Can’t decide whether New Mobility deserves kudos or raspberries. I was leaning toward a big fat Bronx cheer but I’m on the fence. New Mobility, a magazine for “active wheelchair users” created quite a stir when they chose “Artie” a fictional wheelchair user in the series Glee played by an able-bodied actor as their person of the year.
A year ago December, I posted this piece regarding Glee’s portrayal of disability. I have found Glee’s portrayal of disability issues… thin… at best. Certainly there is a sharp contrast to the multi-layered, nuanced approach the show takes to other issues from teen pregnancy to body image to LGBTQ to bullying. My blog post (linked above) concluded: “Glee misses the real miracles of disability. Those who learn to live average lives in trying circumstances. Those who find grace and courage everyday to face a world that is inadvertently hostile to their existence.” Nothing on the show since has changed my opinion.
I’m sure Mr. Rucker is relieved to know that this cranky wheeler is semi-converted. NM’s choice has elevated the conversation about how people with disability are portrayed in the media. Indeed, for a depiction of wheelers in the media the choices were Artie and … well, no one. Name one other regularly occurring character in a wheelchair. Not so easy to do.
I am happy that Artie is as sexual as his peers (OMG are we REALLY discussing “wheelchair people” doing the nasty?) But he had to be lifted onto the bed by his cheerleader girlfriend. Poor helpless Artie. Why not allow him to be more capable? If he can hold a wheelie, play football and manage some of that choreography, he can get his own damned self onto the bed, especially for Brittany.
Statistically, the dude in the wheelchair would most likely be one of the football players. Why is the nerd in the chair, not one of the school studs? I HATE that Artie is portrayed as nerdy and feeble.
The dearth of PWD portrayed in the media is disheartening. I only wish writers could create stronger, more accurate, multi-dimensional depictions of people with disability.
That would require a familiarity with disability. I wonder how much time the creative people spend with PWD?
I’ll bow to NM’s choice for Person of the Year. Maybe they can lobby Glee for more accurate portrayals of PWD. Allen Rucker for plot advisor of 2012 anyone?