The SuperCrip Trap
The SuperCrip disability stereotype has recently appeared again in the game The Surge so I thought I should dissect the issue.
The Surge takes place in a future wrecked by climate change, a company called CREO is working to improve the atmosphere and meld humans with machines. The protagonist Warren is a wheelchair user and is recruited into CREO eager to walk again through CREO’s exo-suit device.
That is the only mention of Warren’s disability in the story, suggesting it was a plot device to quickly elicit emotional investment using incorrect disabled stereotypes. Also, not every disabled person is looking for a ‘fix’ or ‘cure’, it is surprising but we can actually live happy lives.
So, now Warren is the epitome of a SuperCrip, a superhuman with an extra super, better than the average person but still different. If you remove the disability part of The Surge’s story then you have a similar plot to Neill Blomkamp’s movie Elysium, only with a much better reason to warrant an exo-suit.
There are games such as Deus Ex that also fall into the SuperCrip trap however the theme is primarily focused on Transhumanism. The belief that the human race (Adam Jensen) can evolve beyond its current physical and mental limitations through technology.
The movie Mad Max: Fury Road presented a nuanced disabled character Furiosa (Charlize Theron); she has a prosthetic left forearm but it never phased her. Furiosa flipped the damsel-in-distress trope, protecting herself and as she seemed more integral to the plot than Max. For example, Furiosa hits Max with her stump & later on uses Max’s shoulder to stabilize her gun barrel, as an alternative to using two hands!
We need to create meaningful disability characters, no disability ‘fixing’ in the narrative, active members in combat, wheelchairs used & disability as part of a nuanced character.