Disability Erasure And The Apocalyptic Narrative

This week hasn’t exactly been a fantastic time for me. Losing a parent can really make you get stuck in a maudlin, even slightly dark frame of mind. So it’s no secret that seeing photos coming out of Hurricane Harvey of elder folks near drowning in a nursing home due to lack of evacuation and inability to move well put me in a foul mood. It also got me thinking of conversations I’ve heard over the years about disability and the end of society.

Stop me if you’ve heard this one. You and your friends are sitting around and having some beers, and the conversation turns to the apocalypse. Maybe you’re watching The Walking Dead, or reading Divergent, or even going to your favorite post-apocalypse live action roleplaying game. But in between talking about what happens if Daryl dies on the show and exchanging larp armor suggestions, someone inevitably brings up what they would do in the event of the apocalypse. Doesn’t matter what the apocalypse cause: zombies, an outbreak, Donald Trump. Everyone gets to play the “what would I do in the case of society’s end” game.

I used to indulge in this game myself with my friends. But these days, when the subject comes up, I get very quiet. Because there’s only one answer:

I die.

I’ve read a lot of apocalyptic fiction in my life. From The Stand to Alas, Babylon, I’ve gone through the gamut. It’s a fascinating genre, really, considering what the fall of our civilization would do and what would happen to our plucky band of intrepid protagonists. How would they struggle? Who would survive? I used to identify with the hard-working protagonists, enjoying their constant battles and sacrifices. I, like so many others, put myself into the perspective of the struggling hero. I never thought I’d be one of the people left behind. The reality is, however, I’d be one of those who probably perished in the first few days/weeks/months, the footnotes in the Roland Emmerich movie who isn’t even in the credits with a name, who stares at the incoming giant wave or alien attack with the defeated, accepted resolution that this is the inevitable end.

As a disabled woman, disaster epics, apocalypse fiction, and post-apoc tales aren’t a vicarious thrill for me anymore. Theoretical zombie apocalypse escape plan BS sessions with friends aren’t amusing anymore. They’re an exercise in facing my mortality.

I grew up thinking I could handle anything. I was a young woman who largely lived out of my backpack, ready to grab it and go on a regular basis. When I read about characters in end of the world stories, like The Passage, The Road, Swan Song, or any of the countless others en vogue for the last thirty years, I always put myself into the head of the protagonist. I thought in their situation, I’d strap on my best sneakers, grab supplies, make sure I had my friends and cat food, and survive, me and my cat and my friends/family, together.

The reality of this vicarious thought exercise changed dramatically as I developed serious health problems. Chronic health issues like mine require continuous medical care, including a regiment of medication three times a day. Prescriptions, of course, run out, and when the corner pharmacy has been annihilated by a horde of zombies, there’s no more medication to keep me alive. Within days of running out of pills, I’d end up in some serious trouble. A lack of my painkillers would send me into serious, dangerous detox, while the lack of my endocrine medication would lead to a complete collapse of body systems. Within days, I’d be suffering. Within a week, I’d probably be dead.

And that, dear readers, is without considering the difficulties of locomotion for me in a wheelchair during a societal breakdown. I have difficulty navigating the crowds at New York Comic Con, or walking through New York City due to potholes and breaks in the sidewalk. Imagine off-roading in my wheelchair during a hectic evacuation, either pushed by one of my friends/family/a stranger or riding in the electric wheelchair until the battery runs out. I think about the protest I went to after the Eric Garner shooting, where we marched up the middle of 6th avenue. Two buses blocked our way, and three people had to stop to lift my wheelchair over the tiny gap between vehicles. Such a small thing, but in an emergency so deadly.

the-standThis personal look into how reliant I am on society to stay alive has been an eye-opener for me. In a world were destabilization is so much closer than we ever thought possible, I look for solace to literature to relax, and realize how many of the narratives I enjoyed before leave a bitter taste in my mouth. I reread The Stand and came to Stephen King’s chapter where he outlined all the people who died in the collapse of society post- Captain Tripps. And after so many of them, he wrote: “No great loss.” It always gave me the shivers. I’d be one of those people, probably, slowly dying in the face of the end. No adventure to go meet Mother Abigail. Just toodles, and hoping my life didn’t earn me the “no great loss” title in the end.

And so it brought me back to the inherent problem about post-apocalyptic narratives: they are, by nature and design, ableist in the extreme. Apocalyptic fiction doesn’t just embrace the erasure of the disabled and medically compromised, it normalizes their obliteration. It presents stories where we’ve re-embraced survival of the fittest as the only moniker and lionizes those who overcome hardship through leaving behind the injured and ill.

Worse, these stories accept the death of those who are disabled as not only the norm, but as a heroic sacrifice to the survival of the healthy, a gift the disabled and ill can bestow on their fellows. Most of these stories have at least one or two examples of people who commit suicide to keep the disabled or ill person from becoming a drain on resources, or to keep them from suffering too long. While people battle furiously over things like doctor assisted suicide in the real world, they’re willing to accept disabled folks taking themselves out of the equation as an inevitable, even noble, deed in society collapse fiction. And it says something very eerie about how people look at the disabled in these stories:

In a stable society, the disabled are tolerated, if not welcomed. In the face of disaster, they are a liability, and one to be excised for ease of the able-bodied.

There are exceptions to that narrative, stories that stand out for the characters willing to stand up for those less able. One of my favorite scenes from the first season of The Walking Dead comes when Rick and his band of friends encounter what they first believe to be a group of thugs in Atlanta. The scene is uncomfortable in that Rick and his (mostly) white friends immediately size up the other group, made up of mostly people of color, as a threat, with the narrative implying they believe they’re gang-bangers and criminals. (They’re known as the Vatos gang).


Addressing casual racism AND ableism. Why I fell in love with The Walking Dead. 


However, the story flips the whole thing on its head when we discover the ‘thugs’ are actually protecting a building full of the elderly and infirm. The Vatos are cooks, janitors, and family members of the elderly who refused to abandon the patients when the able-bodied staff fled. They are willing to face the hordes of the undead to protect the elderly who cannot flee easily, even in the heart of besieged Atlanta.


Logan 2
Logan cares for Professor Xavier despite both physical and mental health issues. 

This caregiver narrative is often absent from apocalyptic fiction, as the notion of care of those less able is relegated to characters deemed salvageable or valuable to society. Protagonists will focus on the rescue of children over those who are disabled, seeing them as the future of society, while those who are injured or disabled might be a drain. Only those disabled characters who are seen as highly valuable are fought for and preserved, such as in the case of Mother Abigail in The Stand, wheelchair-bound Vriess in Aliens 4, Professor Xavier in Logan, or even Bran in Game of Thrones (which can be considered an apocalyptic tale considering the White Walkers invasion). These characters require effort to be expended to keep them alive but are almost always preserved only because their abilities are deemed too highly valuable to lose. Otherwise, care is often withheld or deemed a drain.



Furiosa: the heroine we need and deserve

What’s often frustrating in these narratives is the way adaptive or assistive devices are treated, as if they are equally burdensome and do not allow characters to navigate the world with greater ease. Characters who could continue to be included in narratives are often set aside or sacrificed because other characters don’t even bother to seek out assistive devices like braces, crutches, or wheelchairs. This makes characters who utilize such devices so important in fiction. A prime example of a character whose assistive device is included but never overly emphasized is Furiosa in Mad Max: Fury Road, whose missing arm is replaced by a metal one. She is a prime example of a disabled heroine who is not only not marginalized, but who thrives as the movie’s protagonist.



Hershel took over Dale’s amputation storyline on the TV series after Dale was killed the previous season. 

I particularly appreciated Dale in The Walking Dead comics for this reason. Originally able-bodied when he joined Rick’s group at the beginning, Dale (spoiler alert)  loses a leg during the course of the flight from the zombies, and though it gives him trouble, he remains a part of the group. (In the television series, the storyline is transplanted onto Hershel). Seeing someone with mobility issues still included as part of the group as opposed to being discarded was a major sticking point for me in loving Kirkman’s comic and eventually the TV series.



Raven in the Arcadia camp post-injury.

Another fantastic example is Raven from The 100. The former space-dwelling engineer becomes badly injured during the course of the show, her leg and back permanently damaged. Though she can walk with the help of a leg brace, she is slowed down and in constant pain. Raven struggles with her new challenges, considers ending her own life, and ultimately faces her new disability status with a grim finality, realizing that at any moment she could lose her life due to her limitations. Still, she survives each season with determination, supported and bolstered by her friends, who do not let her give into depression. In fact, few characters in the show are as resourceful or vital as Raven, who is supported by others in her role in the community. Raven is a wonderful example of a narrative that embraces the disabled, rather than obliterates them.


Yet there are more stories which sweep away the disabled than embracing them. And what’s worse, the idea of the disabled being abandoned is lionized, given a sort of solemn acceptance. It’s known the disabled need to be forgotten, left behind. The able-bodied in the stories often embrace how painful and awful it is to lose someone because of their medical situation or disability, but largely move on with a sense of acceptance. It’s accepted, of course, that the fittest move on, and don’t try to waste resources on their differently abled friend. There are countless scenes where someone must be sacrificed to help the rest of the group survive, and more often than not it is the cruel “I tell it like it is” character who points out the disabled/ill person as a drain on resources who should be chosen. And though the others moralize, in the end, they often agree.  The message becomes clear: the differently abled are expendable.

More often than not, these scenes include some kind of noble sacrifice moment, where the disabled/injured/ill person looks deep into the heroes eyes and asks to be left behind so they can help the group. They stop fighting, stop trying to survive, ending the drain they put on resources with solemn acceptance, the last heroic gesture they can make. This is often mirrored in zombie stories when a single person is bitten and they calmly pick up a weapon to end their lives, the generous actions of a person trying not to inflict their sickness on others. Yet while some stories have heroes fighting to save the zombie-infected person, few have heroes fighting to keep their diabetic friend alive.


“Leave me, Master Luke!” Even C-3P0 in Star Wars has that disabled martyr complex. 


An example of a scene that faces down this issue comes from The Stand. King introduces Stu Redman as our everyday hero, a caring soul who becomes the heart of the survivors on their way across the country to meet the magical Mother Abigail. In the first scene of Part 3 of the TV series, Stu is elbow deep in a man’s guts, trying to remove a burst appendix on a cold concrete floor. Stu is no doctor but does his best without anesthetic and with nothing but a medical textbook to guide him. And though his patient dies, Stu at least attempts the operation rather than let the ill man die without a fight.


Stu attempts an appendectomy in The Stand Part 3. 


This instance, however, just like the zombie bite, is an example of an onset illness, meant in the narrative to convey the fragility of human health when there are no hospitals, no safety nets for the often changeable human condition. But more chronic, ongoing illnesses are treated much differently in these stories, often signaling an accepted death sentence with no attempt at treatment.

Physical disabilities might be badly treated in apocalyptic fiction, but equally marginalized in these stories are those with mental illness. Already often badly used in fiction, the mentally ill are often portrayed as not only a drain on society but a danger to those around them. Those with mental illness or neuro-atypical status become an outlying wildcard in the apocalyptic survivor stories, playing the role of simple sidekicks, quirky but unstable comedic relief, or else hampering burdens to the survival of the group. While these stories highlight the heroes often suffering from things like PTSD and depression, rarely are conditions like these treated as illnesses to be addressed. Instead, they are dangerous shifts in personality to be treated with “tough love” scenes as other survivors cajole the character to get over it, get stronger, move on. Those that don’t are often killed off, a victim of their own emotional instability.

Those portrayed with chronic, less environmentally-contributed mental illnesses are usually treated far worse in the stories. Apocalypse stories often include someone with mental illness to throw in the magical crazy prophet trope or the unstable person who will endanger the group. Rarely is their mental illness addressed as treatable, or even manageable, and the ‘crazy’ character often becomes a casualty of the story, perishing due to losing control of themselves to their ‘madness.’


Defiance - Season 2
Pilar McCawley as played by Linda Hamilton

A well-explored version of this story happened in the TV show Defiance. Set in a post-alien invasion Earth, new frontiersman Rafe McCawley tells his children their mother Pilar died rather than admit he left her behind due to her mental illness. After society fell apart, Pilar could no longer get treatment for her bipolar disorder and became erratic. Rather than face handling an unstable Pilar, Rafe takes his children and leaves. Pilar survives, however, and later comes back to reunite with her family. She becomes a villain of the show, however, as her bipolar disorder makes her do inappropriate things like, oh, kidnap her daughter’s half-alien baby. But while the show attempts to show characters empathizing with Pilar’s situation, it also showcased the show’s protagonists turning on Pilar, calling her crazy and eventually killing her while she was in the throes of her mania.


Her death in the show too closely mirrored the violence so often perpetrated on the mentally ill in our world when they act out inappropriately. And this is one of the good examples of well-explored mental illness characters. Many others are far, far worse.

It’s no secret that fiction of any kind reflects the anxieties of the times. In the 50’s it was the body snatchers, mirroring the fear of invasion and infiltration by the Russians. In the 70’s and 80’s, it was concerns over rampant consumerism and wanton behavior that bred our slasher film fascination, and the 2000’s are all about fears of society collapsing in the face of global terror and societal instability. Yet what does it say about our society as a whole when our fiction is not only about people trying to survive such collapses but embraces survival of the fittest as the rubric for that fiction’s heroic journey?

Too often the disabled are set aside in our society, considered burdens and drains on resources. Yet while most at least show basic discomfort with the marginalization of the disabled, our apocalypse fiction envisions futures where the disabled not only don’t exist but go heroically to their deaths so as not to be a bother in times of trouble. The concept smacks of an insidious undercurrent of near eugenics-level categorization of the disabled and chronically ill most would find distasteful when called out in the open. No one wants to admit they accept the disabled as a burden. Yet there it is, in the stories about our most difficult times. In those stories, the disabled are deprioritized and erased from existence, sacrificed at the feet of the able.

I’ve stopped indulging as much in apocalyptic fiction lately. My own medical status has made it difficult to enjoy stories in which I would be annihilated pretty quickly, or else considered selfish for trying to survive. Instead, I look for stories like The 100 when people with disabilities are equally valued and fought for, and not just treated with pity but embraced as integral to the continued survival for their skills, experience, and contributions to society.

I envision if there was a zombie apocalypse, I’d be there, whacking zombies in the head with something and then zooming along in my wheelchair until my medicine runs out. There’d be no noble “save yourself!” from me unless necessary due to circumstance, and not because I would be a ‘burden.’ Instead, I’d strive to be a comfort and an ally to my friends and those around me, contributing to the whole as I do in my everyday life, right up until the end. Would that the fiction I consume had the same confidence in me as I try to have in myself.


  1. Piggy in “Lord of the Flies” brought this realization to me. Smarter than the rest but slower and wearing glasses-he is wasted in every sense of the word.

  2. Really great article – you articulated something I’ve thought for a while (but couldn’t put my finger on) about the “leave me behind” Hollywood trope and why it bothered me. Even aside from the prblematic lionisation, it’s lazy writing – way more interesting to have the “heroes” face up to the fact that, in fact, they just abandoned a friend who was screaming for help.

    I know this isn’t the point of the article, but facing up to the concept that you wouldn’t survive the apocalypse was also really pertinent, because that’s something that’s only occurred to my lately. I’m not disabled but I live in a city of five million people and have no technical skills, so really, who am I kidding? When I was a kid I adored reading (and writing) post-apocalyptic fiction because it was a sort of boy’s adventure fantasy, an escapist lark, and it literally never occurred to me that I would be one of the 99% who died. As an adult I view it more realistically. TWD cops a lot of flak for being grim and nihilistic, but I honestly think that’s the only realistic way of looking at a life shattering scenario like that. The living would envy the dead.

    Also glad you touched on Fury Road – I’ve thought before about how nearly every character in that film (and several characters in the originals) is disabled in some way. Which probably has roots in Miller’s original career as a trauma surgeon.

  3. This is why I loved the anthology “Defying Doomsday” from Twelfth Planet Press so much. It’s a colllection of post-apocalyptic short stories from the POV of people with disabilities of many different kinds. As a disabled person myself, I’d been missing that perspective from most mainstream media as well.

  4. Please understand, I mean no offense, and sincerely appreciate this essay’s bottom-line moral about compassion to the disabled in our fiction. That said, here’s my response…

    I totally understand the author’s anger with the trope, given how personal it is. If I was extremely physically disabled, I imagine I wouldn’t brush it off so lightly either.

    And yet thinking entirely pragmatically, separate from personal biases and feelings, in the event of a post-apocalypse of this kind… the only people that survive ARE going to be the ones who can run away the longest.

    I am 100% in favor of supporting and tending to our elders and disabled in a civilized, balanced society… but in a complete disaster world like the kind depicted in a zombie apocalypse? It’s never going to work. As she herself alludes to, it would be logistically impossible to ensure these folks kept regularly getting the aid they needed in spite of the total collapse of society. It’s fucking horrible… but it’s how it would be. 😦

    So while I empathize with her perspective on it, I’d say it’s something that can’t really be changed in zombie fiction, since any storyline properly tackling this issue would either be A) very, very short and end very grimly, and B) depressing to the point it turns away any potential audience.

    And I say this with the full knowledge that I am pretty much 98% certain my own psychological issues would make me a quick causality in a zombie world. Which is why frankly, if it ever happened, I’d commit suicide before putting myself through the horrors awaiting me. I’m essentially dead already, rather die on my own terms.

    This is the scary truth about any hypothetical zombie apocalypse scenario, really. And it’s why I like the genre, as a way to shine a light on these unsettling, ethically complicated matters.

    1. So here’s my response to this: while something is difficult, it might not be impossible. And we, as creatures of infinite thought, innovation, and creativity, are a race of beings with opposable thumbs and the will to make better options available for us. If the human race prioritized protecting its most vulnerable populations more, and didn’t just value people based on the survival of the fittest notion, then we could figure out ways to make the world more accessible in case of disasters. We have done some amazing things with technology and design. We can do this too. And in our fiction, we can certainly write more about those with disabilities tackling these issues, if nothing else, as opposed to making them disappear completely.

      1. I understand that, and I would actually love to see someone seriously attempt a post-apocalyptic story that believably shows the disabled having found a way to survive. You make a fair point, and thank you for the thought-provoking article.

      2. Sorry, but these types of stories, for the most part, envision a violent and sudden return to what is essentially a Stone Age society, with a handful of technological holdovers that last for the first several years. In a Stone Age society, the weak, injured, or mentally unstable died often. Especially in times of extreme crisis and lack. You are demonizing a genre for taking a stark view at the most likely consequences of such an event.

        I have no problem whatsoever with you disliking the genre. Taste is entirely subjective, and that’s just fine. I am going to object to you demonizing a genre because it features a storyline you don’t like. Correctly pointing out realistic consequences of a fictional scenario is entirely morally neutral decision on the part of the author.

      3. @Tyler: That is not accurate. We have evidence for how disabled people were treated in the stone age, and that evidence indicates that they were cared for, for long periods, and buried with the same care as everyone else. Disabled people are valuable and small communities are not willing to just let them die because they’re inconvenient. http://www.nytimes.com/2012/12/18/science/ancient-bones-that-tell-a-story-of-compassion.html

        Besides which, these stories are power fantasies, not realistic handbooks for what to do in case of a zombie apocalypse. Personally, I want disabled people to survive in my power fantasy, and I’m not that interested in stories where the answer to “how” is “don’t bother”.

  5. Excellent piece, and I have been talking about this with my spouse in regards to myself and our three disabled children. I did want to give you two examples you might remember and appreciate. Do you remember that Canadian sci-fi thriller (which as I remember, qualifies as an end of days/apocolyptic film because it just starts off in the cube with me wondering how in the heck they all got there, and, the film ends with the same comfusion of ‘what next?’)The poorly-treated character, Kazan, the autisitic savant, is the ONLY survivor left at the end if the film. He is able to quickly and accurately perform prime number calcutions in the cube, and save the group and himself from some type of gruesome boobytrap dismemberment. Though, as the film progresses, the characters die one by one, through their own miscalculations, it is only until mid way towards the end that they discover that Kazan is actually ‘worth something’ to their group and make him figure out the calculations, albiet, in disrespectful, even brutal ways (in this case, the film does portray an autistic in a very grim and stereotypical light)…

    …The other representation I am thinking of is in the FOX series “Last Man On Earth”. Towards the end of the last season, as Mellissa’s character goes into very visible emotional distress and leaves the group to go back to her hometown in Akron, Ohio, Todd and Tandy break off from the group and travel from Malibou to find her in Ohio.

    Once there, Todd meets up with Mellissa at her home, based on an old Realestate ad of hers that he found–as she used to work as an agent and it had her address on it (I think I am forgetting the details of the where and the how), they talk, Todd notices straight away that something is up, Mellissa is in a daze and sharply dressed in professional Realestate attire, not making much sense in her speech and appearing as though she is relapsing into her previous life before the virus killed everyone off.

    Todd notices Mellissa reach into her purse, pull out a pill bottle, open it, and take a small while pill. He kindly and calmly asks Mellissa for the bottle so he can see what sort of pill she just took. It is mysterious, he cant figure it out by the name, but this begins his quest to figure out how to help her by getting more of that medication.

    So, Todd convinces Mellissa to come back with him and Tandy, to the rest of the group waiting for them back in Malibou. And, for the next three episodes, one of the running stories is Todd and Gale trying to find the pill from a store house of pharmceuticals, to help Mellissa who is struggling psychologically.
    From there, Todd puts her back on her medication and is sticking by her, monitoring her until they find the right dosage.

    I remember thinking at the time that I yearned to have the extended family and friends who were that supportive of my mental health treatment.

    Last Man on Earth was rife with PTSD triggers for me, as a physically disabled, chronically ill, mentally ill, autistic person with my three autistic children under my care. Trying to imagine my life in a tragic,
    life-threatening event is impossible sometimes, as I have no support network beyond my own family, and there are times for my family that feel very life-threatening and uncertain with life-supportive treatments, therapies and medications regulalry denied us due to hiccups with insurance, medicaid, and dealing with abuse from prejudiced, biased doctors.
    …So, I just wanted to add those two examples that stand out for me when I read your blog. Have you seen The Cube and/or Last Man On Earth?

    1. I saw The Cube, and that one is fantastic. I had nearly forgotten it, so thank you for bringing it up! (It had some lousy sequels too if I remember, nothing near as good as the first one. And it also had some great discussions on misogyny too in the characters trying to take control). As for Last Man On Earth, no, I should check it out! Thank you!

  6. A really fascinating and insightful article. I was wondering if you had read John Wyndham’s ‘The Day of the Triffids’ in which a meteor shower/damaged orbital weapon blinds the majority of the human race? It’s perhaps the classic British disaster narrative. Wyndham’s ‘The Chrysalids’ is also interesting for its treatment of mutation and intolerance.

    Thank you for writing such a thought-provoking essay.

  7. Now’s the time to buy a pig farm somewhere near the ocean, so you can make your own NDT and find lots of kelp when the apocalypse arrives!

  8. I have these thoughts every time I read a dystopian novel or watch the news. Unless I have someone pushing my wheelchair or my scooter is charged and I have access to my meds, I am going nowhere. That realisation makes reading and watching the genre hard.

  9. Yep. The nineteenth century notions of “survival of the fittest” should be the first to die. Alex Ghenis had the same thought as you. He doesn’t want to be left behind either. Check out his work on climate change and disability at World Institute for Disability in Berkeley. They are convening thought leaders on this topic.

  10. Not only do I worry about post-apocalypse settings, but consider the anti-civilization, ultra-green folks. These are the folks who really push for Ableist Eugenics. Get into a discussion with them about the survival of people with disabilities after the collapse of evil civilization, you start getting into some really creepy areas. Real Aktion T4 stuff.

    1. You might like a relatively new genre called Solarpunk. It’s an eco-focused, hope-in-humanity kind of genre. Believing that humanity can do better is the heart of it. There aren’t too many works out yet that fit the category, but the community involved with it is determined to actively address such issues in their genre before they start.

  11. I think you would feel a lot better if you thought about how you seriously would survive in a disaster situation rather than thinking you would just die because you haven’t exhausted The possibilities yet or at least you haven’t written about it.

  12. Mad Max 2 (The Road Warrior) also has disabled characters: the Mechanic, plus Max himself requires a leg brace to walk. The Feral Kid has communication/language issues. You could also (open to interpretation) read the Mechanic’s Assistant as a person with learning difficulties, and the Old Soldier as suffering from dementia. I always liked the implication: the Refinery people are Good Guys and thus look after everyone in their community. The Lord Humungous’ mob are Bad Guys, so no elderly, no kids, no disabled – just “survival of the fittest” psychos taken to the ultimate extreme.

    1. Thank you for pointing to the Mad Max series and the predecessor to Fury Road for its disability inclusion! It’s a very good point!

  13. It’s been almost exactly 10 years since I was last able to earn money. Fortunately, I had 24 years of paying into a retirement fund, and that, plus Social Security, have allowed me to keep eating and making house payments. But, it takes a wealthy society to support people like me, who can no longer contribute some sort of labor.
    However! For the past six years, I have been raising two grandchildren, and I am a frequent babysitter for two more. So, that’s my plan for continued survival in any end-of-civilization scenario: childcare. As a gentleman of mature age, with limited mobility, I can’t till the earth or hunt the deer. I can, however, watch and educate the children.
    Ummm…I also have a rather extensive arsenal and reloading equipment, but that only gets me through the first month or so when I’m having to shoot invading whatevers. It does nothing to assure MY value to a long-term survival community.

  14. I always envisaged myself as a belly crawling zombie in an post-apocalyptic setting, but you certainly nail it on the spot. Perhaps a story featuring a disabled hero running over zombies and aliens on his motorised wheelchair like skittles, now that’s a story I’ll read.

  15. I thoroughly enjoyed reading this thought-provoking article and am impressed with your talent for writing and your encouraging outlook. That said, I would have enjoyed it so much more and would have loved to share it if you had not brought politics into it by mentioning Donald Trump. Yes, it might be humor and I see your point, but it is divisive on an issue that should not be.

    Keep up the good work. I look forward to your next article.

    1. So I appreciate your response to the article. That said, I’ve never been one to shy away from including my politics in my writing. The personal is politic, as I like to quote, and I’ve also never been afraid to be divisive. What’s the old Hamilton quote? “I’d rather be divisive than indecisive.”

      I appreciate your feelings on the inclusion of it, however, and hope you continue to read.

  16. Thank you Shoshana, this was a very interesting read and spoke to some discomfort I’ve had with the treatment of PWD and elderly people in apocalyptic narratives. I do think that some of the ‘survival of the fittest’ trope fans are actually keen to see a world where wealth/financial assets wouldn’t be the key to survival, leaving opportunities for poor/marginalized people with practical skills (Daryl and Carol etc) to rise up existing social hierarchies. But it’s true that PWD (and other redshirts who often happen to be black etc) are still treated as disposable.

    Horrible as it is in terms of writing/plot, I have a feeling you would appreciate the Walking Dead spinoff. Its one interesting accomplishment is that it casts the character with opioid dependence an asset on account of this experience, or at least it did up to the second season, before the terrible writing forced me to give up on it. It almost echoes the Melancholia plot wherein the person with mental illness is the one who is calm at the end of the world. (Personally that movie really resonated with me as it reminded me of the way that I am far more able to get stuff done than non-mentally ill friends when something terrible happens or someone dies because I have gotten so used to functioning while in crisis).

    1. You know, I’d forgotten about Fear The Walking Dead. I watched season one with some interest actually BECAUSE of his opioid addiction issues. Thank you for reminding me!

  17. Fabulous article. A series I can recommend is Dark Angel, which ran for a couple of seasons and genuinely has disabled main characters in a post-apocalyptic world. The lead is genetically enhanced, which gives her some superpowers but also means she completely breaks down if she doesn’t have a supply of tryptophan, and I think gets imprisoned as an assumed junkie at one point after breaking in to get some. Disability superpower trope, I know, but reasonably well done.

    The co-star is a wheelchair user! And a sexy one who is the love interest! It’s made clear that he’s surviving because he comes from a rich family, but he is also useful in the resistance, using his contacts and wealth. At one point he gets an exoskeleton thingy that attaches to his legs and allows him to walk, but he only uses it occasionally, it’s thoroughly problematic, and it’s presented as an other walking aid, while he remains mainly a wheelchair user. They do explore the possibility of a cure, but it’s not too bad as such things go, and I found the way in which he was adapting to being newly disabled fairly realistic.

    I think there’s another wheelchair user you occasionally see zooming around at the lead character’s workplace, where she’s a bike messenger.

    Other characters turn up by the second season who have been genetically enhanced, and some of them are a lot closer to disabled than superpowered, including one main character, who I think was possibly meant to be learning disabled.

    Fairly good on diversity in other ways: the lead is Latina, her best friend is a black lesbian (with natural hair!), although best friend doesn’t do well in the romance department.

    1. I used to LOVE this show! I should get back to watching it again. It was Jessica Alba’s break-out show, and I was a huge fan. Thank you for reminding me!

  18. Thank you for sharing your observations about the presentation of those of us with disabilities in some popular media. I was personally concerned about the opportunities for evacuation and necessary medication and treatment during Hurricane Harvey and Hurricane Irma. Not apocalyptic for the world but it must have seemed so for those with mental and physical disabilities, unable to evacuate, who somehow survived the storms.

    I was pleased to see news coverage of the fire fighters carrying people of their homes in their wheel chairs and a nursing home in their wheelchairs and using supplemental oxygen. I cheered the availability of a special shelter in one Florida city which accepted the medically fragile and those with pets who were not welcome in most shelters.

    Yes, I can understand the complications providing assistance to persons with disabilities during a catastrophe, I can also understand the consequences of doing without what ever we are able to contribute as society works to reorganize and rebuild.

  19. Wow. As someone newly disabled I had thought about this a little but didn’t have words to articulate it. Thanks for this article to articulate what many are already feeling.

  20. Thank you so much for this article. This is a problem I have been struggling with ever since I became disabled. I too am dependent on medication and if it were to run out, in a disaster scenario, I would be dead pretty quickly (not to mention the chronic pain slowing me down). When I was little I used to love survival stories… although I had been struggling with this loss for some time, it was this year, when I played Breath of the Wild, that something really snapped inside me. I took all of my fears and dismay and poured it into a personal project I’m working on, named Medicine Quest, which is basically a survival story with a disabled main character who runs out of medicine. It’s incredibly difficult to write because I have so much at stake emotionally, but it’s also kind of cathartic in a way.

    Anyway, there isn’t much I can add to this article that isn’t already beautifully stated. I will certainly share it with anyone who wants to know what I’m going through.

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