Preface: I am able-bodied, and want to know if my vibe around this subject is generally shared by those with physical disabilities or not
In a recent episode of the podcast, Austin mentioned how exciting it is that Sekiro leans hard into the protagonist’s prosthetic arm. He discussed how it was a positive move for representation and was an uncommon move to incorporate a physical disability mechanically to empower the character. I had two reactions to this. First, I was surprised, because the “better robot arm” is, to me, a very prominent trope. Just this month, Nero from DMCV has a badass series of prosthetic arms. Venom Snake from MGSV has the same deal. The brand new character in Apex Legends, Octane, has better robot legs. This trope abounds in video games, comics, and movies, which I think stems from the tendency to dramatically remove an arm as a way to non-lethally raise the stakes.
My second reaction is the one I’d really like to talk about, though: this doesn’t actually feel like very good representation of disability to me. Now, as mentioned in my preface, I am coming at this from the perspective of an able-bodied person, and I’d really like to be corrected if I’m seeing this the wrong way. When a limb is removed just to be replaced, consequence free, with a superior mechanical/magical prosthetic, it doesn’t seem to address any of the challenges of a physical disability. Ultimately, for these characters, the disability has no impact. I would think that characters who actually overcome their disability in the way real people are able to (since superpowered grappling hook robo arms aren’t real) are what representation should really look like. I’m thinking here of Baiken from Guilty Gear, Oro from Street Fighter, and Bentley from Sly Cooper. Each of these characters has lost/lost use of a limb(s) and has to deal with the impact that has on their lives without some magic replacement.
Of course, I also understand how the sort of over-the-top power fantasies of DMC and MGS could be empowering as representative of disability as strength. To me though, it feels like it skips over the disability itself.
Am I off base here? It’s a thought I’ve been having for a while, and Austin’s comment pushed me to say something about it (since he, as far as I know, also has full use of all of his limbs, but felt comfortable commenting).