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Disability and Representation in Sci-Fi Movies
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Disability and Representation in Sci-Fi Movies

When it comes to Sci-Fi movies, the pool of disability narratives from which to draw on are often fairly limited and condescending — disability in science fiction is often presented as a plot device used to show the wonders of technology, or as a tragedy to be compensated for with superpowers.

There’s Jake Sully, the protagonist of Avatar, who is a paraplegic — but all’s well because he is allowed to transport his mind into that of a seven-foot-tall blue cat person. Or, in X-Men, it’s okay that Professor X is a cripple: he can read minds.

Narratives that involve compensation or miracle cures are designed for an abled population, who don’t know how to think about people with a disability now that we’re no longer locked out of sight or pressured to hide all signs of abnormality.

Disability representation in some Sci-Fi movie remains the way it is today because movie producers have failed to show the natural ability being exhibited by people with disabilities. Oftentimes, able-bodied characters are being used to act scenes meant for actors with a disability, but this is the 21st century and producers should be able to use actors with disabilities for movies that entail a storyline with people with disabilities.

A lot of Sci-Fi movies with disability representation also present disability as something that can always be cured through enough effort and positivity. Such depiction is insulting. Yes, it’s important to note that you can win sometimes, but success is never as simple as inspirational stories about people with disabilities who beat all odds. 

John Towsend, a Sci-Fi movie editor said: "The production of Sci-Fi movies needs real representation. We often have to re-edit movie scenes a number of times just to get the right picture of characters, especially in movies that starred an able-bodied actor in place of an actor with disabilities."

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