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!

Lily Reads Comics – The StoryTeller: Giants

I’m never one to miss a Jim Henson comic, but it sure can take me a while to get around to reviewing them. In a prior installment of Lily Reads Comics, I shared The StoryTeller: Dragons, and now that the newest series, The StoryTeller: Fairies is reigniting interest in the stories, I’m excited to share them with you!

Tale One: The Peach’s Son

The StoryTeller: Giants – Tale One features story and art by Conor Nolan with letters by Warren Montgomery.

This first issue in the series is based on the Japanese folktale of Momotarō, which translates to “Peach Boy” or “The Peach’s Son.” In folklore and in the comic, a giant peach is discovered by an old childless woman while she is washing clothes in the river. When she and her husband cut into it to eat, they discover a baby boy inside.

I think it’s clever how the comic imagines the boy from the giant peach growing up to be a giant himself. The old couple loves and supports him as their own son, but the villagers mistrust someone who looks so different. When displaced people arrive with stories of ogres, the giant boy offers to help them reclaim their homes, hoping that it might also vindicate him in the eyes of his neighbors.

On his journey, the boy befriends a wolf, a monkey, and a crane. I love a good camaraderie story, and I was looking forward to each of the animals using their unique talents to help the boy. The only disappointment I felt was because the story wasn’t longer, because by the time our fellowship meets the ogres, the comic was already past the halfway point, so there wasn’t much time to indulge in elaborate teamwork-heavy battle strategies. That’s a personal preference, though; I don’t think the story is really lacking and it ends happily, as The StoryTeller series often does.

I loved the artwork in this issue, especially how it portrayed the StoryTeller. Conor Nolan really nailed it with the facial expressions, and whether they were on humans, animals, or ogres, they were compelling and emotive. It’s always a good sign when I find myself staring at pages long after I’ve read all the words, and I did just that!

My only lingering questions originate from a panel on the second page. When the old peasant woman is doing her washing in the river, there are six giant peaches and she manages to bring one of them home. Could there have been giant children inside the other peaches? What are their stories?

Tale Two – The Tailor’s Daughter

The StoryTeller: Giants – Tale Two features story and art by Brandon Dayton with coloring assistance by Spencer Holt.

This second issue draws on stories from Russia, Norway, and France, and from the start, it had me wondering how it would surprise me. The StoryTeller series has a penchant for opposing our expectations when it comes to a character’s intentions. Like some issues from The StoryTeller: Witches and The StoryTeller: Dragons before it, the giant of our first tale was a hero, and I thought that some twist might reveal a kind heart inside the grotesque giant of this story.

Also like our first hero, the protagonist comes across three animal friends on her journey, but instead of joining her to fight, they offer her gifts. After receiving the best needle and pincushion from her father, the tailor’s daughter rescues a goose, a hare, and a mare from the giant’s snares. When they learn she is travelling to the castle to marry the giant and fulfill her father’s promise, they give her a magic collar, magic boots, and a magic comb, respectively, saying that she will need them more than they will.

She arrives at the castle to find her betrothed has monstrous table manners, but he does give her full access to everything the castle has to offer — the gardens, the libraries, the halls — except for the cellar. But as the Storyteller says, “You can’t tell a story with a shut door anymore than you can with a shut mouth,” so you know she’s going to open it. I won’t tell you what she finds, but you can bet that she will put all of her gifts to good use!

The art style here was very different from its predecessor, but I loved it just as much. The castle afforded many opportunities for dense bookshelves and laden tables, and I wanted to soak in every detail. That led me to discover one tiny continuity error, though. The magical comb doesn’t appear in her hair until the panel when she opens the cellar door. I suppose it is magical, after all.

Tale Three – Pru and the Fomorian Giants

The StoryTeller: Giants – Tale Three features story and art by Jared Cullum with letters by Warren Montgomery.

Before this comic, I had no idea about the Fomorian giants of Irish mythology (or The Forgotten Realms, for that matter). They are the foes of this tale, and based on their size in comparison to humans, I’d say they might also be the largest giants of the series.

The Fomoire are the catalyst, but they take a back seat to the story of the bond between siblings. The arrival of these giants separates Pru and her little brother from their parents, and after three years of living on their own in the wild, Pru is adept at protecting Spoon (we have reason to believe this is not the name his parents Mathghamhain and Fedlimid gave him) with her slingshot and her father’s drum. When she can’t defend herself, a mysterious spirit named Púka comes to her aid. Spoon takes to Púka immediately. But Pru is tired of always having to look after her brother, and in her frustration, she blames him for their parents’ fate. By the time she can take back her words, it’s too late. Spoon wanders off alone to prove himself and is quickly captured by a Femoire!

To save her brother, Pru teams up with Púka whose shapeshifting abilities are sure to come in handy. And Mathghamhain’s words, “Family stays together,” may take on a whole new meaning.

Jared Cullum’s watercolors created something special in this issue. I was impressed by the way Cullum conveyed motion in an early panel with a giant’s shadow overtaking a horse, and it was a perfect medium for the ethereal movement of Púka. Setting Púka apart with speech bubbles that were a different color than those of the mere mortals was a nice addition. I loved that the first form we saw of the shapeshifter was a bear, since Mathghamhain means “bear” in Irish Gaelic.

And remember when I said that stories in the StoryTeller series tend to have happy endings? That isn’t always true. The world of Pru and Spoon was changed forever when the Fomoire arrived. Their tale cannot right all the wrongs, but it still manages to end on a hopeful scene.

Tale Four – The Fisherman and the Giant

The StoryTeller: Giants – Tale Three features story and art by FeiFei Ruan with spot illustration by Sonny Liew.

This is normally the part where I give a little bit of cultural context or begin a plot synopsis, but I have to start with the art style because it is so striking.  FeiFei Ruan creates a surreal atmosphere with delicate, fine lines that draws on traditional Eastern art styles, but creates an entirely new experience. The comic, like much of Ruan’s work, is done in only a few colors. Please take a moment to marvel at the first three pages in the gallery below.

You don’t even know what a treat you’re in for as the comic continues.

This tale is based on the story of the fisherman and the genie from The Arabian Nights. In this version, the genie has been replaced with a powerful giant that can even change into a large bird. It all starts with our fisherman taking pity on the fish in his net when he discovers they used to be humans. They were the former inhabitants of a beautiful island, but when the ruling giant’s heart was broken, he decided to make all the humans disappear. When the fisherman arrives on the island, he is greeted by a courtyard of stone soldiers. Three mice try to deter him, assuming he seeks to gain the giant’s magical powers like all the rest who were turned to stone, but he tells them that his only desire is to stop the giant. The mice spell out the secret to the giant’s destruction, but even they can only help the fisherman for so long before the giant turns them into a three-headed dog to pursue our hero.

The story is simple and straightforward, and with all of his tools and allies, the fisherman is sure to triumph. But I won’t spoil the ending for you!


Jim Henson’s The StoryTeller: Giants was released as a hardcover graphic novel in August 2017. If you love the look of these stories, why not head to your local comic book shop and order them all in one volume? While you’re there, you could pick up the first issue of Jim Henson’s The StoryTeller: Fairies that came out last month. I can’t wait to read the rest of the latest series.

I’m excited to share more comic books with you in my next installment of Lily Reads Comics. Until then, let me know your thoughts on the tales from The StoryTeller: Giants!

5 Fandom Friday: Five Magical Potions to Always Have in the Cupboard

We already covered Fictional Foods That We Want To Try in an earlier post, but fantasy offers us even more interesting options when we look at potions. Let’s face it, if we had access to effects like these, we would keep them stocked at home for when we need them!

With that in mind, I’d like to share Five Magical Potions to Always Have in the Cupboard.

#1 – Lucy’s Cordial from Father Christmas

The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe

Lucy’s Cordial from the Chronicles of Narnia requires only a few drops to restore health to someone on a battlefield, so even though it probably falls into the category of a standard health potion, it certainly lands on the powerful end of the scale. For me, the most important potion to have on hand is a healing potion, and I have always wanted this one after having The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe read to me as a child.

#2 – Felix Felicis

Harry Potter

Sometimes, you just need a little luck! Felix Felicis (aka Liquid Luck) can be toxic if used in high doses as it can cause extreme recklessness, but if you use it sparingly and only when needed, you are likely to be successful in all of your endeavors while under its influence.

Screen capture by @NWPlayer123

#3 – Energizing Elixir

The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild

Imagine being in the middle of an exhausting task and suddenly regaining stamina as though you had just begun. The Energizing Elixir from Breath of the Wild comes in handy when you’re climbing a cliff or swimming, and having easy access to this potion in the real world could give you just what you need to finish what you started when fatigue sets in.

#4 – Draught of Peace

Harry Potter

The draught of peace can soothe anxiety and calm agitation. You could use it yourself when you feel stressed about public speaking or a frightening situation, or you could share it with your loved ones when they just need a moment of peace from their worries and cares.

#5 – Morgause’s Tracking Potion


Technically, the tracking potion was used by the bad guys (namely, Morgause and Morgana), but you could use it for good! I get uneasy when someone wants me to follow them instead of giving me directions to our intended destination, and this would make it as simple as following their trail. Assuming it worked on animals, you could give one to your pet to see just what they are getting their little paws into.

Honorable Mention: Egg Shen’s Potion

Big Trouble in Little China

“Drink this, you will see things no one else can see. Do things no one else can do!”


These are just six potions from a handful of properties, and we’re sure that there are plenty more excellent choices. In the comments below, please share what you would always keep in stock!

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!

Lily Reads Comics – The Power of the Dark Crystal Volume 1

In an effort to help me catch up on some fantasy films I had managed to miss out on, my friend Yusuf (@Morgul_blade) introduced me to The Dark Crystal. I really enjoyed it, and like so many of the others on my assigned viewing list (e.g. The Black Cauldron), I was a bit sad that I never saw them as a kid, because I knew I would have cherished them.

In my recap, I remember telling Yusuf that I could really see the film as a comic or graphic novel and that I’d be really excited to see what BOOM! Studios was doing with it in their series of comics. Well, being the great pal that he is, he sent me The Power of the Dark Crystal Volume 1!

The Power of the Dark Crystal is based on screenplays by Craig Pearce, Annette Duffy, and David Odell. The 12-part comic series is written by Simon Spurrier, illustrated by Kelly and Nichole Matthews, and lettered by Jim Campbell.

The Power of the Dark Crystal Vol. 1
Cover by Jae Lee and June Chung

Having had literally no idea what the book would be about, I was surprised to find that it wasn’t simply a rehash of the story from the film (though honestly, that would have been fine with me). This tale starts many years after the events from the movie; it has been a century since Jen and Kira healed the cracked Crystal and banished the terrifying Skeksis. The first pages show a shining Crystal Castle and a seemingly thriving land of Thra, but I was immediately put on edge when I saw piles of offerings around the Crystal.

Many of our favorite characters and creatures are back — Jen and Kira, Aughra, Fizzgig, Gelflings, Podlings, Landstriders, and more — but we are quickly introduced to someone so completely new that even the Gelflings don’t know of her kind’s existence. Thurma is a Fireling whose people live in a fiery realm near the core of Thra. She has traveled to the castle to ask for help from the Gelflings, but her entrance doesn’t exactly go smoothly. While she sneaks around evading guards in search of the Crystal, she sees the greedy and unsympathetic side of the Gelflings.

Kensho is an exception. When a Podling family is turned away from the healing light of the Crystal, Kensho offers them his birth stone as an offering. Seeing this, Thurma supposes, “Perhaps the Gelfling aren’t so bad after all…” Eventually, these two strike up a friendship, but it is immediately tested when Thurma asks permission from the newly awakened Jen and Kira to break the Crystal to save her people.

We learn throughout the book how it was that Kensho came to serve as an acolyte at the Crystal Palace. Unbeknownst to the kindly Jen and Kira, a blight has been despoiling the countryside for years. When Kensho’s village came to seek the healing powers of the Crystal with no offering, he selflessly offered his service, allowing his loved ones to be revived. When Thurma hears this story, she reminds him of his willingness to do anything for his people and how she took her mission for the same reason. This thread connects them but can also divide them.

I try to keep my posts as spoiler-free as possible, so even though The Power of the Dark Crystal Vol. 1 covers six comic issues and half of the story, I’m going to conclude my summary of the plot by saying that the world of Thra is rattled, and we can only surmise how the prophecy will be fulfilled:

“When feeble shines what once was bright
And secret spheres succumb to night —
If inward passes the slivered light
One world dies
Another made right”

(Talking with Yusuf made me realize that even though I think that I know what the prophecy alludes to, prophecies are always tricky things!)

The writing in this book was really enjoyable, and I felt that the dialogue struck a good balance between an homage to the film (in the form of Jen and Kira, especially) and fresh language that introduces a new era and characters.

The artwork was beautiful, and I can’t say enough good things about the thoughtful ways that Thurma’s fire was portrayed. It can be a reflection of her mood but also provide comedy as this misfit Fireling copes with being in a different physical surrounding. There were also some gorgeous panels that took advantage of motifs from the movie without being confusing or difficult to read.

The Power of the Dark Crystal #2
Variant cover by Sana Takeda

This novelized version included the single issue covers as well as variant covers and other art that hearkened back to the design aesthetics used in the films. I loved it all, but I’m sure that long-time fans would appreciate those pieces even more.

The single issues are still being published (Issue #9 was released last Wednesday), and Volume 2 comes out in hardcover on April 28, 2018. I hope you’ll check it out for yourself because I think it is a worthy sequel and legitimately wonderful on its own.


I’m excited to keep reading and keep sharing comics with you in my ongoing series Lily Reads Comics. I’d love your feedback on any particular books that I’ve reviewed and how I could provide more value with my reviews (a rating system? book by book synopses?). And of course, I’d love to know your thoughts on The Power of the Dark Crystal Volume 1!

My 7 Bookish Resolutions for 2018

The end of 2016 and the entire year of 2017 have been times filled with changes for me. I’ve graduated from uni with a Master’s, travelled to New Zealand, started a Ph.D and am currently on the job hunt, trying to build a career during my Ph.D. In other words, I found myself with more time on my hands than in the previous years and I did what I’ve always wanted to to in the past: read more books. Looking back at the quantity and quality of the books I’ve read, I can happily say that 2017 has been a good year.

However, 2017 was a year filled with an abundance of physical purchases. I’m trying to live my life as much under the principle of minimalism as possible. For me, minimalism means to only surround myself with things that serve a purpose (eg.: kitchen supplies) or things that I absolutely love. I’ll delve more into the struggle of trying to live a minimalist life while also loving to collect things in a future post. For now, I can summarize that whereas I’ve spend most of my money in the past on travel, I’ve spend all of my money on physical possessions in 2017.

I don’t regret my purchases for the most part, but a part of me wants to go back on the road at least once in 2018. In order to do that, and since I don’t have a steady job at the moment, I need to save money. Now, my desire to travel is not the only reason I want to spend less on books. For the most part of my adult life, I’ve fallen into the trap of collecting books, but never being able to read all the books I’ve purchased. There were times were I owned more unread books than read books. In 2017, I’ve noticed how I’ve fallen back into that trap. Now, there is nothing wrong with having unread books, but I want to own more read than unread books.

As a way to keep my bookish purchases more in control (& an attempt to save money), I came up with 7 bookish resolutions for 2018. So let’s take a look at them, shall we?

My 7 Bookish Resolutions for 2018

1.Buy less physical books
Rather self-explanatory, isn’t it?

2.Buy a physical book only after having read 3 physical books you already own.
I’m not trying to kid myself by putting myself on a complete book-buying-ban. I know I couldn’t stick to such a ban. However, I want to reduce the number of unread books. So I decided to allow myself to buy a book only after having read 3 existing physical books I’ve purchased in the past but never got around to reading. I hope this rule will inspire me to read more from my book collection.

3.Loan more books from the library.
My university library isn’t the biggest nor the best out there, but it has a decent collection of books published in the English language (my preferred language to read in). So if I really want to read a book, I’ll try to get it from my library before purchasing it.

4.Buy only a Tolkien related book after having read 5 physical books (Tolkien or non-Tolkien)
I think the sole reason I don’t call myself a minimalist is my ever growing Tolkien collection. I love Tolkien and his works and I love collecting books and other things related to Tolkien and Middle-earth. However, I want to be more conscientious about my collecting habit. So instead of completely banning myself from adding stuff to my collection, I’ll try to have it more controlled. Knowing that Funko will release another batch of LOTR Funkos, it’ll be a bit of a struggle. I don’t want to punish myself in any way if I fail a rule. However, I do want to re-evaluate my purchases and minimize my purchases as much as possible whatever that means.

5.You can repurchase an e-book as a physical book only when you gave it at least 4 out of 5 stars.
For the most part, I want to limit my bookish purchases to e-books. However, I do want to own my absolute favourite books as physical copies at some point. So with rule number 2 in mind, I’ll slowly repurchase some of my favourite e-books as physical books.

6.You can only buy an e-book after having read 2 existing e-books.
E-readers are a great thing. With only a click, you can read a book after a few seconds of waiting. The bad thing about e-readers is that with only a click, you can read a book after a few seconds of waiting. I don’t know about you, but I’m much more tempted to randomly buy a book as an e-book because it is so easy, fast and doesn’t really feel like I’ve spend money. Quickly, small sums here and there can accumulate to a greater sum. So in an attempt to keep my e-book purchases in check, I’ve came up with this rule. The exception to this rule a free e-books.

7.Read more out of your comfort zone.
I really want to widen my horizon and knowledge so I need to force myself to read more books out of my comfort zone. For fiction, this means that I’ll try to read more authors I haven’t read before. For non-fiction this means reading more books on science and history. Also, whether fiction or non-fiction, I’ll also try to read more books that were written authors from, or published in, countries outside of Europe and North-America (my preferred reading horizon).

This will be an interesting experiment, for it really feels as if the outcome is uncertain, for me. I want to have regular check-ups throughout the upcoming year and discuss how my progress is going. However, I’m not sure how often I want these check-ups to be. Maybe I’ll do them every 3 months, who knows.

What about you, how have your reading habits changed in the last 12 months? Do you have any bookish resolutions for 2018? Leave a comment down below!