Saturday, October 29, 2011

Dark Angel and Disability

I really like science fiction, you guys. And, fortunately, there's a lot of kick-ass science fiction out there. I've never been much of a Trekkie (or Trekker), but Firefly and Battlestar Galactica are two of the best shows EVER.

When it comes to TV shows in particular, I get really attached. Following plot arcs and character development for a couple of years induces a raging sense of entitlement in me, I must confess. So that when BSG is like, "Hey, angels!," I'm all, "HOW COULD YOU DO THIS TO ME." It's ... disproportionate.

Sometimes, though, I feel my rage is justified! Like with Dark Angel. I'm not even going to talk about the second season. I'm going to pretend that doesn't exist. No, I'm gonna carp about the first season, Logan Cale, and the depiction of disability. There will be some minor spoilers.

In the pilot episode, Logan gets shot trying to help someone (dude is seriously into being the White Knight/hero type) and it puts him in a wheelchair. Also in the pilot episode, it is clear that the show is going for a romance between Logan and the female superhero. And they made the injury permanent enough, and the romance compelling enough, that I got hopeful. I thought we might actually get to see two characters have a steamy, sex-having romance punctuated by the fighting of crime and corruption whilst one of them is in a wheelchair. Wouldn't that be nice, to acknowledge that differently-abled folk, too, engage in exciting sex and topple corrupt dystopian governments.

And for a while, it seemed like that might happen. Granted, Logan was rather preoccupied with regaining the use of his legs, but, you know, big shift in life circumstances, a struggle to adjust is a (but not the only) realistic reaction. He was also hesitant to pursue the heroine sexually while wheelchair-bound, but people can be insecure for all sorts of reasons, so again, realistic. But, unfortunately, the show was also obsessed with "curing" Logan, and threw robotic legs and temporary miracle cures his way until I was ready to scream.

The result was that paraplegia was treated as a temporary problem rather than a permanent feature of a person's life. And a good opportunity to feature a disabled character in TV storytelling and to quash some myths (like that people in wheelchairs never get any) was squandered. Science fiction, I expect better of you.

1 comment:

  1. Years ago, DC Comics released 'The Killing Joke', one of the best comics you could read. In it, the Joker kidnaps Comissioner Gordon and attempts to drive him mad. He begins by shooting Barbara Gordon, aka Batgirl, in the gut, permanently paralyzing her. She has spent the past twenty years on a wheel chair as the heroine Oracle, and has been shown as remaining a capable fighter in the wheelchair, leader of the team Birds of Prey, and romantically and sexually involved with Dick Grayson, among others. It has been one of the best and most critically acclaimed portrayals of a disables character in comics.

    Then DC screwed the pooch, 'rebooting' their universe and taking her out of the wheelchair, with barely an explanation how or why. It has not been positively received, though the writer, Gail Simone, is one of the best in the business and has said she will make the fans happy as best she can.