There’s a common thread in media about disabled lives – and it’s the notion that a disabled life is not worth living.
In superhero stories there are disabled people whose lives are worth living because their disabilities transcend their disabled experience. Daredevil and Iron Man are both great examples of this. It’s not a fantastic tale to tell, and I wish we had more superheroes whose disabilities were like Hawkeye’s – yes, he’s Deaf, and he still navigates the world and his disability is not fixed by his powers.
Disabled people show up in superhero’s as NPC’s very frequently, and it is here that I often see the most difficult to watch depictions of disability in this kind of media.
SPOILER ALERTS FOR JESSICA JONES EPISODE TWO (though I am wiling to bet most of you have seen it already.)
Jessica isn’t “nice”, she’s practical and calculating, and it’s part of what I love about her. She is also protective.
So when she visits a man who lost both his kidneys in what is best described as a grab & snatch kidney donation for Kilgrave, she finds a visibly disabled man, who struggles to speak, or use his hands.
He displays what can be identified as the effect of a non-fatal post-surgical stroke – and from what I hear from medical sources, they do a decent job of it.
His mother bustles around him, speaking about prayers and thanking God that he came back to her, not as he was before of course.
Once they are alone, she asks the man who did this to him, and he writes, laboriously “KIL”
“Yes, Kilgrave” she says, and then he finishing his sentence.
She says she can’t do that. She silently mouths “I’m sorry” and unlike with every other character in the show so far (I’m not done with the series) she looks at him with pity.
I’m so fucking tired of one dimensional disabled characters who want to die. I’m so tired of characters who only serve the purpose of pity.
Characters with disabilities don’t have to be props like this one was.
But more than that, I’d like to see a value placed on disabled lives. This isn’t the only disabled character I’ve seen in a superhero show that just wants to die, or whose life doesn’t have value.
I want to see our media reflect the concept that disabed lives matter. When you watch this scene don’t look at it as some sad guy who shouldn’t be alive anymore – do think of him as a survivor. Think of him as someone who has the right to live.
By all means. feel badly and be angry that Kilgrave did this to a person – but feel for him the same way you feel for Kilgrave’s other victims. Don’t discount his life.