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Old 14 August 2014, 01:16 AM
Nick Theodorakis Nick Theodorakis is offline
 
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Default Miracle memes and inspiration porn: Internet viral images demean disabled people

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There is an Internet meme I despise. It is a photograph of a woman struggling out of her wheelchair to fetch a bottle from a liquor store shelf. It always appears with a caption calling this a “miracle” and it always attracts a slew of “LMAO!!!!” comments about disabled people “faking” our disabilities. Able-bodied people assure me it’s hilarious.
...
The “miracle” meme has been around for a while—long enough to be infamous among those of us who use wheelchairs—but George Takei recently shared the photo several times with his colossal social media audience, and that brought it unprecedented exposure. ...
I've seen the meme before, and didn't like it then. Full disclosure: my daughter has severe fibromyalgia that keeps her mostly in a wheelchair, but she is able to stand and walk short distances, so that could have been her that people were making fun of. Well, except that it would have been in a different place than the "liquor isle [sic]."

I am disappointed that it was George Takei who also gave this more exposure, though, although I'm not sure why I expect that being part of one marginalized group would necessarily give him more empathy for another one.

Nick
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Old 14 August 2014, 01:41 AM
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UEL UEL is offline
 
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I hear you, Nick. My Mom suffered a cerebral aneurysm that left her weak and unable to walk great distances (say, over 100 metres). She also was a proud woman, and did not like wheelchairs, canes, walkers or anything else she considered a mark of an inferior human.

She did have the handicapped placard which gave her a parking spot closer. But one a few occasions (she had her condition for 20 years before she died), someone would make a comment she could overhear about able bodied people using handicapped parking.

And when she did use a walking aid, or wheelchair, there were times someone would question whether she really needed it at all.

If my Mom saw that meme, it would have either made her angry or made her very upset. More than likely the latter.
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Old 14 August 2014, 01:45 AM
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I guess even belonging to a number of marginalized groups doesn't always guarantee you remember everything you get to take for granted. Most of us probably need to be reminded of stuff from time to time.
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Old 14 August 2014, 02:04 AM
Nick Theodorakis Nick Theodorakis is offline
 
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Oops, looks like I forgot the link:

http://www.slate.com/articles/health..._disabled.html

Nick
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Old 14 August 2014, 02:43 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Nick Theodorakis View Post
I am disappointed that it was George Takei who also gave this more exposure, though, although I'm not sure why I expect that being part of one marginalized group would necessarily give him more empathy for another one.
Because he usually comes across as someone who's too nice a guy to act like that?
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Old 14 August 2014, 03:08 AM
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And George has apologised.

Dropbear
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Old 14 August 2014, 03:30 AM
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He's a class act, that guy. When a public figure needs to apologize for something, they should use that as a template.

I hate how many people do exactly what he asks them not to in the comments....
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Old 14 August 2014, 04:35 AM
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Looks like the link is dead...
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Old 14 August 2014, 05:29 AM
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This is what he posted:

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I’ve just come back from an extended trip to England, and I came home to a large number of fan emails concerning a meme I shared more than a week ago. In that meme, a woman in a wheelchair was standing up to reach for a bottle of liquor in the store, and the caption said something about a miracle in the alcohol aisle. To this I added a quip about her being touched by the holy spirits.

I did not expect the level of offense this meme caused. I had naturally just thought of those movies where the evangelical preacher miraculously cures someone who was disabled. What I’d never really considered before so many fans wrote in is how that portrayal of disabled persons is filled with ignorance and prejudice—two things I never want to promote, even inadvertently.

Now, before all of you go and start defending my right to post what I want, I want first to thank the many fans who wrote in with the hopes of educating me on the question of “ableist” bias. While I did not ever mean to suggest by sharing the meme that all people in wheelchairs cannot walk, or that they don’t need them despite the fact that they can stand on their own from time to time, I have taken the fan mail and criticism to heart.

After I’d posted the meme, I noted in the comments an inordinate amount of very uncivil behavior on the part of many fans, including both those who demanded I take it down and those who said I should leave it up. I also received a good deal of email IN CAPITAL LETTERS asking me if I would feel the same way if someone called me FAG or a JAP. Now, I took down the meme from my timeline shortly after it went up, but I admit I was decidedly irked by the tenor of some of those criticizing me. In that moment, I posted a follow up telling fans that perhaps they should “take it down—a notch” which, in retrospect, was not the most sensitive response.

The fact that I was surprised by the response the wheelchair meme received indicates that I do indeed lack knowledge, and some sensitivity, over what is clearly a hot button issue, and that I and others can take this as an opportunity not to dig in, but rather to open up to the stories and experiences of those in the disabled community. I appreciate those who took the time to write in. I wish I’d had the chance to respond sooner, but until today I was not able to go through all the mail I’d received.

So to those who were hurt by my posts on this issue, I ask you please to accept this apology. To those who think I shouldn’t have to apologize, I want to remind you that I get to decide what I apologize for, so there’s no need to come to my defense.

Very well then, carry on, friends. Carry on.
Dropbear
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Old 14 August 2014, 08:06 AM
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Even despite the silliness of ignoring that standing for short lengths of time is not the same thing as walking, that people don't only need wheelchairs when they cannot move their legs, you can tell she's holding on to the shelves. Her body is very close to it and you can't see the arm that isn't reaching up.
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Old 14 August 2014, 08:08 AM
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I was able to read it and commented that people are not "looking for a reason to be offended" and that Political correctness is about manners and empathy...you know being nice. Then I pointed out that GT was being nice with such a fantastic apology and that he decided it was necessary and maybe he shouldn't be lectured on how he shouldn't apologize. I also added that just because Gyou are disabled and not offended you do not speak for all people in similar situations. Eh, it was an attempt.

I love GT, I've loved him since I was a little Star Trek geek...he was my second crush after Mr. Spock. This just makes me more of a devout fan.
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Old 14 August 2014, 04:24 PM
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This is a difficult thing. I don't interpret the joke as meaning that all disabled people are faking it - only that some are, and that if something sufficiently important comes up, they will walk.

A lot of humor plays upon the juxtaposition of things which don't make sense, and also, on physical comedy. It's funny when an able-bodied adult walks down the street and slips on a banana peel - but it's not funny when an elderly person, walking with a cane, falls down.
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Old 20 August 2014, 03:41 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Hero_Mike View Post
This is a difficult thing. I don't interpret the joke as meaning that all disabled people are faking it - only that some are.
That's not what the objection is. The problem is with people having this set idea of what disabled means and being suspicious of anybody who doesn't fit that. Being suspicious in the first place is a little bit weird - why assume people are faking it?

It's not about whether 'all disabled people are faking it' but using an example of a real woman to say SHE is faking it, without knowing anything about her disability. Even if the joke is not at her but at unknown strawmen fakers, then the problem is still with people not having the foggiest idea about the scope of disabilities (in order to joke about it by assuming all disabled people can't use their legs) and the very real problems this can cause for very real disabled people.
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Old 20 August 2014, 03:49 PM
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Yes. The joke relies on the idea that anyone who is using a wheelchair would be able to stand up for only one of two reasons: a miracle happened, or they were faking. The joke suggests the latter (by sarcastically invoking the former) and suggests that she was sufficiently motivated to buy booze that she gave away her secret momentarily. It also plays on the idea that fakers who are milking the system are also substance abusers or at least spending a lot more time in an altered mental state than (we) upstanding responsible people are.
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Old 21 August 2014, 12:39 AM
Nick Theodorakis Nick Theodorakis is offline
 
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I was talking with my daughter about the OP, and she said this attitude is one of the reasons she doesn't like to stand up in public.

NIck
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Old 21 August 2014, 04:12 AM
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That makes me feel , Nick.

And this is kind of a missed opportunity because Takei could have used this as a chance to educate but instead it was just a stupid joke and an apology almost no one will read (esp. tldr) - certainly not most of the people who enjoyed the joke. This is someone who presumably knows people who could help him produce a joke that enlightens while at the same time deprecates his original insensitivity. That would be better than an apology.
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Old 21 August 2014, 10:33 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by erwins View Post
The joke relies on the idea that anyone who is using a wheelchair would be able to stand up for only one of two reasons: a miracle happened, or they were faking.
I agree entirely, but I want to add that I think the 'joke' is even broader than that. It's based on the suspicion that people who need any kind of assistance - whether it's a wheelchair or a disabled parking spot or even benefits - are just taking advantage of the rest of us.

I always hated the Lou and Andy sketches in Little Britain for this very reason. 'Disabled guy abuses the kindness of his carer' - that's the whole joke. That's the whole joke?!
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Old 21 August 2014, 11:10 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by UEL View Post
And when she did use a walking aid, or wheelchair, there were times someone would question whether she really needed it at all.
Sometimes the people with that attitude are arresting police officers and it turns out they have a surefire way of checking whether you really do need that wheelchair. (Warning: disturbing video of police dumping a quadraplegic man out of his wheelchair.)

When I went searching for that video I discovered that there's a bunch of other incidents where police have tipped people out of wheelchairs.
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