Friends of ASCCA: Embracing differences in movies and beyond with McCartney

Halloween might be officially over, but I am not happy about it! There are so many reasons why I love Halloween, aside from it being the last holiday before it gets cold. Getting out with friends and stuffing my face with sweets is always a good time, and any excuse to wear weird outfits is good enough for me. But one thing I both love and hate is all the scary stuff, and it’s not because I don’t like to be scared. Vampires and monsters are cool, until I realize the monster I’m supposed to be scared of is more like me than the protagonists.

Depending on the book or movie, I find horror can be good or bad for dealing with disabilities. When bloodthirsty villains are given disabilities to make them stand out or add shock value, it actually makes me feel really uncomfortable. I recently checked out an anthology of fantasy and horror from our school library, and while I really love most of the stories, some left me feeling more than a little upset.

How would you feel to find bodies that look like yours being used as symbols for corruption and evil? If Freddy Kruger was infamous for his curly hair rather than burns, or the murderers in all those campfire stories were escaped insurance salesmen instead of patients in a psychiatric care facility, how would our perception of what’s scary be different? These tales we tell now aren’t exactly sending good messages about people who look or behave differently, and definitely don’t make me feel good about myself.

But to me, not all stories in this genre get disability wrong. When writers dare to give our perspective, horror becomes an eye opening tool for exploring what it’s like to be different. Stories about scary asylums in the fifties where the terror is in the unspeakable abuse, and not the patients (who, sadly, were just people with disabilities of all kinds whose families would not care for them and help them succeed).

I think we need stories that teach us the real evil is our misplaced fear of anything outside the norm. Things like this can be hard to swallow, especially when they bring to light all the terrible things that have happened or persist today, but that’s what this genre is for. Sometimes you just need to see it to appreciate how far our community has come, and how much progress we still have to make as advocates.

I hope one day people will embrace the way my disability makes me look as much as I do, because I actually kind of like it these days. I mean, part of my AMC is having baby-soft skin. Who doesn’t like that? Jokes aside, I am feeling a lot more confident. It’s like once I stopped trying to look normal, I realized I was fine from the start, and I didn’t ever really want to be anything else. I personally don’t even want to imagine what it would feel like to just wake up one day and have a different body. That would be so scary, right? I don’t know, maybe I’m just weird. Or maybe I’m just as afraid of what’s different for me as everyone else.

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