Disability & Pop Culture: An Amputee’s Point of View

Whenever you think of disabled characters in pop culture, you’ll probably think of Geordi La Forge from Star Trek, Luke Skywalker and Darth Vader from Star Wars, and maybe of Forrest Gump and Lieutenant Dan from Forrest Gump. Disabled characters, whether they have a physical disability, an intellectual disability or have a chronic illness, are far and few inbetween in pop culture. There is a greater variety of vampires, ghosts, and aliens than disabled characters (or any other minorities for that matter).

I was born one-handed (don’t worry, I have no difficulties with typing this) and for the longest time, the only characters in film, tv, or books that looked like me, and by that I mean characters with missing limbs, were Luke Skywalker, Lieutenant Dan, and the occasional villian such as Darth Vader or Azog from The Hobbit. Naturally, most of them immediately became my favourite characters of that film or tv show regardless of whether they were good guys or even well-written characters. Seriously, no matter who the characters is, I’d get excited beyond words just to see someone ‘like me’ on screen, even if it was murderous Orc.


Me, a few years back.

A statistic by the Media, Diversity and Social Change Initiative from 2015 revealed that “just 2.4 percent of characters in the top 100 movies who spoke or had actual names had disabilities. That’s a significant gap between fiction and reality, since the Census Bureau has found in 2010 that 56.7 million people, or 18.7 percent of Americans, have disabilities. ” I’m sure the numbers will be the same for many other countries as well.

Here is a detailed breakdown of what this study uncovered:

Characters with disabilities appeared in 55 of those 100 movies. And of those characters, 61 percent had physical disabilities, 37.1 had mental or cognitive disabilities, and 18.1 percent had communicative disabilities. Characters with disabilities were overwhelmingly male; just 19 percent of characters with disabilities were female. Characters with disabilities were likely to be relatively marginalized in the movies in which they did appear: 10 of the 100 top-grossing films from 2015 featured characters with disabilities as leads or co-leads. Of the 11 movies that Smith and her colleagues classified as ensemble, two featured characters with disabilities as part of the core ensemble. (Source: washingtonpost.com)

The number of disabled actors on film and tv is similarly small. In fact, whenever I see a disabled character portrayed, I automatically roll my eyes thinking “ah yes another abled-bodied actor”. The exceptions to this are characters with dwarfism or down syndrome. These are the only examples that come to my mind where disabled actors are always chosen to portray a character that has the same disability as them. When it comes to other disabilities, more often than not, an able-bodied actor is chosen.


Luke Skywalker

I can still remember, years and years ago, when CSI: Las Vegas came out how I reacted with cynicism upon seeing the Coroner Dr. Albert Robbins walking with a crutch. Even more so when it was revealed the character of Dr. Robbins is a double-amputee. Only later did I found out that the actor portraying Dr. Robbins, Robert David Hall was, in fact, a double-amputee himself! Over the years my interest in CSI: Las Vegas dwindled, especially after the departure of actor William Petersen, but I kept on watching it just for Dr. Robbins. Finally, I’ve found a character whose disability was just one aspect of his personality and not a walking-talking stereotype, nor a villain.

For most of my life, I didn’t really think about this issue in-depth. I just accepted the low numbers and sometimes terrible representation without question. However, as I get older and started my academic career in culture studies, with a focus on literary studies, I began to think critically and eventually began a Ph.D on disability in literature. For a year now, I’ve been reading and researching books and short stories in science fiction featuring disabled characters and let me tell you it wasn’t very easy. Not all summaries online will tell you that a book or short story deals with disability issues. Some books, I’ve stumbled upon by accident on amazon while browsing for another unrelated book.


Lieutenant Dan

Initially, I intended this to be a brief “x amount of disabled characters in Science Fiction” – list. However, I realized very early that this is not an issue I can summarize in just a few sentences, hence, my Ph.D project. I could go on an on in this post, but it is too long and to “here and there” already. In other words, I want to write more blog-posts discussing disability in pop-culture. I don’t know, nor can I promise anything, how long this series will be or how frequent these type of posts will be. However, I will try, at the very least, to contribute a bit to the discussion of disability rights. I’m over 30 now and if a few random posts here and there end up helping a young person growing up with a disability to feel more confident and find characters that “look just like themselves” then I’ve succeeded.

So what’s next up? A short list of science fiction books and short-stories I’ve recently read that feature disabled characters. Moreover, there are numerous movies, tv shows, or books with disabled characters that I haven’t watched or read yet. So I think it’ll be nice to give brief reviews of my first thoughts on these characters.

It is your turn now. What are your thoughts on this issue? Do you have a movie, tv-show, game, comic, or book featuring disabled characters that you absolutely love or hate? Leave a comment down below!


5 Fandom Friday: Five Fictional Foods We Want to Try

It’s never a bad time to blog about good eats, but with autumn in full swing in the northern hemisphere and fall harvest festivals keeping food always on the brain, we thought it was the perfect time discuss the dishes that we can only fantasize about.

We’re keeping the spirit of Five Fandom Friday going strong by creating our own prompts. Join us this week as we share Five Fictional Foods We Want to Try! Do you see any of your favorites on our list?

#5 – Slurm


Maria: I’m a big fan of Futurama and one of the thing that I’d love to try is the highly addictive Slurm soft drink. Yes, I know Slurm is made out of the secretion of a giant Slurm Worm, but it just looks like so delicious and fun that I’d still try it. I mean, honey is technically just Bee spit, right? Now, I’ve seen that you can order Slurm online, but with a price-tag of 20$ or more per can or bottle, buying one is out of the question.

#4 – Any food animated by Studio Ghibli

Maria: Whether it being Princess Mononoke, Spirited Away, or Howl’s Movie Castle, Hayao Miyazaki’s animated food looks absolutely delicious. I know that you can just travel to Japan and eat the dishes over there. But I don’t want just any dish shown in Miyazaki’s movies, I want to eat those specifically animated ones!

#3 – Lembas

The Lord of the Rings

Lily: Being a hobbit at heart (and stomach), I’d love to try lembas bread from J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings. The fellowship was gifted lembas provisions by Galadriel in Lothlorien to help them on the long trek into Mordor, and not only will “one keep a traveller on his feet for a day of long labour,” but as Merry says, “Lembas does put heart into you! A more wholesome sort of feeling, too.” Whether you’re running a marathon or simply don’t have time to stop in the middle of a busy day to eat a proper meal, lembas sounds like the perfect food to have on hand!

#2 – Three Course Dinner Chewing Gum

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory

Lily: No list of fictional foods could be complete without one item from Willy Wonka’s fantastical chocolate factory! Assuming that it had been perfected and wouldn’t turn me into a giant blueberry balloon, I’d happily enjoy a filling three-course meal in the form of chewing gum. In fact, I would hope there was an entire line of meal flavors so that I could try them all.

#1 – Wonderland’s SiZe Altering Foods

Alice’s Adventures in WOnderland

Lily: A few of these items have somewhat miraculously provided more nutrition than one might expect, but the resizing foods and drinks imagined by Lewis Carroll are pure magic. Starting from the premise that you at least knew the effect of any given “Eat Me” food or “Drink Me” vial, you could be a superhero able to fit into tiny spaces or save people dangling from scary heights. And hopefully they taste pretty good, too.


Can you think of any delicious-sounding fictional foods that would vie for a top spot on this list? Please share them in the comments!

You can check out all of our past 5 Fandom Friday posts here, and we’d love to know if you have any suggestions for future topics!

5 Fandom Friday: Five Villains We Secretly Love

Whether they are physically alluring, compelling to watch, or simply misunderstood, we all secretly have villains that we actually root for.

We’re keeping up with the spirit of Five Fandom Friday with our own prompts, and this week, we are daring to admit to Five Villains We Secretly Love! Do you see any of your favorites on our list?

#1 – Lucius Malfoy

Harry Potter Series

Maria: Now, don’t get me wrong, I don’t deny Lucius’ evil side, I’m also not sugarcoating his views. In our world, he’d be an arrogant racist, and I’m all against that. Having said that, I cannot deny that Movie Lucius is such a dandy that he is almost on parr with Gilderoy Lockhart. Everything about movie Lucius in the early films is just so extra, so over the top that I cannot help but love him and feel for his character in the last films as his life starts to unravel.

#2 – Eris

Sinbad: Legend of the Seven Seas

Lily: I loved the movie Sinbad: Legend of the Seven Seas when it came out, but it wasn’t entirely because of the heroic deeds of the protagonists. Eris, the goddess discord, was so entrancing to watch that I was always excited to see her. This is largely due to the interesting effects used to create her smoky appearances and movements (Eris is a combination of a hand-drawn character with added 3D effects).

She just wants to add a little chaos into the world, and she happens to use mortals as her playthings. But if you use her own rules to beat her at her own game, she accepts it…rather gracefully.

#3 – Wilson Fisk


Lily: The first time we meet Wilson Fisk, he is about to put himself out on a limb to ask a woman out on a date. He’s nervous and vulnerable, and I instantly felt empathy for him. His backstory is revealed throughout the first season of Daredevil, and we learn that a catalyst for his violence was wanting to protect his mother, a noble motivation. In his mind, he is the hero — like Matthew Murdock, he sees himself as the caretaker of his city. He just turns into a scary, calculating rage monster to make his vision happen.

#4 – Bart Curlish

Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency

Lily: She’s crazy. She’s erratic. She’s hilarious. She’s deadly. Bart Curlish is the opposite of Dirk Gently in that she’s a holistic assassin and is meant to kill whomever she kills. And she has killed a lot of people. But never the wrong person.

Just like Eris, I was always looking forward to when this character would show up, even if her motive (“Kill Dirk Gently”) runs counter to the rest of the show. Honestly, sometimes I really wished for her to fulfill her mission just because I wanted her to have that win.

#5 – Gollum/Sméagol

The Hobbit & The Lord of the Rings

Lily: When we first meet Gollum in The Hobbit, he’s a menace and an obstacle to be overcome (though the riddle game between Gollum and Bilbo is my favorite scene in the whole Hobbit movie trilogy). It’s in The Lord of the Rings that we become sympathetic towards him, or at the very least, can find him pitiable. He is single-minded from the moment he sees the ring, but it is his moments of compassion for Frodo that hearken back to the simple creature he was before the One Ring corrupted him. However, without that corruption, he would not have been able to empathize with Frodo.

He’s a complicated character, to be sure, but when people ask me about my favorite characters in The Lord of the Rings, Gollum is always in the top ten.


Did we leave any of your favorite villains off of our list? Be sure to let us know in the comments who we missed!

You can check out all of our past 5 Fandom Friday posts here, and we’d love to know if you have any suggestions for future topics!

Five Questions After Watching Luke Cage

When it comes to Netflix’s Marvel shows, I mark the air date on my calendar and try to keep the weekend free for a good old fashioned binge watch. Needless to say, I was one of the many Luke Cage viewers who contributed to Netflix’s crash on Saturday.


I thoroughly enjoyed the show, its music, its characters — heroes and villains alike. But like many comic book properties, it left me with some nagging questions that I hope will be resolved in future seasons or other Marvel shows.

In this SPOILER FILLED post, I share my Top 5 lingering questions. So don’t go past the Swear Jar unless you are caught up on Luke Cage and Jessica Jones.


#1 – What’s in the Swear Jar??

Pop’s death was an awful moment in the show, broken up by an endearing exchange between Pop and Luke about not swearing in the barber shop. With his dying breath, Pop makes sure to say, “Swear jar,” and it seems that this is in response to Luke’s foul language. But I was convinced that there was something else in the swear jar — something so important that Pop had to tell Luke before he died. I waited and waited for Luke to open the jar up for a shocking reveal. And…nothing. Now I have to hold out for Season 2!


#2 – So Luke Cage’s Skin Isn’t Unbreakable?

Though it’s never explicitly stated, we’re lead to believe that the metal on the Judas bullets is of Chitauri origin. I get it. If you can’t actually kill or even break the skin on a hero, it doesn’t give the villains much to work with. But it makes me wonder…if Chitauri metal can pierce Luke Cage’s otherwise unbreakable skin, would Wolverine’s Adamantium claws or Black Panther’s Vibranium ones?


#3 – What is Reva mixed up in?

Reva sure manages to accumulate all kinds of sensitive data on thumb drives. In Jessica Jones, she leads Jessica and Kilgrave to a buried yellow USB drive with video footage of the experiments performed on Kilgrave as a child. In Luke Cage, she has a white USB drive in the motel where she meets Luke after his prison escape. In a later episode, Luke brings out a USB drive necklace filled with data that Dr. Burstein (aka Mr. Sketchy Prison Scientist) had lost. Burstein says, “Reva died for this, didn’t she?” and if it’s the same one from Jessica Jones, that’s exactly what happened. But to be honest, it’s a bit unclear whether all of these thumb drives carry the same data. No matter what, we don’t know the half of the underworld experiments Reva is mixed up in.


#4 – Hammertech is still around?

Iron Man 2 introduced us to Justin Hammer, the founder of the weapons manufacturing company Hammertech. Hammertech desperately tried to compete with Stark Industries, particularly in the super suit market. The last time we saw Justin Hammer was in the Marvel One Shot “All Hail The King” when he was locked up in Seagate (yes, that Seagate) prison. Presuming he’s still serving time, who is running the company, pumping out weapons and supplying Diamondback with a super suit?

#5 – When does the soundtrack come out?

Watch the above video to learn how every episode was expertly crafted with music and performances to fit the mood and themes. Even the title of each episode is a track from Gang Starr. Luke Cage’s music supervisor Adrian Younge explains that they thought of each episode as an album. So…when do these albums drop?


Do you have any outstanding questions after Season 1 of Luke Cage? Leave your theories or favorite songs from the soundtrack in the comments below.

Franchise Zombies: Why I’m Tired of all these Franchise Expansions

Have you seen the most recent reboot of that prequel’s sequel? You know, the one that was a remake? If you’re not sure which one I’m talking about, you and me, my friend, have something in common. I’ve got lost in all those sequels, prequels, reboots, and remakes as well. By now every movie or TV show known to mankind was repurposed in one way or another. Live long enough and you’ll see your favourite movie or TV show brought back from the dead. Just like all the other undead, these franchise zombies want your BRAINZZZ.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m well aware of the fact that art has been repurposed as long as art exists. Remakes, reboots, and franchise expansions of movies and TV shows are as old as these media. However, the quantity and declining quality of these current franchise expansions seems unprecedented. The aim of today’s franchise expansions, it seems, is not anymore based on the desire to enrich the existing story, the aim is to make money. Lot’s and lot’s of money. A while ago, the people over at Comic Book Girl 19 posted an insightful video titled: “The Real Reason behind Hollywood Sequels, Remakes, and Reboots“. I’ll highly suggest you to watch that video and also to subscribe to their channel!

There is nothing wrong with releasing sequels, prequels, reboots, or remakes. The trouble is that far too often, quality seems to be a low priority when making a reboot or remake. It is 2016, do we still need tropes like “the first person to die in a film being a person of colour” (Jurassic World, anyone?), “bitchy career woman” (Also, Jurassic World), or “pitiable disabled person” (Me Before You)!? Is it really too much to ask for movie-makers to start treating  mainstream movies like an artform again?

These days, going to the cinema and watching a reboot or remake is a 50/50-chance that it’ll suck. Who else left the cinema in the last 12 months angrily after having watched a reboot/ remake/ sequel? Add the ever increasing ticket prices and you’ll know why I’m so hesitant to go to the cinema these days. In fact, these days, I can’t bring myself to go to the cinemas more than once a year. Now, there are, of course, still many films released based on an original story or idea. The trouble is, not all cinemas will play them. If you’re living in a small town or rural area, your cinema will most likely only show the big blockbusters. So, trying to support independent films or those with an original idea is not always an option.

The more remakes, reboots, sequels, prequels and so on are released the more I find myself exploring the realm of TV and books. This, of course, is also not helping the overall situation, but then again, what can you do? I’m not too sure where I’m going with this rant, all I know is that many people out there feel like me.

In an attempt to end this post in a positive note, let’s share some recent films based on an original idea! What was the most recent film that blew your mind? It doesn’t have to be a film from Europe or the US.

Let’s try and enrich our horizons with fresh new brainzzz…..uh, I mean films. Let’s share fresh new films!