I recently tried to answer a question for a podcast done by a blind dude who specializes in blindness specific things. One of his questions had to do with coverage in the media, and I also included Hollywood coverage. Let me tell you how lackluster at best the coverage is, and it affects not only blind women like me, but if I want to create a fan fiction story, I have to do it right. And there are no blind characters to work with in most of the hot button media series thingies. Here’s what we have to work with.
As a young girl, I grew up with Disney. How well has Disney represented disabled characters in the media? I’d give Disney an F for unfair representation of blind and disabled characters. Disabled characters in literature and movies and such are usually saints, poor beggars, or those who are cured, and examples are few and far between. There is only one blind woman who I would hold up as one who opposes being helpless. Anyone heard of Susan Oldknow? Um, maybe you haven’t, but she is in the Treasure of Green Knowe series, actually the title of the book is Treasure of Green Knowe. In this book, Spoiler alert, Susan becomes heiress to Green Knowe and she ends up overcoming loads of obstacles to get there. Among which, she has to contend with a nanny who’s completely out of her mind, a grandmother who believes Susan is an idiot, and the only friend in her family is her father, a sea captain who wants her educated like her mother and all the ladies before, and this is before the invention of Braille. But the worst thing that occurs usually in a family like this is the son gets spoiled, and Susan’s brother Sefton is no exception. He acts racist toward Susan’s companion, Jacob, who, spoiler alert, is a freed African slave the captain purchased, and yes, the boy was free in England with the captain’s family. The Captain is usually a guy who you would find away on sailing missions, so no surprise that Sefton hates his sister and wants to disparrage her companion.
What’s really sad about the blind issue in the media and coverage in television news stories and other things is this: all the blind are considered helpless, and because the NFB and other consumer orgs want better representation, there is a darker side to finding such representation. When I wrote that I needed help determining what to do with evacuation strategies for my apartment, I personally don’t feel safe here much because of the creepers here, I got nasty backlash comments from trolls who were, oddly enough, blind themselves. The blindness is not the reason I ask for help, beg to get guidance in housing situations, and so on and so forth.
What I do does not represent Hollywood or blind people in general, but I have indeed tried to hold up the community, but they seem to be tearing me down instead of lifting me up, and even local chorus people don’t seem to get it. They want to sit there and tear me down, forget I exist, or try to avoid me. I hate avoidance behavior, but I think the biggest reason we have avoidant individuals around us as blind people is because of that stupid television show, In the Dark, and the NFB’s complaints about that show are numerous. For one, the blind main character was played by a sighted actor. Ugh. This is ableist. It’s the same thing as asking Caucasian people to play Japanese characters in anime, and it’s disgusting.
As a blind girl, there are no blind princesses Disney has to offer. Tiana is the closest to getting there Disney has done with princess representation in the media. However, there is still a long way to go. Disney has yet to put a disabled actress as a princess in a movie, and to make a disabled princess be the center of the story. Because of Disney’s lack of disability positive representation, I’m considering writing Disney a heartfelt note saying that a princess with confidence and a disability would really help the community see things the way I see them. And we need a princess who can lift others up, not have to be able to see and don’t count Ariel’s temporary disability because her voice is essential to her story. ursula, the evil witch in the Little Mermaid movie Disney so violently corrupted, did take Ariel’s voice, but was killed by Eric and so on if memory serves me right. The original Hans Christian Andersen story doesn’t do much justice either. The mermaid has to, spoiler alert, kill her lover or become a child of the air, which is hardly what Disney wants. Disney’s interests aren’t the interests of the disabled community, and the more I see new princess movies come out, the more left out fellow princess lovers and Disnerds who are blind are going to feel.
When you get a little older, superheroes and more adult films are the norm. I still watch princess movies, but what will I be able to do other than write up a fairy tale that explains my life in a child’s point of view/ Nothing explains things I went through that way at all. In adult film and TV series, we have few and rare blind characters that exhibit any form of confidence or enough courage and strength to tell a blind adult or young teen, “You can be who you want to be.” If Disney wanted to do this sort of thing, maybe they should make a movie about a blind woman, not Ray Charles or Stevie Wonder, but a woman who is blind because women who are blind are poorly represented in television sitcoms, movies, and the like. No blind woman should be portrayed as a sexual object to be married off, or worse, a fear based thing you don’t want to become. As a blind woman, how can anyone be so confident in themselves as females if they see a blind woman not succeeding in making some extraordinary changes in the world? I want to change the world so it is safe for girls and women who are blind in all parts of the world to live their lives, no guardianship for girls and women, including all the remote parts of the world who seek to oppose or kill me. Honestly, I’m seriously trying to do this right, but I’m stuck on social media because of transport that’s so crappy here in my end of town. Think about it. Activists can be activists online, and I’m one who can say I’m an online activist for change, and I don’t see such activism covered in the news.
what bothers me most about the lack of Hollywood representation of people who are blind is how feared the blindness is. In classic movies, you don’t see confident blind actors and so on. Even modern movies and shows have no blind characters. It seems Arthur from PBS does, but that’s meant for educational purposes only. Sesame Street is a kid program, but we need to get the word out that blind kids and adults alike need positive role models in the media, in sitcoms, in Netflix and other streaming platform shows, and not the Healing Powers of Dude. Poor representation of disabled people and jokes about us are all over the media, and those have to go.
Luckily, I did do a good initial review of See, a show about blind characters, but why is Jason Momoa, a sighted actor, playing the blind warrior? I hope there are blind thesbians willing to speak out. At least we’re on the way to doing better, but hardly are we any closer than we should have been long ago. In 1990, Disney could have published stuff about not so helpless people with disabilities, but it’s taking them way too long. Other hollywood companies like Dreamworks, Warner Brothers, and so many others could benefit from putting blind people on TV and in movies outside an educational purpose only.