Wednesday, October 14, 2015

"Is using a wheelchair for Halloween like Blackface?"

If you all follow my blog on Facebook, bless you for putting up with all my Halloween themed posts as of late. I'm self-aware enough to know when I am being obnoxious with my over-zealous autumnal energy, so I'm at least a little sorry....but not really, because this is about to be another one of those posts. [Tangent: My friend Jonni said, "your Halloween blogs are my shark week." I'm sure he is flying solo in this delusion bubble...but I am perhaps emblazoning it on my body in tattoo form because that's pretty damned complimentary.] So where am I going with this? Well,  about a month ago, my similarly costume-obsessed friend sent me the following text out of nowhere: 

Yet another blog inspired by a textchange. I am becoming so predictable!

So many times I am the token informative mouthpiece for wheelchair users everywhere with my friends, relatives and acquaintances, which is daunting and scary considering I am possibly the worst judges of appropriateness. [Tangent: Call me dense and unfeeling, but I still can't figure out why so many people have exhausted so much energy getting panties all atwist worried about that damn dentist lion hunter costume. Sure, the costume-makers are exploiting tragedy for their own gain (which is a tale as old as time!), but frankly that guy was a dick and he deserves to be immortalized and mocked via costume FOREVER.] But I thought I could be objective given that this question encompasses two worlds that I know a lot about: Halloween costumes and wheelchairs.

How is this something I have never considered before? My short answer to the correlation between something like blackface and posturing in a wheelchair for a costume seem two very different things. To me, as with most things- it is 100% about context.

If you are not in a chair and your overall costume concept is simply being somehow demeaning to someone with a disability by throwing in every kind of weird stereotype with no specific end goal or character in mind, then I question your intent. I think that's kind of strange choice, but honestly I am in no place to be judgey about dumb costumes...just be prepared that people will think you are an asshole.

Then again, if you want to be FDR or Dr. Strangelove or some other well-known persona that relies heavily on a chair as a prop, go for it! Seriously, if you have access to a wheelchair and want to lug it around at a party [Tangent: I can tell you by experience that it's work!] then I think you should. You will wow with your commitment to character and people will respect that you went the extra mile. Otherwise without the chair, you will just be another guy in a suit and all night, you will be explaining yourself to everyone. 

Sure, I take great pride in authenticity, and I am pleased as punch when I can exploit my chair for potential costume gain- like when I was headlong into my Breaking Bad obsession, and my boyfriend and I were Hector Salamanca and Walter White.  With that said, I never want to be limited to a world where I can't dress up like people without disabilities. [Tangent: Otherwise, I would have never been able to portray my childhood icons Kelly Kapowski and Punky Brewster in past years!] If I don't want restrictions on myself, why should others? Isn't Halloween the one day where you should get to be whatever the hell you want to be (even a sexy carrot.)

Also how is it different than adding a cane to your Mister Peanut costume or a pair of glasses to your Where's Waldo costume? Isn't all durable medical equipment created equal or are we too sensitive for that? I hope not. If so the makers of novelty costume spectacles are gonna be pissed!

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