Last week I had the rare experience of having to say no to a project. It was a big one, and in many ways the type of project that could launch a career further than anyone would have ever thought possible, or what I felt was more likely to be the case, the type of project that would encase you into artistic oblivion.
I am often approached by young filmmakers wanting to make a documentary about me, about my disability and about how ‘inspirational’ I am. Here’s a thought: I am really boring. My disability is not the most interesting thing about me, and I’m only inspirational if you are looking for an excuse to stay home on a Saturday night and let someone else do all of the work.
Recently I’ve been alerted to the fact that disabled people in our media are often portrayed as ‘monolithic.’ There for inspiration, but very little else. Clearly, as a disabled person in the media myself, I find this realization hugely discouraging. Let me extremely blunt here:
If the point of my disability is to inspire you, it ain’t worth it.
I’m not here to be an inspiration to you. While some people may find me inspirational because of what I do, that is not my sole purpose in life. I am here to affect change in the world, and to mould the universe into the ideals that I see fit. That’s the purpose of everyone’s life, to change this world and create something that fits with our ideas and philosophy. The second you simplify someone into an inspiration, you’re not doing them a favor. You’re not putting them on a pedestal. You are taking away their agency and suggesting that they are only fit for one purpose- yours.
As I look about my flat and examine my flat, I realize that there are loads of elements around me that would make a great documentary. Seeing a production through from beginning to end. Employing four crazy women to create wonderful works of art. Building a racerunner when I had never seen one in real life. All of these ideals would make fascinating topics for a documentary. None of them involve being inspirational.
We cannot reduce the experience of being physically disabled in this world to one formula. We cannot simply say disabled people are inspirational, because it simply isn’t true. My grandfather was a complete jerk when he began to lose his physical abilities, and made everyone miserable for it. Disabled people are as complex and complicated and fascinating as anyone else in this world, and we do them a severe injustice when we objectify them in this manner. Simplifying who people are, creating them to be monolithic, taking away their agency and voice is not creating an inspirational documentary. It is creating pornography.
I’ve always on the look for new projects and new elements to throw myself into. At the moment my plate is full, but looking at the future a documentary which features myself might be possible, however not when it chooses to squish and form my life into an unnatural shape for its own propaganda.