By: Emily Beitiks
Big news this week, from CNN to the Guardian: Lego has unveiled its first disabled character, a wheelchair rider: Cynically, one might call this "Handicapitalism" by Lego - a commercialization of disability rather than a genuine effort to diversify their characters. But even without questioning intentions (or the value of children who use wheelchairs to be able to play with a Lego with whom they identify), there is a simple factual misrepresentation in this story.
This is NOT the first Lego character with a disability.
There's a hierarchy within disability. Too often, we reduce disability to mean a person in a wheelchair, and we forget the rich array of bodies that are included in disability communities. Also, we fail to see disability when it's associated with a bad-ass hero... instead we expect to see disability in the pitiful and the tragic.
There are at least 5 disabled Lego characters that have been popular for awhile (in addition to the many disabled by mean older siblings or parents who made the painful mistake of stepping on one):
- The Pirate
Cathy Kudlick, Director at the Longmore Institute, has long been pointing out to people that we fail to see pirates as the "disability action figures" that they are. With a hook hand, an eye patch, and a peg leg, this guy has a disability trifecta!
2. Luke Skywalker Star Wars fans have long had the option to purchase Luke, pre- and post-amputation. Even with his hand prosthesis, he still is another example of a "disability action figure."
3. Darth Vader Full disclosure: I haven't seen the movies in a long time and my efforts to pin down the exact reason why Darth Vader dies without using his mask to breathe yielded WAY too many results that didn't help. But he counts.
4. Abraham Lincoln While the exact condition is unknown, geneticists and historians believe that Abraham Lincoln had a genetic condition, similar to Marfan syndrome.
5. Daredevil He's blind and uses echolocation to fight bad guys.
And who knows what sort of invisible disabilities these guys might have?
*Which Lego characters did I miss? Let me know in the comments section!