Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Batgirl: kicking ass and taking names

Yesterday, actress Teal Sherer (, @TealSherer) released a video addressing DC Comics' decision to "cure" Batgirl, effectively ending her run as one of the most well-known paraplegic superhoroes out there.

While I am not a fan of comic books or superhero stories, Teal raises a very interesting point here – do people with disabilities need to be "cured" or "fixed"?

Yes, it would be nice if there was a cure for things like spinal cord injury. But instead of repeatedly focusing on finding cures, why not focus on reachable goals? The disability rights movement focuses a lot on accommodating and including those with disabilities. Sounds reachable, right? After all, not every disability can be magically "cured."

That leads to DC Comics' treatment of Batgirl. I think "curing" her is a big mistake. It seems like it was meant to be a feel-good decision by DC but instead I sense a hint of ableism; is physical ability a standard for being a hero? Think about real-life "heroes" such as the police force or army. The real brains behind their operations rely not on brute force or strength but by intelligence and investigative work – without those, it wouldn't matter how much muscle you have. Of course, those are also certainly things that someone like Batgirl can do.

So does she need to be "fixed"? I don't think so. A character like that can add an extra dimension to any story and could play a vital role in apprehending ANY villain.

I'm done ranting, but to finish things off, I'd like to give some examples of characters who have played vital roles in "superhero"-like movies and TV shows without the use of brute physical strength:

  • Rupert Giles (Buffy the Vampire Slayer)
  • Chloe Sullivan (Smallville)
  • Walter Bishop (Fringe)
  • Adrian Monk (Monk)
  • Madeline Westen (Burn Notice)
  • Moz (White Collar)
  • Auggie (Covert Affairs)
  • Nate Ford (Leverage)
  • Chloe O'Brien (24)

1 comment:

  1. (Just realized, after writing this, that this probably isn't my strongest blog entry. Oh well. Hit "send" first, ask questions later.)