Sunday, March 6, 2016

Disability and Media: Inspiration Porn Continued

One of the continuing issues I address is inspiration porn, media that may seem to praise disabled people, but in reality objectifies and dehumanizes. I wrote on it recently here.

After it came out, Lydia Brown, one of my favorite writers, let me know that they also had a recent post about the "Down syndrome wrestling story," which I gladly share. Must read! Their categories were a little different than mine (in part due to speaking broadly about the genre, whereas I focused most recently just on the slice of stories on teenagers with Down syndrome):
(1) Disabled person does something extremely extraordinary (climbs Mt. Everest, is elected to a country's highest governing body, publishes New York Times bestseller, etc.), and it's presented as inspiring because the person is disabled, and not because 99% of the total population (disabled and non-disabled) could have never achieved it.
(2) Disabled person does something pretty mundane for most people (graduates middle school, plays in a basketball game, bakes cookies, etc.), and it's presented as inspiring because apparently disabled people are assumed to be incapable of doing ... anything. At all. With or without adaptive equipment. With or without practice and instruction geared to their learning style.
(3) Non-disabled person does something not overtly negative or generally shitty to disabled person (doesn't call them names, invites them to a birthday party or a prom, doesn't discriminate against them during a job interview, etc.), and it's presented as inspiring because LOOK AT THE MAGNANIMOUS, KIND-HEARTED (non-disabled) SAINT BEING NICE TO A PERSON SUFFERING FROM A DISABILITY. (*language intentional)
(Note there is often a racial component to these stories too: white disabled people and or white "helpers" present more easily accepted caricatures of saintly, angelic, heroic, courageous, inspirations.)
As always, read the whole thing!

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