When My Favorite TV Character's Story Reflected My Life With a Disability
I watch a lot of TV shows on Netflix. Thanks to the fact I work from home, I’m able to binge watch my favorite series, and my latest favorite is “Arrow.” The main character is part of the DC Comics universe, and he’s a vigilante who fights crime in his city with (you guessed it) a bow and arrow. But he’s not the real hero to me in this show.
I introduce to you… Felicity Smoak, a “geek girl” computer whiz. She has no super powers, she doesn’t wear a suit or cape or costume, and she doesn’t fight bad guys on the street. However, she’s an invaluable part of Team Arrow because they highly depend on her brilliant IT skills to complete their missions. And just because Felicity isn’t throwing punches or firing arrows towards the bad guys doesn’t mean she never gets hurt.
In Episode 9 of Season 4, Felicity and Oliver Queen (who is the Green Arrow) are riding in a limousine when they get attacked by villain Damien Darhk and his goons. During the attack, Darhk shoots Felicity (who just got engaged to Oliver earlier that evening) and injures her spinal cord. While recovering from surgery in the hospital, Felicity and her doctors realize she has become paralyzed from the waist down.
Over the next several episodes, Felicity starts coming to terms with the fact that she must use a wheelchair for mobility. The apartment she shares with Oliver is at the bottom of a flight of stairs, so she can’t leave on her own. Her desk at the Team Arrow bunker is on an elevated platform, and the bunker itself is at the bottom of another long flight of stairs. Oliver has an elevator and a ramp installed for her to use, but Felicity still struggles with her ability to be of use to the team due to her disability.
While I don’t have a spinal cord injury, I have had multiple sclerosis for 13 years and can’t walk as a result. I have been using a power wheelchair full-time for four years, and as a fully employed entrepreneur, I could completely empathize with Felicity’s situation. I cried when she cried as her frustration with her physical limitations became overwhelming. I also celebrated with her when she realized her value as a member of Team Arrow wasn’t diminished in the slightest just because she couldn’t walk.
We all love our superheroes, and trust me when I tell you I’m a huge fan of the Green Arrow. However, I’m an even bigger fan of Felicity Smoak because her struggles with paralysis — however temporary— managed to avoid many of the clichés and tropes we see when a more stereotypical comic book hero gets injured or weakened. She’s a geek like me, a woman like me, works at a desk like me… and for a few episodes, reflected a huge part of me.
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Photo via “Arrow” Facebook page.