I feel like I’m always late to the abled party but I am about to switch the music and make all the abled people feel uncomfortable and Pokemon fans feel outraged.
You probably want to read my past posts about disabled characters and media representation of disabled people first before continuing this. But I’ll summarize those posts a bit. If you want clarification, go back to those earlier posts.
First of all, I always say to hire a disabled actor to play a disabled character so we get accurate and authentic representation. Abled people perceive disability as something different than disabled people and often portray it into something it’s not. And you are also giving a disabled person a job and it’s difficult for a lot of us to get one because of discrimination.
This goes the same for writing disabled characters. You probably want to hire sensitivity readers or get some kind of input by disabled people for your character to not be full of stereotypical BS.
You could also hire disabled writers for your blockbuster movie.
Detective Pikachu has PLENTY of resources to reach out and hire the right people. So, I don’t want to hear about how they can’t find anyone because disabled actors and writers exist EVERYWHERE.
That about sums up those posts.
Anyway, there are MAJOR SPOILERS UP AHEAD!
Before I continue, I want to say that I am ALL for disabled villains. Anyone can be evil, including disabled people. That is not my issue with this movie at all.
It’s the way disabled villains are portrayed because abled people have no fucking clue how to do these kinds of characters without promoting harmful stereotypes.
The movie introduces you to Howard Clifford, a wheelchair user (because of some sort of degenerative disease), and the DESIGNER (and this part is important af) of Ryme City and is super rich. He is a big deal pretty much since he helped create the city.
Now, I think only disabled people will get what I am saying right off because this just is SO RIDICULOUS to me. I laughed in the theater when I watched this and I was the only one because nobody else understood just how silly this is.
Howard says he is “confined” to his wheelchair. Language is important to how we perceive things. This kind of mentality is popular among abled people and how THEY believe we think about mobility devices.
A lot of wheelchair users see their device as FREEDOM. The former is an internally ableist way of thinking because wheelchair users wouldn’t be able to leave their homes and participate in activities without the device. Hence, why it is FREEDOM to them.
The issue with using mobility devices like wheelchairs is that places are inaccessible (even though it’s against the ADA law that is almost thirty years old now).
But imagine actually having more accessibility. Mobility devices would become less about being “confined” and even more about having “freedom” to everyone. But abled people can’t have that. It’s seen as “charity” to provide access.
“We are free when using a mobility device but the lack of access gatekeeps us from having equal freedom like abled people do.”
Is this addressed ever in movies? No. Every disabled character has this way of thinking.
And it especially doesn’t make sense in this movie.
This brings me to an old tweet of mine when I found out about this character.
If you feel so confined, WHY WOULD YOU BUILD AND DESIGN A CITY TO BE INACCESSIBLE? Did you just forget to do that? WHY NOT DO THAT NOW? YOU’RE FUCKING RICH!
Howard built a whole hologram system so he can “experience the world” even though he could use those resources to ALSO build a kickass mobility device and city or design and build other cities to be more accessible.
It doesn’t make sense to me. This feels like lazy and clueless writing by what abled people believe a disabled person would do. It doesn’t feel like a “justification” to be evil because it comes off so fake and unreal.
I know it’s a movie and this character is supposed to be selfish, but a selfish person would spend everything on themselves. At least they would have a kickass mobility device. I don’t understand.
His wheelchair just looked aesthetically different but was not any different than standard wheelchairs. WHY? If you’re upset that you can’t access the world, why would you have a standard wheelchair? Why would you build an inaccessible world?
He’s rich and has a shit ton of resources. But he wouldn’t HAVE to be evil if he could make his world accessible, right? He would need ANOTHER reason.
It’s as if the writers looked at a checklist of harmful disabled character stereotypes and followed each one.
Why is it that every disabled character is written this way? We all don’t hate our disabilities. We all don’t want cures.
Yes. There is internal ableism and we all struggle with it, but to ignore that this is the main issue that is NEVER addressed in movies and TV shows is problematic.
I know it is supposed to be a kids movie and you don’t want to write something too complicated but did you have to write this character like this still?
If you want them to be disabled still, at least make it make sense. Maybe add another disabled character that calls out the villain’s internal ableism and mistake on not creating a more accessible world.
What about his son? His son could have been that other disabled character?
Or just make him not disabled at all if you can’t do these kinds of characters justice and promote harmful stereotypes.
This is a kids movie. What will kids take from this? That disabled people need to be cured? That using a wheelchair is a bad thing? That we will become evil if we are not cured?
This movie would have been fine, otherwise.
I watched this movie with a few other people and even they didn’t understand why I didn’t like it at first. They saw nothing wrong with it when I asked before mentioning my issues with it. Ableism is so ingrained.
But this is why I created this blog. I am not allowing this BS to go on for much longer. I will not be complicit.
The only good thing about this villain is that yes… rich people are evil.