Okay, folks, time to get up on the soapbox a little bit. This is something that’s been in the back of my mind for some time, and something I saw on Twitter brought it back to the front of my mind. Also, it relates to one of my current writing projects, so it’s time to get it off my chest.
I do not like the fact that Barbara Gordon stopped being Oracle to retake the mantle of Batgirl.
First, a little public disclosure: I happen to have a disability myself. A relatively mild and hidden disability, but I do have one. It’s called Hemophilia B.
Now, as for Barbara, I’ll admit right up front that her disability was a lot more serious. But the fact that the writers “fixed” her can lead to a lot of other things.
First off, not all disabled people want to be “fixed.” Many disabled people, like myself, are just fine being who we are. Our disabilities contributed to the person we are, so we really don’t want to change it. For me, the fact that I couldn’t run and roughhouse with the other kids in school kinda pushed me into doing a lot more reading (where I could have adventures), and that’s what made me the writer I am today. Of course, there are those who want to regain a “normal” life, and we should celebrate their successes, but they should not overshadow those like me.
Second, the fact that the writers felt compelled to “fix” Barbara shows a deep-seated attitude about disabled people: that you’re not a real person unless you’re “fixed.” Oracle was, honestly, a beacon of hope to disabled people, a story telling us that even though we’re not “normal” (whatever normal is), we can contribute to society. I’ll drop just two names here to show just how big an impact disabled people can have on the world: Stevie Wonder and Stephen Hawking.
Although I hesitate to use the term, this is actually about inclusiveness. Disabled people need and deserve to be included, just as women and people of different faiths and skin tones deserve to be included. What DC did was take one of the leading disabled heroes — in fact, the only major disabled DC hero I’m aware of — out of their lineup. They decided this was the one group they no longer wanted to include, they wanted to exclude the disabled.
This is shameful. And it needs to stop. Just as we need more heroes of different backgrounds, we also need more heroes of different ability levels.
As an addendum, I mentioned that this relates to a work in progress… I do fully intend to write a superhero story with an Oracle-like character at the center of it. I’ve tried a couple different approaches and haven’t been too happy with any yet, but I promise I will keep trying and will get the thing written someday.