Wednesday, July 27, 2011
I spent a lot of time considering the media representation, or over-representation of the "alpha crip." This isn't considered a derogatory term, and it's one I've read used in articles about high-achieving disabled athletes.
This web page includes brief bios of "roll models," men and women who have overcome a lot of obstacles, literally, to become their best selves. Among them is the amazing Rick Hansen of Vancouver, Canada, who wheeled 25,000 miles around the world in 1985 in a stunning two-year marathon through 34 countries. Hansen's Institute and PR efforts on behalf of spinal cord research have expanded the possibilities and public image of wheelchair users, specifically in athletics.
While the reality is that the majority of disabled people are economically underprivileged and not athletic, I took into account that Everett was a high-achieving athlete and scholar before we meet him in Every Time I Think of You. Reasonably, despite his bouts of self-doubt, anger and depression, he does come to regain much of his energy and interest in athletics, albeit in a different sport. Hopefully, he can be seen as a "roll model," even if he is a fictional one.
I find all kinds of news articles relating to the lives of my characters in Every Time I Think of You. Mostly, I've been researching the historic facts relating to their lives during the time of the novel. But here's an example of the hopeful vision of Reid come true. I'm kind of giving away a bit of the ending, or, more precisely, Reid's potential career goal after the book ends.
This Times Leader article focuses on accessible ramps in state parks in New Hampshire; pretty neat.
One of the interviewees, 55, had his disabling accident in 1980. At 55, he had to wait decades for this goal to become a reality. Hopefully, my fictional characters will not have had to wait so long.
Sunday, July 24, 2011
Thursday, July 14, 2011
Decades ago, Bette Midler performed a section of her wonderful touring stage show as Dolores Lelago. She performed as a character who is a wheelchair user, who also performs campy numbers in a mermaid costume.
Lady Gaga, the master appropriator of pop culture images, provides a vague homage to Bette in one of her concert costumes, performing in a wheelchair as a mermaid; all in black.
Yet, unlike Bette, Gaga's constant sincerity and infrequent admission of her inspirations (Madonna, Bruce Springsteen) leaves a few confused about her inclusion of a wheelchair as a mere prop, not an integral part of her act, as Midler did for years. A few disability rights groups were not pleased.
Here's a little deconstructive analysis from the wonderful Bootleg Betty site. they also posted a great pic with Midler's funny Tweet: "I’m not sure @ ladygaga knows that I’ve performed my mermaid in a wheelchair for millions of people — and many of them are still alive."
Also, from the website Beauty Ability, comments by its wheelchair-using editor Tiffany Carlson offer a different perspective. Gaga has frequently used disability as a character motif in her videos and stage shows. She's even hired differently-abled dancers in some of her stage acts, and calls her wheelchair-using fans her "Little Rolling Monsters."
I imagine Gaga gets to see those fans when they get seated at concerts close to the stage. Who knows?
UPDATE: People at a recent concert threw eggs onstage during Gag's wheelchair number. Wow.
Obviously, there's a clear line between portraying a handicapped person onstage and being a handicapped performer.
I'm wondering about the responses to 'Every Time I Think of You' from wheelchair users. Will gay people think it's not representative of them? Most of the handicapped people I know are nothing at all like my character Everett.
Will straight people ignore or dismiss it as being too gay? Does the fact that the love interest, and not the narrator, becomes a wheelchair user give me some slack from accusations of misrepresenting?
Perhaps if I were to be a fraud like "JT Leroy" or other lying memoir "authors," I should be concerned. But even some circles resent it when a writer creates fiction that is far removed from his/her life, mostly with issue of race and gender. It should be interesting to see the responses.
Okay, bad post title pun. But here's the Bay Area's AXIS Dance Company members Rodney Bell and Sonsheree Giles performing a touching duet on the TV show So You Think You Can Dance.
I've been listing this company's every performance as part of my work. I never cease to be amazed by the choreographic versatility of these folks, who not only create their own works, but have had major dance makers like Stephen Petronio set works on them as well.
It's great that this (sometimes cheesy) show gave this company a national platform to showcase differently-abled artists.