Transcript: Amanda Leduc: Ableism and Disability in Fairy Tales | Jul 06, 2020

Nam sits inside a living room, with houseplants and a blue couch in the background. She's in her early forties, with shoulder length curly brown hair. She's wearing glasses and an orange blazer.

A caption on screen reads "Ableism and disability in fairy tales. Nam Kiwanuka, @namshine, @theagenda."

Nam says LIFE IN FAIRY TALES
SEEMS EASY ENOUGH.
WE KNOW WHO TO
CHEER FOR
AND WHO TO
ROOT AGAINST.
BUT DO WE?
AND WHO ARE THOSE
STORIES FOR?
IN HER NEW BOOK,
DISFIGURED:
ON FAIRY TALES, DISABILITY,
AND MAKING SPACE,
AUTHOR AMANDA LEDUC TAKES US
BACK TO THOSE FORMATIVE STORIES
FOR ANOTHER
EYE-OPENING LOOK.
AND AMANDA LEDUC
IS WITH US NOW
FROM HER HOME IN
HAMILTON, ONTARIO.

Amanda is in her thirties, with long wavy brown hair. She's wearing a white sweater.
A picture of her book appears briefly on screen. The cover features a drawing of green leaves surrounding a house, and an eye, a hand, an ear, a foot and a crutch hidden amongst the leaves.

Nam says AMANDA, IT'S
VERY NICE TO MEET YOU
UNDER THESE
CIRCUMSTANCES.
THANK YOU FOR
BEING ON THE SHOW.

Amanda says IT'S LOVELY TO MEET
YOU, TOO, NAM.
THANKS SO MUCH.

Nam says SO, I WAS LUCKY ENOUGH TO GET AN
ADVANCE COPY OF YOUR BOOK.
AND WHEN I
READ IT, I WAS
ACTUALLY VERY MAD AT
MYSELF FOR NOT KNOWING
A LOT OF THE BACKSTORIES
TO THESE STORIES,
BECAUSE I HAVE TWO
SMALL KIDS,
AND WE WATCH DISNEY MOVIES
ALL THE TIME.
WHEN YOU WROTE
THIS BOOK,
YOU APPROACHED IT
AS PART MEMOIR
AND PART CRITICAL
ANALYSIS.
WHY DID YOU APPROACH
IT THAT WAY?

The caption changes to "Amanda Leduc. Author, 'Disfigured.'"

Amanda says WELL, THE BOOK SORT
OF CAME TOGETHER
QUITE ORGANICALLY.
I HAD PITCHED IT
TO THE COACH HOUSE EXPLODED
VIEWS SERIES INITIALLY,
AND THOSE ARE SHORT
CULTURAL CRITICISM BOOKS.
AND I WASN'T REALLY
THINKING ABOUT IT
AS PART MEMOIR
INITIALLY.
BUT AS I BEGAN WRITING
AND STARTED DELVING DEEPER
INTO DIFFERENT FAIRY
TALES AND WHAT THEY DO
AND SORT OF HOW
THEY STRUCTURE THE WORLD...
ESPECIALLY FOR PEOPLE
WITH DISABILITIES...
IT JUST SEEMED LIKE A
NATURAL EVOLUTION
TO INCLUDE
MY OWN STORY.
I AM A
DISABLED WOMAN.
I HAVE
CEREBRAL PALSY.
AND EVEN THOUGH I
DIDN'T REALIZE IT AT THE TIME,
WHEN I WAS A CHILD
AND EXPOSED TO FAIRY TALES,
THEY REALLY HAD
A HUGE IMPACT
ON HOW I
VIEWED MYSELF
AND MY DISABLED
BODY IN THE WORLD.
AND SO IT WAS
REALLY INTERESTING
TO GO BACK TO
ALL OF THOSE STORIES
AND GO THROUGH
MY MEMORIES OF THEM
FROM WHEN
I WAS A CHILD
TO RECONSTRUCT
WHAT IT MEANS TO,
YOU KNOW,
BE A DISABLED PERSON
IN THE WORLD TODAY
AND LOOK
AT THE STORIES
THAT ARE TOLD ABOUT
DISABLED PEOPLE.

Nam says YOU SAID THAT WHEN
YOU WERE WRITING THE BOOK,
IT MADE YOU REALIZE
THE IMPACT THAT THEY
HAD ON YOU AS A CHILD.
LOOKING BACK,
WHAT WERE
THOSE IMPACTS?

Amanda says WELL, I THINK...
SO, I HAVE
CEREBRAL PALSY,
BUT IT'S QUITE MILD,
SO IT SHOWS UP
WITH A LIMP ON
MY RIGHT-HAND SIDE.
AND SO I COULD PASS FOR
A LARGE MAJORITY OF MY YOUTH
AS SOMEONE WHO
WAS ABLE-BODIED.
AND I THINK, FOR A LOT
OF DISABLED PEOPLE
WHO MAYBE HAVE
THAT OPPORTUNITY
OF BEING ABLE TO
PASS AT TIMES
OR PRETEND THAT
YOU'RE NOT DISABLED,
YOU DO IT, BECAUSE
IT'S A SURVIVAL TACTIC.
YOU PRETEND LIKE
YOU CAN WALK
AND JUST ACT AND MOVE
JUST LIKE EVERYBODY ELSE,
BECAUSE THEN YOU
WON'T GET PICKED ON.
YOU WON'T
GET SET APART
WHEN YOU'RE IN SCHOOL AND
IN OTHER SOCIAL SITUATIONS.
SO THAT'S WHAT I DID. I
PRETENDED FOR A LONG TIME
THAT I WASN'T
DISABLED.
IT'S SORT OF A WEIRD SORT
OF MENTAL GYMNASTICS,
BECAUSE I WOULD SAY THAT
I HAD CEREBRAL PALSY.
I HAD SURGERIES
WHEN I WAS YOUNGER.
I WAS IN A WHEELCHAIR
FOR A WHILE.
I USED CRUTCHES.
BUT I WASN'T REALLY CONSIDERING
MYSELF A DISABLED PERSON.
AND WHEN I LOOKED
AT STORIES,
ESPECIALLY THE STORIES THAT
WE SEE IN DISNEY,
I WANTED TO SEE MYSELF AS
A DISNEY PRINCESS.
SO I PRETENDED
THAT I, YOU KNOW,
WAS AS ABLE-BODIED
AND AS CAPABLE
OF A HAPPY ENDING
AS A DISNEY PRINCESS,
WITHOUT REALIZING
THAT WHAT I WAS DOING
WAS TRYING TO MOULD
AND SHIFT AND SHAPE MY LIFE
INTO SOMETHING THAT
IT MAYBE WASN'T MEANT FOR.
YOU KNOW, MY LIFE
INCLUDED DIFFERENT THINGS,
INCLUDED A DIFFERENT KIND
OF HAPPY ENDING.

NAM SAYS AND AS A CHILD, I DON'T
KNOW IF YOU COULD REMEMBER
WHEN THAT
SHIFT HAPPENED
WHERE YOU SAW
YOURSELF DIFFERENTLY.
IT MUST HAVE BEEN
PAINFUL, NO?

Amanda says IT WAS HARD WHEN I WAS IN
ELEMENTARY SCHOOL, SPECIFICALLY.
THERE WAS A FAIR
AMOUNT OF BULLYING,
JUST IN TERMS
OF HOW I WALKED,
BECAUSE I WALKED JUST
DIFFERENTLY ENOUGH
TO BE SINGLED OUT
AND BE PICKED ON AS
A RESULT OF THAT.
IN THE BOOK, ONE OF THE
STUDIES THAT I CITE
LOOKED AT CHILDREN
WHO HAD CEREBRAL PALSY
OR OTHER MUSCULAR
DISORDERS.
AND ONE OF THE THINGS
THAT THEY FOUND
WAS THAT CHILDREN WHO
HAVE DISORDERS
OR HAD MUSCULAR
DISORDERS
AND THEIR DISABILITIES
WERE MILD
TENDED TO BE PICKED
ON MORE THAN CHILDREN
WHOSE DISABILITIES WERE
MORE SEVERE.
AND YOU KNOW, I HAVE THEORIES
ABOUT WHY THAT IS THE CASE.
I THINK THERE'S SOMETHING ABOUT
PICKING ON SOMEONE
WHO IS ALMOST LIKE YOU
BUT NOT QUITE,
YOU KNOW, PUNCHING DOWN.
BECAUSE IT'S NOT...

Nam says RIGHT.

Amanda says EXACTLY. YEAH.

Nam says BUT AS A CHILD,
YOU REALLY LOVED
FAIRY TALES.
I THINK IT'S FAIR TO SAY YOU
WERE KIND OF OBSESSED BY THEM.

Amanda says YEAH.

Nam says WHAT DID YOU LIKE
ABOUT FAIRY TALES?

Amanda says I MEAN, I STILL
LOVE FAIRY TALES,
DESPITE THE FACT
THAT I WILL ALSO SAY
THAT THEY'RE
VERY PROBLEMATIC.
I REALLY LIKED...
I LIKED THE IDEA
OF A HAPPY ENDING,
AND I LIKED THE IDEA
OF THE ORDER
THAT A FAIRY TALE
SUBSCRIBED TO
TO SHOW THE WORLD,
THE IDEA THAT, YOU KNOW...

NAM SAYS THAT'S INTERESTING THAT YOU...
ORDER.

Amanda says WELL, THE IDEA THAT IF
YOU WORK REALLY HARD
OR IF YOU'RE A
REALLY GOOD PERSON,
YOU KNOW, YOU'LL
GET YOUR HAPPY ENDING...
LIKE, EVERYTHING
THAT YOU WANT
WILL COME TO YOU
IN THE END...
THERE WAS SOMETHING VERY
COMFORTING ABOUT THAT
FOR ME AS A CHILD,
BECAUSE I COULD SAY,
"YOU'RE BEING BULLIED. YOU'RE
BEING PICKED ON.
BUT IT'S OKAY. YOU KNOW, IF
YOU'RE A GOOD PERSON,
YOU WILL TRIUMPH OVER
ALL OF THIS,
AND EVERYTHING WILL WORK OUT
FINE IN THE END FOR YOU."
AND IN MANY
WAYS, IT DID,
AND THEN IN OTHER WAYS,
YOU KNOW, IT DIDN'T.
THERE ARE REALITIES OF
MY DISABLED LIFE
THAT WILL ALWAYS
BE WITH ME
AND ARE MAYBE
NOT AS CONDUCIVE
TO THE IDEA OF A
HAPPY ENDING.
BUT THE PROCESS AND THE
JOURNEY OF WRITING THE BOOK
AND RECOGNIZING
THE DAMAGE
THAT THIS SORT OF...
KEEPING TO THIS KIND OF
NARRATIVE CAN DO...
YOU KNOW, THE IDEA
THAT THERE'S A PARTICULAR
KIND OF HAPPY ENDING
AND IF YOU DON'T FIT
INTO THAT HAPPY ENDING,
THEN, YOU KNOW, YOU
DON'T GET TO BE
THE KIND OF PERSON WHO HAS GOOD
THINGS COME TO THEM IN LIFE,
WHICH SEEMS REALLY
SIMPLISTIC...
BUT I THINK THAT'S WHAT
FAIRY TALES OFTEN DO,
IS, THEY SORT
OF IMPOSE
A VERY SIMPLISTIC VIEW
OF THE WORLD
ONTO HOW WE LIVE,
PARTICULARLY FOR PEOPLE
WHO ARE DISABLED.

Nam says AND I GUESS IF YOU... IF IT'S
KIND OF LIKE A BLUEPRINT
ON HOW YOU CAN
GET THE HAPPY ENDING,
AND IF YOU DON'T GET
THAT HAPPY ENDING,
THEN IT MEANS THAT THERE'S
SOMETHING WRONG WITH YOU, RIGHT?

Amanda says YEAH. YEAH. EXACTLY.
YOU KNOW, IF IT
DOESN'T COME TO YOU,
THEN YOU DON'T
DESERVE IT
OR YOU MAYBE DIDN'T
WORK HARD ENOUGH FOR IT
OR YOU WEREN'T
GOOD ENOUGH.
THAT'S VERY
DAMAGING.

NAM SAYS AS A CHILD,
WHAT WAS YOUR
FAVOURITE FAIRY TALE?
AND WHY?

Amanda says OH, I LOVED
THE LITTLE MERMAID,
THE DISNEY VERSION
IN PARTICULAR.
I DIDN'T READ THE ORIGINAL
HANS CHRISTIAN ANDERSEN VERSION
UNTIL MUCH LATER.
MY SISTER AND I WOULD
SWIM IN OUR BACKYARD POOL
AND PRETEND TO
BE ARIEL.
I THINK THERE WAS
JUST SOMETHING VERY EXOTIC,
BOTH ABOUT THE WAY
THAT SHE MOVED AS A MERMAID
BUT THEN
ABOUT THE WAY
THAT SHE TRIUMPHED
IN THE END.
I FOUND SOMETHING
VERY EXCITING AND ENGAGING
ABOUT THAT IN
PARTICULAR.

Nam says WE HAVE A CLIP FROM
THE
LITTLE MERMAID,
AND THEN WE'LL
COME BACK AND TALK.

Amanda says YAY!

Nam says TONY, COULD YOU PLEASE ROLL?

A clip plays on screen with the caption "The little mermaid. 1989."
In the clip, the red-headed mermaid Ariel sits in a puddle of water. She lifts one of her feet and stares at it in disbelief.

A cheerful seagull flies up to her and says
WELL, LOOK AT WHAT THE
CATFISH DRAGGED IN.
(LAUGHING)
LOOK AT YOU. LOOK AT YOU.
THERE'S SOMETHING DIFFERENT.

Nam says WATCHING THAT AS A
CHILD DID WHAT TO YOU?

Amanda says I... YOU KNOW,
LOOKING BACK
ON IT NOW,
AS A CHILD, I
DIDN'T SEE MYSELF
IN ARIEL RIGHT WHEN
SHE GETS HER LEGS
FOR THE
FIRST TIME, RIGHT?
SHE'S STUMBLING
AROUND ON THAT BEACH.
SHE DOESN'T HAVE
ANY BALANCE.
SHE'S VERY SORT
OF UNSURE OF HERSELF.
AND I DIDN'T
SEE MYSELF IN THAT,
EVEN THOUGH
I SHOULD HAVE,
BECAUSE WHAT
I WANTED TO SEE
AND WHAT I SORT OF TAUGHT
MYSELF TO SEE AS A CHILD WAS,
I WAS GOING TO WALK
THE WAY THAT ARIEL WALKS AT
THE END OF THE FILM,
WHERE SHE'S WALKING PERFECTLY
NORMALLY AS A HUMAN BEING.
AND YOU KNOW,
I WISH...
LOOKING BACK ON
IT IT NOW,
I WISH THAT I HAD BEEN ABLE TO
SEE IT A LITTLE BIT DIFFERENTLY.
I WISH THAT I HAD HAD EXPOSURE
TO STORIES OF DISABILITY...
DISABLED CHILDREN
SPECIFICALLY...
BECAUSE I THINK IT WOULD HAVE
GIVEN ME MORE CONFIDENCE
IN MYSELF AND THE
WAY, YOU KNOW...
THE FACT THAT I
LIMPED AND THE FACT
THAT I DIDN'T WALK
LIKE EVERYBODY ELSE.
I THINK IT
WOULD HAVE...
I WOULD HAVE JUST
SEEN IT DIFFERENTLY
AND MOVED DIFFERENTLY
THROUGHOUT THE WORLD,
HAD MORE CONFIDENCE
AS A RESULT.

Nam says WELL, IN THE
BOOK, YOU ASK,
"WHAT MESSAGES DO WE INTERNALIZE
AS DISABLED CHILDREN
WHEN WE SEE A WORLD THAT
LOOKS AS EASY ON THE SCREEN
AND THEN STRUGGLE WITH
THE WORLD IN REAL LIFE?"
WHAT ARE THOSE
MESSAGES?

Amanda says WELL, I THINK CHILDREN
WHO ARE DISABLED...
IN MY CASE, CHILDREN WHO ARE
PHYSICALLY DISABLED, LIKE ME...
OFTEN GET A LOT OF
MESSAGES WHERE, YOU KNOW,
PEOPLE WITH VERY GOOD
INTENTIONS...
PARENTS WITH VERY
GOOD INTENTIONS
WILL TAKE THEIR CHILDREN
TO PHYSICAL THERAPY
AND, YOU KNOW,
TRY AND HELP THEM
SO THAT THEY WALK MORE
APPROPRIATELY
OR MORE NORMALLY.
AND THAT, YOU KNOW, WORKS
WELL FOR SOME CHILDREN.
I WENT TO PHYSICAL THERAPY
AS A CHILD,
AND IT HELPED ME TO WALK IN
WAYS THAT, YOU KNOW, MADE SURE
THAT MY FOOT WASN'T PAINFUL
AND THINGS LIKE THAT.
BUT OTHER CHILDREN,
WHO, YOU KNOW,
MAYBE HAVE MORE
DIFFICULTY WITH WALKING...
AND ADULTS, TOO,
NOT JUST CHILDREN...
ENDURE PHYSICAL THERAPY
AND A LOT OF PAIN
IN ORDER TO
WALK NORMALLY.
AND THERE'S
THIS IDEA
THAT THE ONLY WAY
THAT YOU'RE GOING TO SUCCEED
OR GET AHEAD IN LIFE IS
IF YOU WALK A CERTAIN WAY
OR YOU MOVE
A CERTAIN WAY.
AND WHAT WE REALLY
NEED TO BE DOING
IS STARTING
TO ASK, YOU KNOW,
WHAT DIFFERENCE DOES IT MAKE IF
A CHILD MAYBE CAN'T WALK?
WHY ARE WE
PUTTING RESOURCES
INTO PUTTING THEM
IN PHYSICAL THERAPY
AND HAVING THESE KINDS
OF CONVERSATIONS
ABOUT WALKING AS
THE SORT OF ULTIMATE GOAL
WHEN REALLY WE SHOULD BE LOOKING
AT THE DISABLED CHILD'S BODY,
THEIR OWN
SPECIFIC BODY,
AND WHAT CAN WE DO TO MAKE
THEM MORE COMFORTABLE?
WHAT CAN WE DO TO MAKE
IT SO THAT THEY CAN
MOVE THROUGH THE WORLD IN A WAY
THAT'S COMFORTABLE FOR THEM
AND ALSO DOESN'T,
YOU KNOW...
SO THAT THEY DON'T
ENCOUNTER ANY BARRIERS?
IT'S THE OLD
SORT OF FOLKTALE
IN THE DISABILITY
COMMUNITY, IS, YOU KNOW,
YOU HAVE TWO DOORWAYS
INTO A BUILDING.
ONE IS A DOORWAY
WITH A RAMP,
AND THE OTHER IS A
DOORWAY WITH STAIRS.
AND A PERSON IN A WHEELCHAIR
IS WAITING AT THE RAMP
WHILE THE CUSTODIAN IS CLEARING
SNOW AWAY FROM THE STAIRS,
AND THE WHEELCHAIR
PERSON SAYS, YOU KNOW,
"CAN YOU CLEAR THE
RAMP FIRST, PLEASE?"
AND THEY SAY, "OH, WELL,
I HAVE TO CLEAR THE STAIRS
SO ALL THESE PEOPLE
CAN GET IN."
AND THE PERSON IN
THE WHEELCHAIR THEN SAYS,
"WELL, BUT IF YOU
CLEARED A RAMP,
THEN EVERYBODY CAN
GO IN AT THE SAME TIME,
WHEREAS IF YOU CLEAR
THE STAIRS FIRST,
THAT MEANS THAT I HAVE
TO WAIT UNTIL YOU'RE DONE."
AND I THINK
THERE'S THIS IDEA
THAT, YOU KNOW, DISABILITY
AND ACCOMMODATIONS
AND MAKING THINGS
ACCESSIBLE
IS CATERING TO A VERY SPECIFIC
SEGMENT OF THE POPULATION,
WHEN IN ACTUAL FACT,
WHAT IT'S DOING
IS TAKING CARE OF EVERYBODY
AT THE SAME TIME.
AND IF WE
TEACH CHILDREN
THAT THEIR BODIES ARE PERFECT
JUST THE WAY THAT THEY ARE
AND THAT, YOU
KNOW, THE FOCUS
ISN'T SO MUCH
ON, FOR EXAMPLE,
MAKING IT SO THAT A
CHILD CAN WALK
BUT MAKING IT
SO THAT THAT CHILD
IS COMFORTABLE IN
THE BODY THAT THEY HAVE,
THEN YOU CREATE A SOCIETY
THAT IS MUCH MORE INCLUSIVE
AND MUCH MORE
CONDUCIVE
TO ALLOWING PEOPLE TO REACH
THEIR FULL POTENTIAL.

Nam says I KNOW IN THE BOOK THAT YOU
DO WRITE ABOUT THIS,
AND YOU DON'T HAVE
TO TALK ABOUT IT
IF YOU DON'T
FEEL COMFORTABLE,
BUT YOU DO WRITE ABOUT WHEN
YOU WERE YOUNGER.
YOU DID HAVE A
NUMBER OF SURGERIES.
AND YOU PARENTS,
YOUR COMMUNITY,
WITH THE
BEST INTENTIONS...
BUT IT AFFECTED YOU
IN A CERTAIN WAY.
DO YOU FEEL COMFORTABLE
TALKING ABOUT THAT?

Amanda says YEAH. YEAH. ABSOLUTELY.

Nam says HOW DID ALL THOSE
SURGERIES AFFECT YOU?

Amanda says WELL, I THINK
AS A CHILD,
YOU KNOW, I
CAN REMEMBER BEING
SORT OF AN
EXOTIC CURIOSITY, RIGHT?
BECAUSE I HAD A
WHEELCHAIR
WHEN I WAS IN FIRST GRADE
FOR A NUMBER OF MONTHS.
SO, YOU KNOW,
IT WAS VERY
EXCITING AT FIRST,
BECAUSE PEOPLE GOT TO PUSH ME
AROUND ON THE PLAYGROUND
AND, YOU KNOW, I GOT TO
GIVE PRESENTATIONS
ABOUT WHAT LIFE WAS LIKE
IN A WHEELCHAIR
AND THOSE KIND
OF THINGS.
AND THAT GOT OLD FOR
OTHER KIDS IN THE CLASS
VERY QUICKLY,
BUT I WAS SORT OF
LEFT WITH, YOU KNOW,
THE DIFFICULTIES OF HAVING
TO MOVE IN A WHEELCHAIR,
HAVING TO
HAVE A CAST,
HAVING TO DEAL
WITH ALL OF THAT.
AND IT JUST...
YOU KNOW,
WHEN YOU'RE A CHILD,
ONE OF THE THINGS THAT
YOU WANT, I THINK...
BECAUSE WE'RE TAUGHT
TO WANT THESE THINGS...
IS TO BE LIKE
EVERYBODY ELSE.
NOBODY WANTS
TO BE OSTRACIZED.
NOBODY WANTS TO BE PUT
OUTSIDE OF THE COMMUNITY.
AND SO FOR
A LONG TIME,
YOU KNOW, ONCE I DIDN'T HAVE
THE WHEELCHAIR ANYMORE,
ONCE THE CAST CAME OFF,
ONCE I WAS NO LONGER
USING CRUTCHES,
IT WAS VERY MUCH
ABOUT, FOR ME,
TRYING TO BLEND IN
WITH EVERYBODY ELSE,
I THINK BECAUSE
CERTAINLY...
I MEAN, THIS IS
30 YEARS AGO NOW.
CERTAINLY, AT THAT
TIME, YOU KNOW,
WE WEREN'T REALLY
BEING ACTIVELY TAUGHT
ABOUT BEING
KIND AND OPEN
TO PEOPLE
WHO LOOK DIFFERENT
AND, YOU KNOW,
UNDERSTANDING THAT EVERYBODY
HAS A DIFFERENT WAY OF
MOVING IN THE WORLD.
I THINK WE'RE MUCH MORE
ADVANCED NOW IN OUR SOCIETY
IN TERMS OF LOOKING
AT THOSE KINDS OF THINGS
AND REALLY TRYING
DEEPLY TO UNDERSTAND
WHAT IT MEANS
TO HAVE
A KIND OF VISIBLE
DIFFERENCE IN THAT WAY
AND THEN FROM THERE,
YOU KNOW, LOOKING
AT INVISIBLE DISABILITIES
AND HOW THOSE IMPACT PEOPLE
AND HOW THEY MOVE THROUGH
THE WORLD AS WELL.
I THINK WE'VE STILL GOT
A LONG WAY TO GO, THOUGH.
WHEN YOU'RE A CHILD
AND YOU SORT OF ENCOUNTER
THAT OSTRACIZATION
WHEN YOU'RE QUITE YOUNG,
IT REALLY PUTS YOU ON
A CERTAIN PATH.
IT REALLY KIND
OF INSTILLS
SOME VERY DEEP
IDEAS WITHIN YOU
ABOUT WHAT
YOUR BODY IS
AND WHAT KINDS OF
VALUE YOUR BODY HAS.
AND THAT WAS...
YEAH, IT TOOK A LONG TIME FOR ME
TO MOVE BEYOND THAT
AND TO REALLY UNDERSTAND HOW
MUCH THAT EXPERIENCE
OF OSTRACIZATION AND BULLYING
WHEN I WAS IN SCHOOL
HAD SHAPED MY LIFE
AND SHAPED MY SORT OF
EXPECTATIONS OF MYSELF
AND MY VALUE REALLY
AS A PERSON IN THE WORLD.

Nam says YOU ALSO WRITE
IN THE BOOK THAT
WITHIN FAIRY TALES THEMSELVES
THAT DISABILITY IS USED
AS A SYMBOL.
IN WHAT WAYS IN DISABILITY USED
AS A SYMBOL IN FAIRY TALES?

Amanda says WELL, IN A LOT OF THE
FAIRY TALES THAT WE KNOW
AND ARE FAMILIAR WITH
IN WESTERN CULTURE,
YOU HAVE VILLAINS WHO ARE MARKED
IN SOME WAY,
SO, YOU KNOW, YOU HAVE
THE UNDERSTANDING THAT
THE WITCH IN HANSEL AND GRETEL,
ONE OF THE VERSIONS
OF THAT TALE,
THE WITCH COMES TO HANSEL
AND GRETEL ON CRUTCHES
AND THE IDEA IS THAT, YOU KNOW,
THEY THINK THAT SHE'S HARMLESS,
BECAUSE SHE'S ON CRUTCHES,
SHE'S NOT GONNA HURT THEM
IN ANY WAY
AND, YOU KNOW, THAT LINKS
THAT DISABILITY TO DECEPTION.
YOU HAVE THINGS LIKE
THE WICKED STEP-MOTHER
WHO TRANSFORMS HERSELF INTO AN
UGLY HAG TO HELP...
OR TO DECEIVE RATHER IN THE
GUISE OF HELPING SNOW WHITE.
YOU HAVE CHARACTERS LIKE
RUMPELSTILTSKIN
WHO IS, QUOTE-UNQUOTE,
AN UGLY HUNCHBACKED DWARF
WHO IN HIS OWN WAY IS DECEIVING
THE PRINCESS
AND THERE'S THIS IDEA THAT
IF PEOPLE LOOK DIFFERENTLY
THEN IT MARKS THEM AS "OTHER."
IT MARKS THEM AS A VILLAIN,
AS SOMEONE YOU'RE SUPPOSED
TO AVOID
AND IT GOES BACK TO THAT IDEA
OF SIMPLICITY, RIGHT?
IN FAIRY TALES, WE SORT OF ARE
GIVEN THIS WORLD
WHERE IT'S VERY CLEARLY SET OUT
FOR YOU.
BAD PEOPLE LOOK LIKE THIS
AND GOOD PEOPLE LOOK LIKE THIS
AND EVEN THOUGH I THINK IT'S
SOMETHING
THAT WE LOOK AT
AS ADULTS,
YOU LOOK BACK ON IT AND YOU SAY,
"WELL, THOSE ARE
JUST FAIRY TALES.
THEY'RE STORIES FOR CHILDREN.
OBVIOUSLY, THE WORLD DOESN'T,
YOU KNOW,
SUBSCRIBE TO THAT ANYMORE."
BUT THEN YOU LOOK AT THINGS
LIKE SUPERHERO FILMS
OR JAMES BOND FILMS
FOR EXAMPLE.
I THINK SINCE DANIEL CRAIG
STARTED AS JAMES BOND,
THREE OUT OF THE FOUR
BOND VILLAINS
HAVE HAD FACIAL SCARRING,
SO YOU STILL SEE THAT IDEA THAT
PEOPLE WHO ARE EVIL
OR, YOU KNOW, BAD
ARE MARKED AS SUCH IN SOME WAY
AND I THINK IT SPEAKS TO THE
SENSE THAT PEOPLE DO REALLY
ON SOME LEVEL WISH FOR A WORLD
THAT IS THAT SIMPLE, RIGHT?
AND WE KNOW THAT IT'S NOT.
IT'S MUCH EASIER TO THINK ABOUT
A WORLD
WHERE YOU CAN GO INTO...
YOU CAN GO OUTSIDE AND SAY,
"OKAY, THESE PEOPLE ARE BAD
AND THESE ARE PEOPLE
I SHOULD AVOID
AND THESE PEOPLE ARE GOOD
AND THESE ARE THE PEOPLE THAT
I WANT TO BE WITH."
AND, YOU KNOW, MARKING SOMEONE
AS PHYSICALLY DIFFERENT
HAS A HUGE PART TO PLAY IN
THAT...

NAM SAYS SO SORRY,
I WAS JUST GOING TO SAY,
BUT WE FORGET
THAT THEY ARE ALSO PEOPLE.

Amanda says YES, EXACTLY!
AND THAT'S WHAT DISABILITY AS,
YOU KNOW,
A MARK OF VILLAINY DOES
IN THESE FAIRY TALES
AND THESE SUPERHERO FILMS
THAT WE SEE
IF DISABILITY IS ONLY EVER
A MARKER
OF SHOWING HOW BAD YOU ARE ON
THE INSIDE,
IT'S NOT ACTUALLY A LIVED
REALITY FOR SOMEBODY.
THE OTHER WAY THAT DISABILITY
FUNCTIONS IN FAIRY TALES
IS THAT IT'S SORT
OF AN IMPEDIMENT
OR, YOU KNOW, A PROBLEM THAT
A PROTAGONIST HAS TO SOLVE
IN ORDER TO GET
TO THEIR HAPPY ENDING.
THERE'S A FAIRY TALE
CALLED HANS MY HEDGEHOG
BY THE BROTHERS GRIMM
AND IN IT THERE'S A
HALF-HEDGEHOG, HALF-HUMAN BOY
AND HE SORT OF GOES THROUGH
A SERIES OF ADVENTURES
TRYING TO PROVE HIMSELF
TO HIS FAMILY AND HIS TOWN
AND AT THE END OF THE FILM...
OR END OF THE FILM...
END OF THE STORY,
HE MARRIES A PRINCESS AND THEN
HE REVEALS TO HER IN SECRET
THAT HIS HEDGEHOGNESS IS ONLY
A COSTUME
AND HE ENLISTS HER HELP TO BE
RID OF THE COSTUME
FOR ONCE AND FOR ALL
AND SO HE ENDS THE TALE AS A,
QUOTE-UNQUOTE,
BEAUTIFUL, ATTRACTIVE
YOUNG HUMAN MAN
AND YOU GET THE SENSE THAT EVEN
THOUGH HE FOUGHT TO BE ACCEPTED
AS A HALF-HUMAN, HALF-HEDGEHOG
BEING,
THAT IS ESSENTIALLY WHAT
HE WANTED ALL ALONG
WAS TO BE HUMAN AND HAVE THIS
SORT OF
CONVENTIONALLY-ATTRACTIVE BODY
AND THAT, YOU KNOW,
PEOPLE INTERNALIZE THAT
TO A HUGE DEGREE.

NAM SAYS BECAUSE IN REAL LIFE
THAT DOESN'T CHANGE.

Amanda says IN REAL LIFE
THAT DOESN'T CHANGE
AND I JUST THINK IT DOES
A HUGE DISSERVICE
TO PEOPLE WHO HAVE TO LIVE
WITH THE VARIOUS REALITIES
OF DISABILITY IN THEIR OWN LIVES
WHEN THEY CONTINUALLY SEE IN
THE MEDIA
EITHER PEOPLE WHO LOOK LIKE THEM
ARE PAINTED AS BAD CHARACTERS
OR PEOPLE WHO LOOK
LIKE THEM ARE, YOU KNOW,
ENCOUNTER SOME KIND OF MAGIC ON
THE SCREEN
OR ON THE PAGE THAT MAKES THEM
LOOK BEAUTIFUL
AND DIFFERENT AT THE END.
IT'S INCREDIBLY UNFAIR
AND INCREDIBLY SIMPLISTIC
AND I JUST REALLY WANT US TO
THINK ABOUT THE WAYS IN WHICH
PORTRAYALS LIKE THAT
OF DISABILITY
HAVE A HUGE IMPACT
ON PEOPLE'S LIVES
AND HOW THEY MOVE THROUGH
THE WORLD.

Nam says I WANT TO SHOW YOU
ANOTHER CLIP
AND THIS IS FROM WAY BACK
IN 1937
AND THIS IS A CLIP OF
SNOW WHITE AND THE SEVEN DWARFS
AND THIS WAS ACTUALLY
THE FIRST DISNEY MOVIE
AND THEN WE'LL TALK SOME MORE.
TONY, COULD YOU PLEASE ROLL?

A clip plays on screen with the caption "Snow White and the Seven Dwarves. 1937."
In the clip, Snow White wakes up in one of several small wooden beds.

She yawns, then looks around and spots the seven Dwarves staring at her.

She says OH, DEAR!
I WONDER IF THE CHILDREN...
OH!
WHY... WHY YOU'RE LITTLE MEN!
HOW DO YOU DO?

The clip ends.

Nam says UM, HOW DID THE SUCCESS
OF THAT MOVIE
SET THE STAGE FOR WHAT YOU CALL
THE DISNEYFICATION
OF FAIRY TALES?

Amanda says WELL, I THINK WITH SNOW WHITE
AND THE SEVEN DWARFS
IN PARTICULAR,
DISNEY HAD BEEN FAMILIAR
WITH THE BROTHERS GRIMM'S
VERSION OF THE TALE
AND IN RESEARCHING FOR THE FILM
AND SORT OF GETTING
HIS PLAN TOGETHER,
ONE OF THE THINGS
HE TALKED ABOUT
AND WAS WRITTEN ABOUT WAS THAT
HE THOUGHT
THAT THERE WAS A CERTAIN ABOUT
OF COMEDIC LICENSE
THAT HE COULD TAKE
WITH THE DWARFS IN PARTICULAR,
SO IN THE HANS CHRISTIAN...
THE BROTHERS GRIMM VERSION
OF THE TALE,
THE DWARFS DON'T HAVE NAMES,
SO HE GAVE THEM NAMES
AND HE GAVE THEM PERSONALITIES
AND HE ALSO...
I MEAN, YOU CAN SEE IT EVEN
IN THAT CLIP, RIGHT?
THE DWARFS ALL, FOR EXAMPLE,
HAVE RATHER LARGE BULBOUS NOSES
THAT ARE USED FOR A KIND
OF CUTE COMEDIC EFFECT
AS THEY POP OVER THE ENDS
OF THE BED
AND THERE'S A VERY CLEAR SORT
OF DELINEATION
BETWEEN WHAT THE DWARFS
LOOK LIKE.
YES, THEY'RE KIND AND GOOD,
BUT THEY HAVE THIS HUMBLE
COTTAGE IN THE WOODS
AND, YOU KNOW,
SNOW WHITE IS A PRINCESS
AND AT THE END OF THE TALE,
THEY STAY IN THEIR COTTAGE
IN THE WOODS
AND SHE GOES ON TO LIVE IN
A CASTLE.
SO, ONE OF THE ACTIVISTS
THAT I SPOKE WITHIN THE COURSE
OF WRITING THE BOOKS
WAS REBECCA COKLEY
WHO IS A SENIOR FELLOW
IN DISABILITY POLICY
FOR THE CENTER FOR
AMERICAN PROGRESS IN THE STATES.
SHE IS A LITTLE PERSON
AND, YOU KNOW, HAS TALKED QUITE
OPENLY AND QUITE OFTEN
ON TWITTER AND ELSEWHERE ABOUT
THE WAYS IN WHICH
EVEN THOUGH THE DEPICTIONS OF
THE DWARFS
IN SNOW WHITE
AND THE SEVEN DWARFS,
THE DISNEY FILM SPECIFICALLY,
ARE MEANT TO, YOU KNOW,
DRAW LAUGHS
AND, YOU KNOW, BE KIND OF A WARM
AND FUZZY THING.
THAT HAS A HUGE IMPACT ON HER
AND HER LIFE AND THE LIVES OF
LITTLE PEOPLE ALL OVER THE WORLD
BECAUSE THERE'S THIS SENSE THAT,
YOU KNOW,
THEY DON'T GET TAKEN SERIOUSLY,
RIGHT?
BECAUSE THE IMAGES
THAT YOU'RE SHOWN
OF LITTLE PEOPLE IN SHOWS LIKE
SNOW WHITE AND THE SEVEN DWARFS
AND IN OTHER TELEVISION
AND IN OTHER STORIES,
LITERARY STORIES THAT WE READ
SORT OF PLAY THAT SAME THING OUT
AND WHAT DISNEY DID THOUGH
IN CREATING THAT NARRATIVE
WAS HE SORT OF HAPPENED ON
A FORMULA, RIGHT?
WHERE HE COULD GET
THE FRIENDLY SIDEKICK
WHO MAYBE LOOKS
A LITTLE DIFFERENTLY
OR A LITTLE COMEDIC
AND GET MORE OUT OF THAT
IN THE COURSE
ON TELLING THE TALES,
SO EVEN IF YOU LOOK AT SOMETHING
LIKE BEAUTY AND THE BEAST
FOR EXAMPLE,
THE DISNEY VERSION
OF BEAUTY AND THE BEAST,
YOU'VE GOT GASTON WHO IS
THIS TALL, STRAPPING MAN.
I MEAN, WE'RE ALSO MADE
TO UNDERSTAND
THAT HE IS ALSO NOT NECESSARILY
THE GREATEST OF CHARACTERS,
BUT HE HAS A FOIL, RIGHT?
IN LEFOU WHO IS HIS SORT
OF TRUSTY SIDEKICK
WHO IS SHORT AND ROUND AND PLUMP
IN CONTRAST TO GASTON
AND, YOU KNOW,
IS PORTRAYED IN A WAY
THAT VERY CLEARLY POKES FUN
AT HIM
AND THE KIND OF PERSON
THAT HE IS
VERSUS THE KIND OF PERSON
GASTON IS
AND AGAIN, I DON'T KNOW
NECESSARILY
THAT THESE DEPICTIONS
ARE DONE INITIALLY
WITH ANY KIND OF MALICE,
BUT THEY'RE ALSO DONE WITHOUT
ANY KIND OF REAL
CALCULATED THOUGHT AS
TO HOW THAT IMPACTS PEOPLE
WHO MAYBE DON'T LOOK LIKE GASTON
AND, YOU KNOW,
MIGHT LOOK DIFFERENTLY.

(SPEAKS INDISTINCTLY)

Nam says WE ONLY HAVE A FEW MINUTES,
BUT EVEN TO THINK THAT BELLE,
HER SHORTCOMING
IS THAT SHE LIKES TO READ.

Amanda says I KNOW.

Nam says LIKE THAT'S SOMETHING WRONG?
BUT I KNOW THERE'S
SOME PEOPLE WATCHING THIS
AND EVEN LISTENING
TO THE PODCAST
AND THEY MIGHT BE LIKE,
"WHAT IS THE BIG DEAL,
YOU KNOW?
IT'S JUST A STORY,
IT'S A FAIRY TALE.
IT'S NOT REAL."
WHY DO THE STORIES
WE TELL CHILDREN
BECOME THIS STORY CHILDREN
TELL THEMSELVES?

Amanda says WELL, I THINK FAIRY TALES
AND THE KIND
OF SIMPLISTIC STORIES
THAT WE TELL CHILDREN
WHEN THEY ARE VERY SMALL
SET YOU UP.
LIKE, THEY SET YOU UP
FOR A VERY SPECIFIC WAY
OF VIEWING THE WORLD.
THE FACT THAT
I READ FAIRY TALES
WHEN I WAS YOUNG REALLY
INSTILLED IN ME
THIS IDEA THAT IF YOU WERE
A GOOD PERSON
AND YOU DO EVERYTHING,
YOU KNOW,
THAT YOU NEED TO DO
AND YOU DO LOTS OF GOOD DEEDS
AND YOU TAKE CARE OF YOURSELF
AND YOU TAKE CARE OF OTHERS
EVERYTHING WILL WORK OUT
FOR YOU IN THE END,
BECAUSE THE STORIES
THAT I READ,
FAIRY TALES AS A CHILD WERE
SIMPLISTIC IN THAT WAY.
EVERYTHING DID WORK OUT
FOR THE PROTAGONIST
AND I THINK IT DOES
A REAL DISSERVICE.
YOU KNOW? WE HAVE TO SHOW KIDS
THAT THE WORLD IS COMPLICATED.
WE ALSO HAVE TO SHOW KIDS THAT
EVERYBODY OCCUPIES THE WORLD
IN A DIFFERENT WAY.
WE ALL HAVE DIFFERENT BODIES
AND EVERYBODY'S BODIES AND WAYS
OF MOVING THROUGH THE WORLD
ARE VALUED AND IMPORTANT
AND THE MORE THAT
WE SHOW KIDS THAT
AND TEACH THEM THAT
THE MORE ACCEPTING
AND OPEN THEY ARE
TO THESE OTHER KINDS
OF EXPERIENCES
AND IT'S REALLY IMPORTANT.
I REALLY THINK IT'S SOMETHING...
YOU KNOW,
I STILL LOVE FAIRY TALES,
I STILL COME BACK TO THEM.
I READ THEM TO MY NIECES,
I STILL LOVE DISNEY FILMS
EVEN THOUGH I CAN SAY
THEY'RE VERY PROBLEMATIC
AT THE SAME TIME.
I JUST THINK WE NEED TO BE
A LITTLE MORE CRITICAL
WITH HOW WE VIEW THIS KIND
OF MEDIA
AND REALLY USE IT
TO ASK QUESTIONS
ABOUT THESE KINDS OF THINGS.

Nam says AND I THINK IT ALSO
GOES BACK TO
THE TITLE,
PART OF YOUR TITLE
WHERE IT'S MAKING SPACE
AND WHO IS TELLING
THESE STORIES.

Amanda says YES, EXACTLY.
WE NEED TO UNDERSTAND THAT
WE ALL DESERVE TO BE HERE
AND THOSE OF US WHO HAVE MAYBE
HAD MORE SPACE IN THE PAST,
IT'S OUR RESPONSIBILITY
TO MAKE SPACE FOR OTHERS.

The caption changes to "Producer: Carla Lucchetta, @carrletta. Producer: Nam Kiwanuka, @namshine."

Nam says AMANDA, THANK YOU SO MUCH.
THIS IS ESSENTIAL READING.
THERE IS SO MUCH IN IT
AND I THINK IT'S HELPFUL
FOR EVERYBODY TO READ IT
TO GET AN IDEA OF HOW THESE
DISNEY FAIRY TALES
HAVE BEEN REIMAGINED
AND TO FIND OUT
THEIR ORIGINAL STORIES,
BECAUSE SOME
OF THESE STORIES
ARE JUST SO PROBLEMATIC.
AMANDA, THANK YOU SO MUCH
AND CONGRATULATIONS
ON THIS WONDERFUL BOOK.

Amanda says THANK YOU, NAM.

Watch: Amanda Leduc: Ableism and Disability in Fairy Tales