21 March, 2013

Rhetoric, Exploitation, And Ferengi Bartenders

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Mystic Metals Body Jewelry

Rhetoric, Exploitation, And Ferengi Bartenders

Sorry for the late blog. I say that a lot, but free is free, right? This week (as a matter of fact, today) is my birthday, so I've taken the time to be lazy and watch blaxploitation movies. You know, the way every birthday ought to be spent. I'd recommend "Disco Godfather," Human Tornado," and "Three The Hard Way." Fantastic cinema.

My wonderful and beautiful girlfriend and I are nerds. I think you cats and kittens know that by now. And I also think she won't be offended by my outing her nerdom. We watch BBC shows, movies with swords, documentaries about Darwin and his obsession with barnacles. We talk about books. We discuss the technological advancements and differences among the Ash robot, the Bishop robot, the Call robot, and the David robot. Nerds. And you are too if you understood the robot thing. Last night, she and I watched several episodes of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. Don't hate. That show was dope. Better than Voyager, much to the disagreement of my girlfriend. But DS9, as the nerds call it, was awesome. Lot of race allegory, as much of the Star Trek universe was, a lot of sociological commentary on living in an unnatural area, much like living on a military base. And cool monsters. One of the episodes we watched included a commentary that I think bears notice. So we're going to talk about it. Right now. Right here. Because, why not.

The episode of Deep Space Nine we watched was from season two, episode six, entitled "Melora." In this galactic jaunt, a broad from the Federation is coming to the space station to do something important. Or something. I'm not sure why she's there. Her species, because why would she be human, is native to a planet with super low gravity. They're called... Something. I didn't get that part. Anyway, since she's unaccustomed to the gravity on other worlds or on the space station, she rolls with a futurey, spacey, wheelchair. So she gets to the place, and the broad with the worm in her belly and the doctor guy who was in "Kingdom Of Heaven" meet her up and put her in this fancy wheelchair. (Meanwhile, someone is trying to kill Quark the bartender, but that's not important right now.) When the broad arrives, whose name is Melora by the way, she has an attitude about her disability. She's a 'do it myself' kind of cripple who finds accepting help to be an affront to her sensibilities and inherent human rights. Or whatever alien rights she happens to have. She and the doctor guy, who does very little doctoring during the entire series on the space station, fall for each other despite her shitty attitude toward her handicap. He helps her see the beauty in her, and her attitude slowly changes. Yay love. The doctor develops a surgical procedure to fix her legs using some research by some other dude, and he begins treating her crap legs. Melora tries to do something on her own, which she shouldn't be doing, and she falls and can't get up like that famous old lady from the commercials when I was a kid. She gets pissed about it. She and the doctor reach the final treatment where there's no turning back, and Melora decides that she doesn't want to walk because she will lose her identity and won't be able to visit her family on her weird gravity planet. The doctor accepts her decision. I think they make out a little. Also, Quark doesn't die. Melora, using her unique cripple abilities, subdues the guy trying to kill Quark and everything is peachy at the end. She goes home and the doctor smiles in a sort of tragic glee for having loved and lost.

Now, I dig on Star Trek, and yes; it is sometimes space schlock. See also; all those times the crew gets stuck in the holodeck and they have to play out Robin Hood or some such bullshit. I also appreciate Star Trek for pushing social boundaries in sociological norms. The shows typically have an interracial crew with cats from all over the galaxy with all their different ideas. Star Trek even had the first televised interracial kiss. That's a big deal, and the shows seem to continue that trend of exploring new things. About the cripple thing. Yeah. It was a fine episode with lots of Quark, who is my favorite character. But it was a bit on the nose. I understood the point of it. That was pretty clear. You'd have to be some kind of drunken, small eared Ferengi to not get it. Am I right, ladies? Woo! Ugh... Anyway, it read to me like a teleplay written by an able who is somehow touched by a disabled somewhere in life. I could be desperately wrong about that, but that is the feel it had. It had this 'hey guys, these people are people too and they can do anything you can!' I hate that attitude. Mostly because it is untrue. We can't do everything you can do, and the thing people seem to ignore in these types of commentaries is that my not being able to do everything that you do is ok. There's nothing wrong with that. Still, we live in a society where everything needs to be on the level and fair, which means crippled people should be afforded the same opportunities as abled people. Thing is, opportunity for a thing and that specific thing are two different things. And before you throw blacks and women and gays at me, that is a completely different argument. The old ideas of their inability to do things was based on ignorance and manufactured science. We all know that a black dude can do what a white dude can. But a guy in a wheelchair can't do what a walking person can. That's fact, and I think it's important for crippled people to realize that and come to peace with it.

I'd have probably been more content with the episode if it didn't smack my face with a big assed bag of quarters at the end where Melora's unique sensibilities because of her disability save the day. Yes, we get that. She has value. And that's the thing with these kind of commentaries. Whenever you see a show with a disabled person interacting with able people, they seem to write into the scrip this sense of 'differently abled' which is rhetorical alleviation of guilt by able people and disabled alike. It's words absolving our feelings about a something we'd rather not accept. Let's be frank; disabled and differently abled are saying the same thing, and calling people like me differently abled is not going to make my spine better, nor is it going to make me realize that there are things I can do that ables can't. It's silly and cowardly to use language like that to define who we are. Now, I get that Melora didn't want the surgery thing because she would lose her sense of identity. When you're tethered to a machine like a cane or wheelchair for your whole or most of your life, it becomes a part of who you are. Think of having ass length hair all your life and then on a whim you shave your head. Part of your identity has been exorcized. If I shaved my beard tomorrow, my perception and comfort within myself would drastically and immediately change. If you woke with none of your tattoos or piercings, you'd have a sense of loss in who you are. A new paranoia. We're not snails. Our sight and how we share through sight to others are huge parts of our identity. (See, snails are mostly blind, so they smell their way through life. That's why the snail thing makes sense. Yay learning!)

I hate my disability, and I am very much not thankful for it in many ways. It has given me a perspective which I'd likely not have were I able. I am thankful for that, mostly. If someone presented me with an opportunity to cure my spine, I as well would be conflicted, but at the end of the day, I want to ride a bike. But that has little to do with this. I'm not coming at media's portrayal of cripples. That's silly. I don't care. True, there are no action heroes in wheelchairs, but if there were, those movies would be lousy. Leaping out of an exploding building in "Die Hard" is freaking awesome, and if Bruce Willis (New Jersey native, by the way) were in a chair, that movie moment would be awful. Now, show me a heartfelt drama that includes a crippled guy where his disability has absolutely nothing to do with the plot, and now you're into my point. Dominique Pinon's character in "Alien: Resurrection" is close, but his disability made for some groovy and tense moments in the film which wouldn't have worked were he able.

What am I complaining about here? I'm not sure. I got off base and I didn't sleep well last night. The Deep Space Nine episode was good, and I enjoyed it, but what's apparent is that when plots like these in shows (which all seem to play like after school specials for adults) hit so close to the nose like this, it's almost exploitative. It reads like this: Let's use this person and his disability to show his difficulty and struggle, and then tie a bow on at the end where his difficulty and struggle are what win the day; and somewhere in there we'll make him make his own decision about his problems as to show that crippled people have some control over their disabilities thus exploring this 'everyone is the same' idea that makes those without the disability feel good about living in a reality with disables and in such we will have shown sensitivity and drawn awareness to our crippled brothers and sisters. It's a bit too in my face, I think. And I really don't care if I'm being exploited, but let's be fair; it is exploitation, isn't it? Stay beautiful, kids.

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  1. What is your feelings on the show Legit on FX? As a caretaker, on one hand I'm laughing but at the other there's the part of me who is like 'how the FUCK did they give this the green light on FX??'

  2. The REAL lesson here was that Bashir is a fucking creeper with no ethics as a doctor.