Subscribe to The Shiller Articles by Email The Shiller Articles: April 2010

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Marriage, Divorce and Being Single or The ‘M’ Word

(originally published May 5, 2010)

My article is

Marriage, Divorce and Being Single or The ‘M’ Word.’ I examine some of the roles we are forced into and the damaging effects of ideology. I am not against marriage at all – I am for free-will.

If divorce has increased by one thousand percent, don't blame the women's movement. Blame the obsolete sex roles on which our marriages were based.

Betty Friedan:
speech, New York City, January 20, 1974

Marriage, Divorce and Being Single or The ‘M’ Word

You know, to be a single woman over a certain age really enacts a double standard. Men are labeled ‘bachelors’ - lots of doubtful questions arise for women that do not exist for men. Is she gay? Does she have trouble committing or holding down a man? In my non-fiction book Who Knew? ( A continuation of You Never Know: A Memoir I say, “Wow. To be an unmarried woman is so suspect. I certainly could have gotten married and will - one day. I remember having a teacher in high-school who was unmarried and I definitely pre-judged her. I was not outside of ideology or expectation. It is kind of bizarre to be in a similar situation now. I was doing a Masters Degree and a PhD. I studied singing at The Royal Conservatory of Music. I had a band. There were relationships and jobs. I acted on film, a TV series and theatre, wrote articles, studied French and took seminars on photography and voice-work. Sorry if marriage was not a priority. I feel like it does not matter what I did – marriage would have been a measure of success.”

It is so bizarre to me. I do so much yet validation from most others would be based through my relationship with a man. Sorry – but like it’s so hard to get married? Look, I do want to be with someone forever and marriage would concretize that idea but there are no guarantees, eh? Amy, a third-wave feminist like me says, “society has valued marriage to the extent that some people stay in marriages that aren't healthy -- and do so, because "not being married" or being "divorced" in this society punishes people -- especially women -- even those for whom divorce is a ‘life saver.’" ( A stable partner would be great, but if marriage is not an option, so be it.

Like many children, fairy-tales were read to me. Instead of idealizing a prince-charming, I may have regarded the situation as make-believe. I never immersed myself in an ideology most take for granted. I still don’t. Good cake at weddings though. Usually, free drinks too. An excuse for a party? I’m honestly not a hurtful person; I just get a kick out of making fun of things.

A New York Times article says, “The most recent crop of reality television shows taps the fantasies we first learned from fairy tales: castles and fortunes, true love and romantic destiny, and above all that most perfect storybook union, the ''fairy tale wedding.'' On the rose-strewn finale of ''The Bachelorette,'' Trista chose the shy fireman Ryan, who promptly got down on one knee and held out a diamond. ''I don't think that I could have imagined a better ending to this fairy tale story,'' she sighed. Meanwhile, on ''Joe Millionaire,'' 20 would-be Cinderellas competed for the hand of a modern-day Prince Charming.” Ich but firemen... (“Fairy Tales and a Dose of Reality.”)

Gay marriage – well, if it’s legal for straights, I say why not? “Brad Pitt gave one hundred thousand to fight the passage of Proposition 8, an amendment that would outlaw gay marriage in California. Brad's donation is the biggest that any A-list celebrity has donated to this date. But it comes as a shock that Ellen DeGeneres or Portia haven't given a penny to the cause. Rumors have it that eleven million dollars has been raised to fight Prop 8.” (Associated Content)

“Brad Pitt, ever the social activist, says he won't be marrying Angelina Jolie until the restrictions on who can marry whom are dropped.” ( Way to go Brangelina!

I know some absolutely fabulous women, pioneers, who feel judged because of their non-marital status. If as much energy around them would be focused on their incredible accomplishments instead of analyzing why they’re single there would be such a positive shift for everyone concerned. This gets me mad on so many levels.

I was looking at the website, Single-Woman.TV. It celebrates singleness. This truly opposes dominant belief structures. Instead of judging and being negative there is pragmatic positivity and a very welcome breathing space. You are not suffocated into fitting-in. The very opposite of a Stepford wife is enabled: “The term "Stepford wife", which is often used in popular culture, stemmed from the novel [The Stepford Wives is a 1972 satirical horror novel by Ira Levin], and is usually a reference to a submissive and docile housewife.” (Wikipedia: The Free Encyclopedia)

In my non-fiction book You Never Know: A Memoir ( I say; “I guess the way my mind works is pretty revolutionary. I do not think like most people I know, that’s for sure. By many standards, I am pretty unconventional. My actions speak for themselves. Two things I can think of right off the bat are that I am unmarried and I do not have kids. Not that I do not want either, but they obviously have not been a priority for me. I was never the kind of girl who dreamt of her wedding day. Having a stable partner is very nice, but I never thought I would need to get married to have that. I remember when I was eight years old, a little boy asked me to marry him. I know we were too young to get married, but I cannot shrug this feeling that I was hard-wired for resistance early on.” (pp. 117-118.)

It is revolutionary to go against the grain, to resist a standard, a dominant ideology. It takes a lot of courage and strength to do things differently and I admire, no esteem, those that do. I know very well that I opt out of the so-called ‘normal’ (I can’t stand that word) but for me it’s like breathing air - a habit which takes little effort on my part. I do validate the effort and challenge most face though.

There is a ton of pressure to fit in and conform. Mark Twain said; “Whenever you find yourself on the side of the majority, it is time to pause and reflect.” In You Never Know: A Memoir I say; “Difference is something that most people avoid. Fitting in becomes a goal. Personally, I think difference is valuable. It’s the “same” that irks me. Variation is not the same as inconsistency. One can be incredibly multi-tonal and consistent.” (p. 23)

Pat Donnelly’s article “How not to find love” (The Montreal Gazette) describes how playwright-actor-dancer-singer Fenulla Jiwani in her play, 30 Dates, draws upon her own dating experiences and feelings about arranged marriages. The pressure to get married is fierce. Donnelly adds, “Looking for Mr. or Ms. Right? Now that online dating and speed dating have entered into the equation, the comedic possibilities have multiplied.” I know that “arranged marriages” are cultural but the inference…

Even celebrity Carmen Electra feels pressure to marry: “The former 'Baywatch' star - who got engaged to the KoRn guitarist in April after a whirlwind romance - insists the couple are in no hurry to tie the knot but are constantly being asked if they have set a wedding date.”

She said: "It's funny; everyone else puts so much pressure, asking, 'When are you getting married?”
"If it was up to everybody else, we would be married and divorced already." (“Carmen Electra Feeling Under Pressure To Get Married.”)

Wikipedia: The Free Encyclopedia says; “Divorce or dissolution of marriage is the final termination of a marriage, canceling the legal duties and responsibilities of marriage and dissolving the bonds of matrimony between married persons. In most countries, divorce requires the sanction of a judge or other authority in a legal process.”

I’ve had excruciating break-ups and the torment of divorce must be horrific. There is a great temptation, I’m sure, to be pain-free, to avoid conflict. There might be a fire one has to walk through to get to the other side. This side may ultimately hold mega-relief. Probably, stepping outside the ideology of marriage to some, feels very risky. I know so many people that are in bad marriages. Obviously, I think it’s worth it to get out. Breaking up is never easy, but why suffers permanently? All of the rationalizations in the world don’t seem to cut it. “Recovering from a breakup or divorce is difficult. However, it’s important to know (and to keep reminding yourself) that you can and will move on. But healing takes time, so be patient with yourself.” (

The power of ideology cannot be underestimated.

Accessed September 16, 2009.
Accessed November 30, 2009. “Carmen Electra Feeling Under Pressure To Get Married.” June 9, 2008.
Accessed October 4, 2009.

Levin, Ira. The Stepford Wives: a Novel. Fawcett Publications. 1972.
Marriage Quotes
Accessed September 16, 2009.

Shiller, Romy. Who Knew? Victoria, BC: Trafford. 2010.
---------------. You Never Know: A Memoir. Victoria, BC: Trafford. 2008.

Accessed September 21, 2009.

The New York Times. “Fairy Tales and a Dose of Reality.” March 3, 2003.
Accessed October 4, 2009.

The Quote Garden
Accessed October 3, 2009.

Wikipedia: The Free Encyclopedia.
Accessed November 30, 2009.

Wikipedia: The Free Encyclopedia.
Accessed September 21, 2009.

Romy Shiller is a pop culture critic and holds a PhD in Drama from the University of Toronto. Her academic areas of concentration include film, gender performance, camp and critical thought.

Romy Shiller is a 3rd Wave Feminist according to the book Third Wave Feminism and Television: Jane Puts it in a Box by the head of women's studies at South-Carolina U.

Books are available online. She lives in Montreal where she continues her writing.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Queer As Folk

Queer As Folk

It’s Monday night. I’m in the living room. My boyfriend is in the bedroom. I’m wearing my sexy black teddy, mules with gentle pink feathers dangle from my perfectly pedicured feet, my lips are swathed in a lipstick called Fatal Femme. It’s a holy time and I want to be ready. My fireplace roars. My popcorn is poised for the new season of Queer As Folk. Like many women across the country who watch the show – fifty-two percent according to the Nielsen ratings in 2001, and growing – I’m addicted. I am not alone.

“At the beginning it really surprised me,” says Queer As Folk producer Sheila Hockin. “All of us working on the show, Showtime in the States and Showcase in Canada , expected to have predominantly a gay male audience.” Because most of the lead characters are male, the assumption was that “the group of people portrayed would likely be the people watching the show. It startled us in the beginning and at first we thought that maybe we’re drawing gay women.” After reviewing fan mail and Web sites about the show they realized it was a lot of straight women.

When openly-gay actor Robert Grant, who plays Michael Novotny’s (Hal Sparks) HIV+ lover Ben, appeared on The Mike Bullard Show, he noted that the women “like the cute guys. They relate to the stories or whatnot, but here’s the key... I found out that the truth is, women love to watch two guys getting it on! I was really surprised by this… it’s always, guys like to watch two women... socialization-wise.” Hot male bodies in action are a big part of the draw. Surprise! We could stop right there if that was all there was to the show’s fascination for women – there’s a hell of a lot more action happening in gay porn that could satisfy a Betty’s need to see Studly getting it on with Dudly.
So what exactly are women getting all wet over? What kinds of identifications are women hooking into? Women are creating their own gender performances in fantasy and play in ways that make gender go nuclear. Straight women watching Queer as Folk might be the ultimate Queer quotient. Femininity and masculinity, associated with “appropriate” sexual identification and desire, is suddenly attached to culturally inappropriate male and female bodies. There is an explosion of identification: girls desiring straight boys playing gay boys. Girls wanting to be a feminine boy kissing a butch boy. Girls wanting to be taken by or wanting to take a gay/straight boy. Girls romanticizing gay desire and freedom of sexual play.

What we are experiencing now is Gender Meltdown.
Why women find QAF appealing finds part of its answer in Hockin’s musing that “women find it erotic and sensual to watch.” Queer representations, however, transform the relationship the straight female audience has with the erotic and sensual, triggering new kinds of identifications because women need to take a leap not usually necessary in traditional (straight) television dramas or comedies.

Eroticism and sensuality are intertwined with romantic situations and dramas housed in queer cloth. Still, women are wrapped up in it. “Women are drawn to the working out of romantic relationships,” says Hockin. “And how people negotiate relationships. The power-plays. There are Ethan-Justin fan groups…a whole group of people on the Web called BJshippers – Brian-Justin Worshippers. People are so heavily invested in that relationship. [The executive producers] Ron [Cowen] and Dan [Lipman] think of Brian and Justin as one of the great Romantic couples.”

Hal Sparks plays the sweet and dysfunctional-enough-to-be-believed Michael Novotny, Brian Kinney’s (Gale Harold) best friend. I ask him what aspects of his character might appeal to women. He replies: “His sweetness. His vulnerability and his habit of binge eating comfort food when he gets upset.”

In a more serious vein, he feels there are common romantic identifications. “This is the first time many women have seen what they go through with their husbands and boyfriends portrayed honestly on screen. Most straight relationships on TV are told in an incomplete, male-focused way.” Sparks says that women relate “with a combination of deep rooted teary-eyed understanding and throw popcorn at the screen in frustration. I think we all can relate to unrequited love in some way.”

For straight women, buying into the show’s romance and eroticism is more complex – it is something of an identity juggling act. Keeping all the balls up in the air becomes especially convoluted in the worship of the actors. After all, to fall for one of the boys on QAF is often to fall for a straight boy playing a gay boy. Sparks has been upfront about being straight: “A very small section of the fan base gets angry every time I say I’m straight because they are under the impression that I ask to be asked so that I can say, ‘I’m straight, thanks for asking – here’s 10 bucks,’ and distance myself from the show. In my heart I know this criticism comes from people who have been severely marginalized by our culture and fear it will get worse.”

You may as well be desiring Matt Damon for all the chance you actually have of seeing Michael or Brian waltz through your door at the end of the day. But there is the illusion of possibility that is tempting beyond the illusion. And obviously, you might be falling for a gay boy too. In any case, the so-called secure straight identities actors have in distinguishing themselves from their characters gets blurred. They have kissed and often been naked with members of the same sex, after all. In character or not. Juggling the object-of-desire’s ambiguous sexuality is part of the straight fan’s own gender performance. The object she desires says something about her own sexual play and sexual orientation.

The show brings role-playing to the surface. Femininity is not necessarily female and masculinity male. On QAF there are traditional roles taken on by both sexes. Females, such as Melanie Marcus (Michelle Clunie) take on a traditionally masculine role as the provider for the family and it could be said that Justin, played by openly-gay Randy Harrison, takes on the femme role to Brian’s über-butch. Gale Harold plays a gay man objectifying men in the way that some men have historically objectified women. Brian’s total bad-boy hotness is reminiscent of the womanizer seen on soaps from suds past, collapsing a traditional (straight) male archetype with a butch gay one. Hal Sparks notes, “Ironically, even though the relationships on the show are predominately male-male, since one person must take on the feminine role, women get to see their struggle played out more fully.” Women might find a certain reflection of themselves in a gay ‘feminine-role-playing’ man on TV. Or a butch one.

The toss-up of conventional roles creates a grab bag of lust opportunity and gender play. Sheila Hockin elaborates: “A lot of straight women wildly romanticize Brian Kinney. There is some commentary on the Web, straight women talking about sexual fantasies to do with the characters, where they want to be a guy Brian kisses. They don’t want to be a woman. It all gets very gender-bending.” Women are not just taking a peek as themselves, replacing characters on the screen (Justin, for example) with their pretty, pouty faces, they’re also masquerading as gay males. Gender Meltdown.

With all the hype about women getting turned on by the gaze, straight women are also watching women getting it on. And this is something we don’t usually hear about. How do straight women relate to the lesbians on the show? Exit the Professor, enter Ginger and Mary-Ann.

The lovely Michelle Clunie plays Melanie Marcus, the somewhat butchier partner to Thea Gills’s Lindsay Peterson. Speaking from “my own perspective as a straight woman,” Clunie describes what turned her on to the show. “Before this I never saw two women making love in real life or in the theatre or in a porno or anywhere. I know the first time I saw the pilot, I thought ‘wow that’s kind of hot, I never thought about that before.’ I think a lot of straight women are re-thinking ménages-à-trois. I mean, there has always been this fantasy of two women for guys. This puts the shoe on the other foot.” She goes further by saying, “In a way because there is so much male nudity on the show and so much male sex on the show, it’s almost like we’re objectifying men.”

Women are also re-evaluating the ménages-à-trois players. “I’ve even heard women say ‘wow, I wonder what it would be like to be with two men?’” says Clunie. “One boyfriend of a girl came to this party and he said something like ‘do you want me to kiss a guy?’ because the girl watched Queer As Folk and she was really into the guy-guy thing. I think that it’s opening up a whole sexual layer to explore. And I think that’s wonderful and great and why not?” The exploration of sexual layers between ‘straight’ couples takes the term to task… It’s almost as though a new language needs to be created to accommodate the play involved in watching the show.

While the straight female fan hoopla is intriguing, there have been concerns on the fan chat-boards. One gay fan feels that the straight fans are given more credibility, that it means more to the show that there are female viewers, “sorta like AIDS didn’t mean anything until straights were affected...can’t exactly explain why this hits me so oddly, but it does.” Another fan worries the show might change to attract straight fans: “It may be cable but it’s still commercial American television and that is all about numbers, ratings and demographics.”

I asked Hal Sparks and Melanie Clunie if their performances were affected by the knowledge that they had a huge het female fan base and they both replied in the negative. Clunie’s primary goal was, “to be true to my character.” Sparks says, “My only real focus is on interpreting the script as close to the writer’s intention as I can. The British show had a big female fan base with no help from me. So, I just try to stay out of the way. Let Michael live without my ego getting involved at all.”

Producer Sheila Hockin is adamant that the writers have only been concerned with depicting the characters from their own gay, cultural perspective and that the story would not shift to accommodate a straight female audience. Rather the stories would grow, like the characters, from clubbing to different growth-oriented gay priorities and concerns. “The show has never been written for straight women,” says Hockin.

So what does this mean?

It isn’t surprising to find women subtextually replacing Justin with themselves or with an altered gay male version of self. That is what queers have been doing for decades, watching TV shows that didn’t represent their desire. What gay man hasn’t been Scarlett to Rhett or J. Lo to Ben?

In fact, straight women might be the ultimate Queer quotient when it comes to watching Queer as Folk by inhabiting that twilight-zone, the marginal, the Other – qualities of the Queer that are seemingly taking a lovey-dovey hiatus from the show within a gay context irrespective of a straight female fan base.

Women now have fantasy access to back rooms they could never get into before. The straight female fans might be fags in mental drag; they might be Queer as folk.

• Toronto writer Romy Shiller is a pop culture critic and holds a PhD in Drama and Film. Her academic areas of concentration include gender performance, camp and critical thought.

FAB Magazine, Number 213, April 23, 2003, 12-17

Romy Shiller is a 3rd Wave Feminist according to the book Third Wave Feminism and Television: Jane Puts it in a Box by the head of women's studies at South-Carolina U.

Books are available online. She lives in Montreal where she continues her writing.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

‘Avatar’ or Abled-Disabled

Everything has its wonders, even darkness and silence, and I learn, whatever state I may be in, therein to be content.
Helen Keller

[*Entire article is a spoiler alert] I seem to be going against the grain – a lot. In the 1980s song "I'm A Stranger Here," by Five Man Electrical Band, Aliens come to Earth are told that the planet is paradise but they hear children cry. The song protests injustice and environmental abuse. (In the 80s.) The extremely popular film Avatar is largely about environmental abuse and an Alien race: “[It] is a 2009 American science fiction epic film written and directed by James Cameron and starring Sam Worthington, Zoe Saldana, Sigourney Weaver, Michelle Rodriguez and Stephen Lang. The film is set in the year 2154, when humans are mining a precious mineral called unobtanium on the lush moon Pandora in the Alpha Centauri star system.” (Wikipedia: The Free Encyclopedia)

There are many disabled feminists who say that being in a wheelchair is not a tragedy which requires a cure (Spritzophrenia). I completely agree but I also believe that the film ‘Avatar’ moves beyond that. I think that it is very important to show an able disabled guy on the screen. Yes, his avatar is able-bodied but it is also not human-Alien, other. A militant straight white guy in the film calls the race ‘savages’ and ‘blue monkeys.’ Disparaging remarks regarding “otherness” mirror many in our culture.

The fact that in the end the disabled guy CHOOSES to become one of them is subversive to say the least. He gets legs but he also gets otherness. Of course his new reality would suggest he is now one with all but he is set apart from humans. Good or bad is subjective.

I really like that he’s shown to be very capable in all states. It’s very affirming, I must say. As a disabled woman confined to a wheelchair I have dreams in which I am jogging and I really do not believe in a correlation between image/identity and pictures. I feel free to use an older able-bodied author picture because I do not feel that a contemporary photo would be more accurate. Having an avatar is not false.

I met a guy online that I really liked and I learned that his profile picture was a completely different person than him. I ended up feeling nostalgic for an image that I associated with his ‘voice’. I am a big supporter of shifting identities so I really had to assess the idea of image. In Avatar and in my older pictures there is a hybrid quality which points us to identity. I guess that his choice really put me to the test because all it pointed was who he wanted to look like and while I miss the fake him, I can adapt. He might even actually be a “she.” Sexuality is now foregrounded – I cannot make gender a given. It is valid to choose to side-step image; confusing though it might be. We might want the “whole,” “closure,” or the “complete” but in my view the “fractured” is way more interesting. That is why I like this film’s idea of an avatar. The oneness or whole/the environment is juxtaposed with a fractured image but I digress – that’s a different article.

Many voices deal with the presentation of disability here: “There are many articles, blogs and disability chat room posts floating around the Internet that say yes, the movie that has made over $200 million in ten days is a big insult to the disability community for two major reasons. The first reason being that the fantasy film - and the key word here is fantasy - does not give an accurate portrayal of life with a disability. The second, surprisingly less important, reason is that Sam Worthington, who plays paraplegic Marine Jake Sully, is not actually a paraplegic.” (Drummond) I am so not insulted.

Also; “It could be seen as positive that disabled people are not hidden away. But a closer analysis reveals that the popular cultural images of disability commonly perpetuate negative stereotypes, and often pander to the voyeuristic tendencies of non-disabled audiences.” (Disability in Media) Lots of dissention.

The whole idea of not being “hidden away” resonates profoundly with me. In my non-fiction book 'Again' I quote David Boles and say; “Recently, I was seated to eat near the kitchen in a restaurant. I am currently disabled and in a wheelchair. My mother said it reminded her of segregation. I will never let this happen again. I will insist on being seated elsewhere. An out of sight, out of mind mentality will not apply to me. That this mentality by others continues to pervade is astonishing. ‘Are you aware in the early-to-mid 1900’s it was illegal to be “found ugly” on the streets of some mainstream American cities like Chicago, Illinois (Chicago Municipal Code, sec. 36034) and Omaha, Nebraska (Unsightly Beggar Ordinance Nebraska Municipal Code of 1941, sec. 25) and Columbus, Ohio (General Offense Code, sec. 2387.04)?

Your punishment for being caught (in) public ranged from incarceration to fines of up to $50.00 USD for each ugly offense.

Here’s how the Chicago Municipal Code described and enforced The Ugly Law:

No person who is diseased, maimed, mutilated or in any way deformed so as to be an unsightly or disgusting object or improper person to be allowed in or on the public ways or other public places in this city, or shall therein or thereon expose himself to public view, under a penalty of not less than one dollar nor more than fifty dollars for each offense.

The goal of Ugly Laws was allegedly to preserve the pretty facade of the community. The disabled, the indigent and the poor were a part of society, but nobody wanted to deal with them and fewer still wanted to actually look at them. So laws were passed to keep the deformed — especially those with Cerebral Palsy and other disfiguring diseases — inside and out-of-sight.’

The way I think and the way I look now will just have to be dealt with.” I know that I am far from ‘ugly,’ whatever that means, but being in a wheelchair seems to categorize me or puts me in a box. There are so many categories that leak or don’t apply.

In the film, the avatar is neurologically connected to the user and physically it is a hybrid of the user and foreign race. There is a new definition of identity. The amalgamation of various states is complex. I think that we need to reconfigure identity on several levels. In Life I would take this idea further. For example, not all disabled people are the same, have the same mind-set and speak for one another. To be lumped with others, into a “community” is offensive, not having an able-bodied actor portray a disability. Sure, commonalities between persons with disabilities exist but the same could be said for red-heads, Canadians or tennis-players. What I’m trying to say is that there is uniqueness amidst commonality. We tend to ignore our differences and in my mind we should celebrate them.

In my other non-fiction book 'You Never Know: A Memoir' I say: “Difference is something that most people avoid. Fitting in becomes a goal. Personally, I think difference is valuable. It’s the “same” that irks me. Variation is not the same as inconsistency. One can be incredibly multi-tonal and consistent.” (p. 23) I perceive difference and otherness as beneficial and positive.

Representations of disabled people in pop culture are so rare (the television show Glee is changing that) that accuracy almost becomes a ‘beside the point’ idea. We rarely show able-bodied people going to the bathroom, for example, in standard film or television so if Avatar takes a fantasy approach to our disabled character, well, there’s precedence. It might be contentious but it’s usual.

There are some films that deal explicitly with disability. Avatar is not one of them. In You Never Know: A Memoir I say: “Bonnie Sherr Klein made a film on disabled people called SHAMELESS: The ART of Disability (2006), which I saw in Montreal. I remember studying her and her film, Not a Love Story: A Film About Pornography (1981), at McGill, “a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away” (Star Wars, 1977). She had a stroke several years ago, had brain surgery and still managed to make this film. She is a definite new inspiration for me. It must be difficult to make a film generally, but when you are disabled you have to wrestle with external and internal demons. Being suddenly disabled is traumatic on so many levels.” (pp. 132-133)

I’m not the kind of person who gives a hoot about what other people think of me in general but any kind of positive representation of disability is good. Let it be dominant enough to be a cliché. Then I will discuss alternatives. I do not perceive our current representation in Avatar as “pandering.” (Lynne Roper) Black persons, Jews and Gays have a tradition of being sorrowfully under-represented in popular culture media. No one is going to tell me that absence is the way to go.

It is wonderful to me that our lead disabled character chooses to step outside the mainstream.


Boles, David W. “Enforcing the Ugly Laws.” (accessed September 14, 2008)


Cameron, James. Avatar. Twentieth Century-Fox Film Corporation . 2009.

Disability in Media
Lynne Roper of Stirling Media Research Institute introduces some concepts and activities for considering the representation of disability.

Drummond, Megan. “Avatar & Disability: Does the Film Give a True Picture of Disability? Does it Need to?”

In the 80s. “Greatest Eighties Protest Songs.”

Klein , Bonnie Sherr. SHAMELESS: The ART of Disability. NFB. 2006.

Shiller, Romy. Again. Victoria, BC: Trafford. 2009.
-------------------. You Never Know: A Memoir

Spritzophrenia’s blog. “My Avatar Spiritual Experience.” “Avatar & Disability: Does the Film Give a True Picture of Disability? Does it Need to?”

Wikipedia: The Free Encyclopedia

Romy Shiller is a pop culture critic and holds a PhD in Drama from the University of Toronto. Her academic areas of concentration include film, gender performance, camp and critical thought. She lives in Montreal where she continues her writing. All books are available online