This. To all writers, THIS. First, empathy in the specific. This essay by Steven Spohn isn’t about lesbians, it’s about a group of people even more marginalized in every form of entertainment culture. Empathy.
Then gritty determination in a universal resistance to marginalized people’s lives being used as palatable plot devices for tragedy. As lesbians, we know exactly what being a discarded, misrepresented plot device feels like. Our bodies and tragedy are used to motivate “normal” people to feel something. Oh, how they weep for the dead lesbian.
We’re expected to be grateful to have even been included. Applause for the bravery of the mainstream writer for their diversity and daring.
Those days of “Thanks for noticing me,” in Eeyore sing-song are over. Done. Those of us who write in a so-called “ghetto” for others like us (yes, you should hear the sneer that comes with that judgmental B.S.) do so because we want to live to the end of our own stories. We want to be the heroes of our own lives.
For me the answer isn’t “there should not be movies like this” or “let’s drag the author who didn’t get it right out into the square and Twitterbomb her.” It’s the very same reality we all know when it comes to dead lesbian trope. If there were more representations of marginalized lives across the board in mainstream entertainment, it would not be so infuriating and heartbreaking when tragedy finds some of them, or when the writers fail to get it right in many other ways. Right now it is almost all of the lesbians. Dead.
For people living with paralysis they have an X-man, and a new movie. Yeah, yeah Tom Cruise three decades ago. If you’re focused on trying to poke holes in the idea that people with disabilities aren’t protagonists (or even antagonists) in popular culture, you’re derailing not engaging.
Draw the line in the your mind: disposable people in fiction are too often found to be disposable people in real life. Art reflects life reflects art. Get it?
A quote from Steven Spohn’s essay:
“So, I’m here to ask you, aspiring writer, PLEASE DON’T MAKE THE SAME MISTAKES. If you’re going to write about a minority or disability, do the same level of research you would do about a foreign land or a subject you have never personally experienced. Realize that you could accidentally be playing into the fears of a group you’re trying to support.” – Steven Spohn (CAPS mine)
I hope Steven Spohn’s essay resonates for you as it did for me. My commentary here will make more sense (possibly) after reading Spohn’s essay.