Social media can be an overwhelming vortex of opinions, grievances, and feelings. That is especially true of my Twitter feed. At its best, my Twitter feed is where I can pass the time laughing at memes from friends and musings from celebrities. At its worst, it is home to rage, loathing, and news stories of suspect credibility. For me, it’s rarely a place for self-discovery.
A few weeks ago, though, I stumbled across a tweet and a story that made me question my feelings about portrayals of disability in the media and my connection to a nerdy interest of mine — the “Star Trek” universe.
My brother introduced me to the world of “Star Trek” when I was a child. I always looked forward to reclining on my family’s couch to watch “Star Trek: Voyager“; it quickly hooked me on the stories of starship captains, exploration, and impossible moral quandaries.
To this day, I consider myself a “Star Trek” fan and eagerly await the latest additions to its catalog of stories. I’d like to think that although I’m not intensely involved in the infamously devoted fanbase, it’s still OK for me to claim allegiance to that passionate tribe.
“Star Trek” represents much of what I appreciate about science fiction. It asks big questions with a level of earnestness that would come across as corny in other genres. The driving question at the heart of many “Star Trek” stories is how we can be better human beings who fight against our baser instincts. It’s a show that ponders the merits and limits of humanistic and utilitarian philosophies.
Many fans celebrate that “Star Trek” is known for progressive portrayals of diversity. It’s famous for having the first televised interracial kiss. So, I was surprised when George Alevizos, an actor who portrays a wheelchair-using crew member on “Star Trek: Discovery,” recently tweeted about the backlash he has faced for his supporting role.
I know “Star Trek” fans have the right to be critical of their beloved show, but the sentiment that a wheelchair-using character cannot exist as a starship crew member in a fictional universe seems not only antithetical to the spirit of the Trek universe but also a bit silly. As a disabled person with Charcot-Marie-Tooth disease, I appreciated watching scenes with that unnamed officer in the wheelchair, even if it was just him rolling in the background. It is all too rare to see an actor with a disability on television.
Representation matters. And though superficial displays of diversity are a concern, I don’t think it’s fair to levy that accusation at “Star Trek: Discovery.”
Alevizos uses a wheelchair in his everyday life. Although his character hasn’t had any lines, a producer tweeted that he wanted to give more depth to the story. It seems that there is at least a bit of understanding of the fans’ concerns and the larger problem of representation in the television industry.
Alevizos works behind the scenes to advocate for actors with disabilities and has joined a Canadian hospital’s campaign to promote inclusivity.
Representation matters. I know my heart cheers whenever I see an actor with a disability on screen. Tokenism is an important topic, but we can’t tolerate discrimination. I’m happy that “Star Trek” and its community seem to be supportive and thoughtful about representation in the media.
Note: Charcot-Marie-Tooth News is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Charcot-Marie-Tooth News or its parent company, BioNews Services, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to Charcot-Marie-Tooth.
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