Thursday, July 21, 2016

The Super Humans

My husband and I used to talk about how the disabled are portrayed in media. I told him to be "worthwhile" as a disabled person you had to be successful or exhibit some special skill and make money and achieve fame in it.  He said his sister once made a snide comment about "flap with your fins" stories regarding the viewing of disabled people. It's like the only worthwhile disabled person is if you have some extreme talent or can teach yourself to paint with no arms. I note in this video, people missing limbs with otherwise healthy bodies seem to predominate. There are some paralyzed people. The media portrayal of "inspirational" disabled people gets extreme. It's all about proving yourself to the world. I am not against Paralympics, I think it is a good thing, but this advertisement bothered me on multiple levels.

It looks like another disabled person was bothered by what they saw too:

"So why do I dislike the fact that the Paralympians have been labeled Superhumans? It’s not because I don’t think they are phenomenal athletes. They absolutely are. In a way calling the Superhuman detracts from that fact.

It’s ironic how closely the term Superhuman is to the term Super crip.

Super crip is a term used my disability media critics to describe the phenomenon of celebrating disabled people in either a way that lacks meaningful context or in a way that seeks to effectively erase their disabilities except to add emphasis to the extraordinariness of their accomplishments. It’s not just that they’re amazing athletes. It adds a degree of “Can you believe someone like that could do this?”

The 2012 ad is particularly guilty of this with its juxtaposition of scenes signifying how people became disabled (often violently) with images of them succeeding as athletes.

It does from A to B without looking at any of the context of how people get to B or for that matter who CAN get to B. Because athletic success, particularly for disabled people is not just a matter of having the desire to do it.

Which brings me to the repeated refrain of “Yes, I can” from the 2016 ad, which buys fully into the “to believe is to achieve” stereotype. It is not just a group of musicians, dancers, and athletes showcasing their skills. They really sell the myth.

Consider the scene in the career counselor’s office where the counselor tells a wheelchair user “No, you can’t” which is immediately followed but by that young man playing wheelchair rugby while screaming “YES, I CAN”.

The thing is “No, you can’t” is far more than just the words of an individual who has vastly underestimated your potential. It is a systemic reality. It is far more accurately an expression of “No, you can’t because we won’t let you”. Wheelchair Rugby Clubs do do not appear fully formed just because someone has the desire to play.

Getting to be a Channel 4 “Superhuman” is in many ways as much about luck as it is about skill and hard work. The reality is that access to athletic training for disabled people is limited to those who have physical and financial access to it. If there is no training available in your area or even if there is but you can’t afford it, all the desire and willingness to work in the world is not going to get you to the Paralympics."


  1. Yes, and what if part of your disability is being totally fatigued. How are you supposed to achieve much if your tired after a half an hour give or take. It's bull..What about Alzheimer's people who can't think right. Are they supposed to achieve success too.. It's just stupid propaganda..

    1. I agree about it being stupid propaganda. Yes what if you are tired. These are all healthy people with fit bodies except for missing a limb, their heart and lungs work, a few were born with missing hands or legs. I notice in comments they mentioned that most disabled people were financially barred from adaptive sports on that other blog. It's the usually believe and achieve nonense.

  2. This is a very narcish video and a very narcish message about Paralympic athletes. The way they packaged and branded the games is very narcish. Paralympic games has been around for more than 25 to 30 years and it is the first time we found a very narcish video. I am suspicious that a narc or two created that video about an upcoming Paralympic Games. For those who are unaware, Paralympic Games has been around for decades but they did not create narcish videos until recently.

    On a sidenote, my adopted narc mother and her fellow narcs loved these types of videos.

    1. I agree this is a very narcish video. Yes Paralympics has been around for a longer time, I don't remember these messages. I think the people would have protested back then in not being used as inspiration porn.

  3. I like the commenter who wrote that the media doesn't want anyone disabled. "Yes I can" is denying the fact there is even a disability. And for me, all this seems silly, for disabled people struggle with daily life, getting some money, and some have a hard time getting a disability pension, for it is believed you can function. I have to wonder if its ads like this that make it hard to be believed.

    Of course it makes me feel "less than". I am able bodied but I can't have a regular job like most folks. My nerves are too bad, so I would struggle with just keeping a roof over my head and food on the table, but the focus is about flying down stairs in a wheelchair? Like that is the most valuable thing I can do? I have to wonder what paralympics is all about, when they insist, "yes I can".

    Another thing, it tries to make us feel ashamed of our ourselves for not functioning as well as they do. Yes, some disabled people can do wonders, and its amazing, really, but it does tend to send the message that disabled is not allowed in our society.

    I believe my mother wanted me to die. Can't hold down a job, made me ashamed of wanting a disability pension, can't maintain relationships. So what was left? Nothing. So I kinda hate it when we are supposed to be ashamed of ourselves. I'm having a hard time expressing myself here, just that staying alive is hard enough, now we have to do wonders.

    1. I agree they can't show real disabled people just ones who have a single health problem who are athletic, employed--well well employed and wealthy and successful.

      I agree "Yes I can" is a joke. Can I go hear normally? In imagination land perhaps.

      I agree most disabled people struggle with daily life. I spent the morning in bed with bowel cramps, probably got some GMO corn in me by accident or it was from eating kale three days ago with me you never know...there's no reality shown in disabled people's lives. I am okay now, but there is no reality of disabled people's lives. Yesterday the temperature dropped for a very short period of time after a storm and I tootled outside to take a walk, but I may be stuck in here for a week stuck with the boring hallways or more. Ads like this make people think we are losers and "not trying hard enough". Its like the kind of people who think all fat people can lose weight and be thin and run triathalons. It judges the sick and disabled as just not putting the effort in. These athletic stars are what we are compared to. I notice they seem to have a lot of money too. How much to those special you can run sports leg cost? Thin and healthy people can walk around and buy 5,000-15,000 dollar prosthetics and an extra to run in.

      I agree it does send the message the disabled are not allowed in society. I think of the troll who posted about me going to volunteer more. She was always telling me I had to prove by worth by doing volunteer work. I loved volunteer work so that was ironic but add on that that we have to do "wonders" [and its good some people can] to prove "worthwhileness".

      I believe my mother wanted me to die too, it is sad, they wanted us beaten down to nothing. It is sick when you think about it. If you are a kid and your parent is competing with you already desiring your destruction, it's messed up. I agree staying alive is hard enough, the expectations are never ending are they?

      I do think some disability rights people would take massive issue with this video.

  4. I am going to reserve comment until I can walk to my parked car without someone following me and driving six inches from my butt. I can't tell if they are waiting for me to get back to my car and they want my parking spot or they hope I will trip and fall and they can run me over without denting a fender, either way it's beyond irritating.