn't showcasing a litany of stereotypes. You can make an autistic character "quirky" and "awkward' but you don't have to point that out all the time (like in Hunt's rules) you don't have to make him male. You can give him a relationship that isn't tragic. If the story does have characters with superpowers you can give him one that compliments and balances the team (say that you have one super hacker, one with superstrength maybe the autist can be a shifter?) instead of a power that is following the "auties are good with math and science" trope.

Rambling aside of ideas to improve the auties in fiction problem, the crux is the reason the disability superpower is aggravating is that accentuates the idea that "Disability is bad" and needs to have something good to even out the bad of being disabled. The fact that only autistic savants are useful in stories is forgetting the fact that not all auties are gifted some are just mediocre all around. Disability shouldn't be painted as flaw that needs to be balanced. Disability should be a facet of a character that makes it whole.

1 comment:

  1. There is an Aspie hiding in The Good Wife.The funniest thing is that person is not a caricature and is quite hard to detect.
    I live in a shithole city in France so I m not astroturfing .