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Thought on Characters in Wheelchairs - The Wordsmith's Forge — LiveJournal
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ysabetwordsmith
Thought on Characters in Wheelchairs
 [personal profile] fajrdrako explores the appeal of characters in wheelchairs within a superhero context.  I like the arguments -- it's interesting to have someone influence the action but NOT be in the physical fights.  This caught my eye partly because I just did "The Shortest Night" based on an audience prompt requesting three crippled heroes (though not actually a wheelchair).

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fayanora From: fayanora Date: July 7th, 2011 08:00 am (UTC) (Link)
Not a hero per se, yet, and he's not crippled anymore, but my Lyria stories are told largely from the point-of-view of Forizano Lysvalo, a war hero and scholar who lost both of his legs in a war. Lyria made them grow back as part of her payment when she took him on as an employee. And he didn't start out with any powers, but he's learning magic.

So really, not sure why I mentioned it. However, Lyria's nemesis, the mage Jarnion Zakonjo, is old and overweight and out of shape. He's a good man, just a little dim and overconfident. He's great for comic relief.

I think what I'm really trying to say is, the problem with crippled superheros is that there's usually something (like magic, or gamma rays or whatnot) that tend to cure most physical ailments. Which is why crippled supers tend to get the brain-related powers, like Professor X got telepathy and telekinesis.

Hmm... just had a thought. What if a crippled super also had some kind of multiple personality thing, where the hero persona can walk around and stuff just fine, but when switching to the normal human persona, they're in a wheelchair or whatnot.
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: July 7th, 2011 08:11 am (UTC) (Link)

Thoughts

>>Not a hero per se, yet, and he's not crippled anymore, but my Lyria stories are told largely from the point-of-view of Forizano Lysvalo, a war hero and scholar who lost both of his legs in a war.<<

Hm, that's interesting.

>>So really, not sure why I mentioned it. <<

Well, he spent some time with a serious handicap. That has an impact, even if the damage turns out to be fixable.

>>I think what I'm really trying to say is, the problem with crippled superheros is that there's usually something (like magic, or gamma rays or whatnot) that tend to cure most physical ailments. Which is why crippled supers tend to get the brain-related powers, like Professor X got telepathy and telekinesis.<<

True. You get very different stories if the problem can be repaired somehow, than if it can't.

>>Hmm... just had a thought. What if a crippled super also had some kind of multiple personality thing, where the hero persona can walk around and stuff just fine, but when switching to the normal human persona, they're in a wheelchair or whatnot.<<

That could be interesting to explore. I'm reminded of the bit from Smallville -- "Kal-El can fly, but Clark Kent is still earthbound."
kengr From: kengr Date: July 7th, 2011 08:07 am (UTC) (Link)
Somewhere, possibly a webcomic, I've seen an armored, flying wheelchair equipped with weapons.

Of course, it's not *remotely* capable of being disguised as anything harmless. :-)

And my experience with my legally blind friend, Lin, shows that many "handicapped" people can attack quite well. And without invoking the BS about "the other senses improve to compensate).

One of Lin's comments: "I get to carry my cane in public" (usually after thwacking me with it for some annoyance)
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: July 7th, 2011 08:16 am (UTC) (Link)

Thoughts

>> Somewhere, possibly a webcomic, I've seen an armored, flying wheelchair equipped with weapons. <<

0_o Wow. That sure is memorable!

>>And my experience with my legally blind friend, Lin, shows that many "handicapped" people can attack quite well.<<

Some certainly can! One of the more formidable people I know is Lee Martindale, who uses a wheelchair. She is adept with swords, guns, and hand-to-hand combat.

>> And without invoking the BS about "the other senses improve to compensate). <<

That can happen, but doesn't always. I certainly lean more on my other senses than is typical for a human; part of that is because my vision is rather crummy.

>>One of Lin's comments: "I get to carry my cane in public" (usually after thwacking me with it for some annoyance) <<

Heh. Yeah.

One of my Torn World characters, Rai, is legally blind. A lot of his stories are about the ways in which he compensates for that -- because the Southern culture does not. The one written as an introduction just went up recently, "Clouds in the Morning."
fayanora From: fayanora Date: July 7th, 2011 08:30 am (UTC) (Link)
I'm reminded of this: http://www.torontosun.com/2011/07/05/blind-woman-wins-national-photo-award

Also, going back to superpowers, I once had a character who had no eyes (I forget if they were poked out or what) but got this technology installed which was what looked like sunglasses, but were actually camera-glasses that fed directly into his brain, allowing him to see well enough that he became a surgeon.

Oh, and then there's Geordi from Star Trek. With that visor thing, he basically has artificial super-seeing. And the interface has been, on occasion, adapted for him to control machines with his brain.
fayanora From: fayanora Date: July 7th, 2011 08:11 am (UTC) (Link)

More thoughts

Oh, I thought of something else. Nokwahl's superpower - reverse empathy, or the ability to make others feel your emotions - is technically a disability. She's learned how to control it, and how to suppress it while awake, but I think she still needs mechanical help to suppress it while she's asleep. Before she learned how to control it, her emotions were constantly being broadcast, interfering with other people and in some instances hurting them.

Also, something to consider: many stories containing metahumans act a lot like turning the tables, where the metahumans are the abled and the traditionally abled are, by comparison, disabled. You can even see instance of ableism/superiority in characters like Magneto. And in fact, since Magneto's early life was ruined by Nazi soldiers, it's kind of like he started life disabled and got more abled than everyone else. Kind of a warning that ableism is easy to get caught up in, even for people who were once disabled. Which reminds me of an experience I had recently. When I was a kid, I was sick all the time, and didn't always have enough tissues. I often accidentally grossed people out with huge snot globs running down my nose. It always made me feel really embarassed. I hardly ever get sick anymore. Just the other day I was having reactions to a similarly obviously-ill man caught unawares by snot globules. I didn't say anything to him or react visibly, but I very much wanted to be away from him.

Anyway, something to think about.
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: July 8th, 2011 06:23 am (UTC) (Link)

Re: More thoughts

>>Nokwahl's superpower - reverse empathy, or the ability to make others feel your emotions - is technically a disability.<<

That's often called projective empathy, and it can be very useful ...

>> She's learned how to control it, and how to suppress it while awake, but I think she still needs mechanical help to suppress it while she's asleep. Before she learned how to control it, her emotions were constantly being broadcast, interfering with other people and in some instances hurting them.<<

...if you can turn it off, and otherwise control it.

>>Also, something to consider: many stories containing metahumans act a lot like turning the tables, where the metahumans are the abled and the traditionally abled are, by comparison, disabled. <<

Yes, that's true.

>>You can even see instance of ableism/superiority in characters like Magneto. And in fact, since Magneto's early life was ruined by Nazi soldiers, it's kind of like he started life disabled and got more abled than everyone else. Kind of a warning that ableism is easy to get caught up in, even for people who were once disabled.<<

There's also the minority-pride aspect, and the fact that oppressed people who gain power are strongly inclined to hit back. It's a facet of human nature that few can resist.
aldersprig From: aldersprig Date: July 7th, 2011 01:12 pm (UTC) (Link)
Oracle! Oracle was one of my favorite heroes; I'm sad to hear they're rebooting her into something different (after Joker breaks Batgirl's spine, she goes on to be the technological command center of the Bat'world)
aldersprig From: aldersprig Date: July 7th, 2011 01:33 pm (UTC) (Link)
Heh, should have read the link article first.

Yeah, that.

I live-action roleplayed a Brujah (warrior-class/thug vampire) in a wheelchair for a few years. Really brought home how non-accessible our gaming site (RIT) and some of the con locations were, let me tell you. And at cons, I wouldn't get out of the chair until I was ooc... well, once a friend carried me down the stairs, while another friend carried the chair. No other way to get down there. O_O

ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: July 8th, 2011 05:49 am (UTC) (Link)

Yes...

I like that concept of superhero.
fayanora From: fayanora Date: July 8th, 2011 07:16 am (UTC) (Link)
Oracle?
paka From: paka Date: July 7th, 2011 04:09 pm (UTC) (Link)
but NOT be in the physical fights

Is that necessarily going to be true, though? I mean, if you can figure out an alternate means of getting around (and if you're fighting flying opponents, or gigantic ones, they're only as inaccessible as someone at the top of a long flight of stairs nowhere near the elevator) you're left with upper body strength, and some people get seriously scary arm muscles through wheeling themselves around.

'Course I think that gets into the way superhero comics were initially created and then furthered by slightly undermuscled dweebs, daydreaming about being physically obviously powerful.
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: July 8th, 2011 04:25 am (UTC) (Link)

Thoughts

>>but NOT be in the physical fights

Is that necessarily going to be true, though? <<

It was a point that someone else raised in the original discussion, and I liked it. You don't have to be able to tie the bad guys in a knot; there are other ways to be a hero. However...

>>I mean, if you can figure out an alternate means of getting around (and if you're fighting flying opponents, or gigantic ones, they're only as inaccessible as someone at the top of a long flight of stairs nowhere near the elevator) you're left with upper body strength, and some people get seriously scary arm muscles through wheeling themselves around.<<

This is also true. Frex, Iron Man -- the main character's health was kind of trashed, but the suit turns him into a flying tank.

>>'Course I think that gets into the way superhero comics were initially created and then furthered by slightly undermuscled dweebs, daydreaming about being physically obviously powerful.<<

Also true.
viva_la_topknot From: viva_la_topknot Date: July 11th, 2011 07:58 pm (UTC) (Link)

I love heroes that have physical limits they overcome [and not by say, being able to stand up out of their wheelchairs]. That soft spot comes from having a best friend in a wheelchair and watching him overcome various struggles in his life too.

I would love to see a long range fighter [archer, sorcerer, bomb specialist, tactical leader/planner, that sort of thing] in a wheelchair in mainstream comics.
viva_la_topknot From: viva_la_topknot Date: July 11th, 2011 07:59 pm (UTC) (Link)

Seeing a character who could not walk [or even a quadriplegic] pilot a mecca of some sort would be neat too!
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