It’s a strange word and to be honest with you it’s one I’m still getting used to. It basically refers to stories about disabled people doing things designed to make people (usually able bodied) feel better about themselves. It’s a weird situation for me because in some ways I’m a part of it and on the other hand it is a little condescending.
When I started directing I was told at film school that it would happen. And sure enough there were interviews focused on the fact that I was a disabled film maker. I made peace with it by deciding if another disabled person saw what I was doing maybe they would become inspired to try out something in the film industry. The New Zealand film industry is not so great at encouraging disabled people to join. Which is odd given that in the 80’s we made The Kids from OWL which prominently featured disabled characters, I would love to reboot it.
Stories like this clearly have a place if they inspire other disabled people.
Hugh McGahan however this week crossed a line in the opening paragraph of his New Zealand Herald column. He was writing about Alex McKinnon. Alex McKinnon is a former professional rugby league player who has been left paralysed after a tackle where he went head first into the ground.
During a television interview McKinnon was shown the incident and expressed his anger about what happened and in particular the fact that the opposing teams captain was arguing over a penalty while McKinnon was being attended to by medical staff.
Mr McGahan’s opening paragraph “The best thing Alex McKinnon can do is stop talking about the tackle that paralysed him and talk more about his inspirational story to try to recover from his horrific injury.” -Hugh McGahan
In other words, Be grateful you’re alive and stop whinging about your feelings that make me feel bad.
The rest of his column details how the tackle is McKinnons fault (That’s possible) and how he is losing public support after the interview. I don’t disagree with the rest of it. I’m not informed enough to really make a call on it.
BUT his opening paragraph is cringeworthy. He is a respected former player and his words carry a lot of weight among the public.
McKinnon is newly disabled and I can’t imagine what he’s going through. There will be moments where he’s alone with his thoughts or wanting desperately to do something he used to do and he can’t.
Myself I have gone from crutches to a wheelchair to crutches to cane back to crutches. I have had low moments where I used to wonder what my life would be like if I wasn’t disabled. I would talk to a friend about it or write about it. Everybody needs an outlet McKinnons accident happened this year so I’d say his anger is very raw.
Christopher Reeve in his book Still Me wrote about the fact that whenever he dreamed he was walking. It was what gave him hope.
To tell a disabled person to stop talking about the bad part of their lives because it makes you feel uncomfortable is unbelievably awful. To do it in a newspaper that is available world wide via the internet is disgusting.
It is not a crippleds job to provide you with inspirporn.