Why is this a mystery? People use wheelchairs and a lot of them also have jobs. It’s not weird; it’s just normal.
Tryion in A Song of Ice and Fire
Those of you who are show watchers only may be a little confused. You are probably saying to yourself “Peter Dinklage isn’t disabled. He’s just little.” This is true, but book Tryion is much more impaired. As a point of view character we witness his pain both physically and emotionally. He is described as a misshapen dwarf with one red eye and one black who waddles instead of walking. After his nose is cut off in battle he becomes even more grotesque. He is often referred to as a monster and unfairly compared to his beautiful, perfect siblings.
He is in pain most of the time and even made it a condition of his contract with his mistress that she must rub his aching legs after a day of riding. Despite his physical shortcomings, he has a keen mind and pushes himself to complete the grueling journey so he can see the wall with his own eyes. His sadness and anger at his situation is always present in his mind, but he only shows the world his witty, nonchalant attitude. For example, his siblings were discussing Bran falling from a tower and breaking his back. His brother says that someone should mercy kill the child because he would live a horrible grotesque existence. Tryiion answers “speaking for the grotesque, I hope the boy lives. Death is so terribly final, while life is full of possibilities”. He refers to the angry and bitter Jon Snow as simply “Bastard”. He says “never forget what you are. The world will not. Wear it like honor and it can never be used to hurt you”. He also explains his duty to his house as “I have a realistic grasp of my own strengths and weaknesses. My mind is my weapon. My brother has his sword, King Robert has his warhammer, and I have my mind… and a mind needs books as a sword needs a whetstone, if it is to keep its edge.”
He has proven himself as Hand of the King and even led troops when the young king ran off to his mommy. So does this mean that Tryion is the happy, well adjusted and successful gimpy role model that we have been craving? Not exactly. Just like now, wealthy people who are disabled in Westeros live a much better quality of life, but he is actually more crippled by his emotional pain than his physical shortcomings. Being told over and over again since birth that he is a monster and no one wants him has warped his mind. If you hear something often enough you start to believe it even if you know intellectually that it isn’t true. His family even blamed him for killing his mother in childbirth. Even though he parties hard, has power and money, he is incredibly lonely on the inside. I think he is the perfect example of why it is important to surround yourself with people who love and respect you as you are. As for the rest of the world, never give them the power to hurt you with hateful words.
Here is the precocious Brandon Stark of Winterfell and his companion, Hodor. When we first meet little Bran he is a fearless child who climbs up the sides of towers and dreams of becoming a knight. While climbing, he stumbles upon the Queen committing adultery/incest with her brother. In order to keep their secret, Bran is pushed from the window and breaks his back and slips into a coma. We are not given much more information on his actual condition.
The other characters have differing opinions on his situation. Most feel he would be better off dead than a cripple. Others, mainly his family, hope for the best and pray for him to wake while fearing the reality of having a serious disability. We are also given a gimpy perspective through Tyriion, the other brother of the queen, who has dwarfism. While at breakfast with his kid-killing siblings, he mentions that Bran is expected to live. The queen is shocked and states that it is cruel to let a child live as a grotesque, someone should show mercy and kill him. Tyriion, as the loud and drunken dwarf with a quick wit, says “Speaking as one of the grotesque, death is so final, while life is so full of possibilities” .
GRRM has perfectly captured the reactions that people have towards disability. So many people on the outside looking in assume that our lives are horrible, we’re burdens, nothing good will ever happen to us and we should just die. If it is a family member then their reaction changes. They are so afraid for the person who they love so much. They fear that the person they once knew may be totally changed by his injury and have a lifetime of pain and struggling ahead. They also wonder how they can relate to their life and what kind of a part they can play in it. But if you are lucky enough to be disabled yourself, then your reaction will be one of empathy even if it is not the same disability. We remember that fateful day when we became gimpy (through accident, injury, illness . it doesn’t matter now) and our world turned upside down. We understand how sad and heartbroken this kid feels because we felt it too. We understand the trials ahead of him because we had them too. Some of us were lucky enough to have gimpy friends who showed us the ropes and we had an easier time transitioning. While many of us were alone in our journey and have the scars to prove it, but we still transitioned. What matters is that we made it and life is still good.
When Bran wakes, he is very depressed and angry. He often worries about his future and laments how he cannot possibly be a knight, climb again or even take care of himself. Slowly, his situation improves (he begins moving about the castle in a basket on Hodor’s back and learns to horseback ride with a modified saddle from Tyriion), but the road to acceptance is long and twisty.
No matter what kind of craziness happens, his thoughts always return to his broken body. He blames his mother’s departure on his injury. He believes that if he were whole his brother would have taken him to battle with him. He even blames his father’s death and the capture of his home on his inability to fight. Of course, none of that is true, but this angry little boy had far too much to deal with and the unfairness of his injury was a good place to focus his anger.
Bran quickly learns that he has developed psychic abilities through a three eyed crow who haunts his dreams following his fall. After a long, dangerous journey to reach him , Bran’s first question isn’t about his abilities, family, friends, or the impending doom to humanity. He asks if the creepy wizard-stuck-in-a-tree guy can make him walk again. We can all understand his disappointment, but Bloodraven gives him an epic answer —- “You will never walk again, but you will fly”. Bran was so wrapped up in what he lost and what his body could no longer do that he didn’t recognize the amazing possibilities that his psychic ability gave him. I think the lesson here is that life never turns out the way we want it to, but embracing the role we are given can become even more wonderful than we ever could have imagined.
I know what you are thinking —-“This is ask a gimp. There aren’t any disabled characters in 13 Reasons Why. ” It’s true that there aren’t any PHYSICALLY disabled people, but mental illness and invisible disabilities can be just as debilitating. I am not going to go over the entire story because I specifically want to talk about mental health aspects. However, it may contain some spoilers so if you haven’t watched it yet, please do so first. Since my friend, Artemis, has struggled with mental illness I felt like she needed to be a part of this discussion. The following includes her thoughts as well as my own.
Plot overview —
This story begins with a series of tapes from Hannah on the 13 reasons why she committed suicide. We follow Clay’s journey with the tapes who is deeply affected. Despite a falling out before her death, he remains in love with Hannah.
He, and perhaps Tony, are the only ones who want to expose the various misdeeds of everyone else featured on the tapes. There is everything from bullying to manslaughter, but Hannah actually witnesses Jessica’s rape because she was hiding in the closet when it happened. Although we realize that there is nothing she could have done to stop this muscled up guy that was twice her size, she doesn’t feel that way. It tormented her to feel like she didn’t protect her friend and the saddest part is that Jessica didn’t even know what happened to her while she was passed out. Even though her mind can’t completely piece together what happened, it still takes a toll on her. For the rest of the show, she becomes a deeply depressed alcoholic that engages in some risky behavior. The stark contrast to the bubbly young girl that we met in the beginning is astounding. She no longer cares about cheerleading, her grades, or even her own appearance.
There is some evidence that Hannah is an unreliable narrator or as Tony puts it “This might not be the truth, but it’s HER truth.” We do know that she was being honest about Jessica because her boyfriend witnessed it as well. He was locked out of the room by the rapist and couldn’t stop it. He decided it would be best for Jessica to simply tell her Hannah lied about it and since everyone backed him up, she believed it. The guilt of lying to her created anger problems in him and depression in her former boyfriend, Alex.
It takes a long time for Clay to finish the tapes because he is working through the stages of grief and he’s still in love with her. When he finally get to their big falling out we are just as invested in their relationship as they are. The night of the party where Jessica was attacked, Clay and Hannah started to fool around. Clay asked if it was okay before continuing and she said it was. Unfortunately, her mind started racing with thoughts of other guys who treated her badly, called her a slut, and trashed her throughout the school. She panicked and yelled for Clay to stop and get out. He was understandably confused because she said it was okay. He asked what was wrong, but she yelled at him to get out. On the tapes, she apologized and explained what happened in her mind. She said he didn’t even belong on the tapes and that not talking to him was her biggest regret. Clay melts down and asks Tony if he was to blame for her suicide. Wise Tony tells him they all had a hand in killing her. It’s heartbreaking to see him blame himself for leaving her and we see what he wishes he did. He says he would have told her that he wasn’t leaving until she told him what was wrong. He would have held her while she cried and told her that he loves her and would never hurt her. Tony assures him that he only did what she asked, but he still hates himself for not handling the situation better.
We later learn that Hannah was raped by Bryce as well. She was already depressed and lonely, but this pushed her over the edge. She tried to work it out on paper who was to blame for it all, but realized it was everyone’s fault and no ones fault. She felt like she couldn’t go to her parents because they were overwhelmed by their financial problems and no longer has any close friends to talk to. She makes one last ditch effort to find help by going to the guidance counselor. Here is another case in which we know that Hannah told the truth because she secretly tapes their conversation. She told him about the bullying and even the rape. He asked if she said no and she admited that she kind of froze when she tried to get away, but couldn’t. He also warned her that it was a serious allegation, implied that she probably misunderstood the situation and told her to just move on. She hinted that she wanted to commit suicide and he let her leave because he was distracted by a call from home.
Even though the story begins with her already being dead, I found myself expecting a different ending. I hoped that somehow someone would stop her or that maybe it was all a dream. It actually made my chest tight to see that poor, lost young girl slit her wrists. It was very graphic and I am glad that it was so realistic because it was horrible to watch. Seeing her parents find the body was even worse for me. Her mother screamed for help and let out a heart wrenching wail. The impact of her suicide is huge and never-ending. The season ends with Alex in critical condition after a suicide attempt, Jessica telling her father about the rape, and Clay reaching out to his former friend who has started to self harm.
Psychological conditions featured
- PTSD: A mental health condition that’s triggered by a terrifying event — in this case it was rape. Symptoms may include flashbacks, nightmares and severe anxiety. Although Jessica didn’t completely remember what happened, it still had a major impact on her and triggered her alcohol abuse. Hannah also had many of these symptoms from witnessing Jessica’s attack as well as her own.
- Depression: Alex, Clay and Hannah experience clinical depression. Clay was even being treated for it with medicine before the series started. His mother is clearly worried and is trying to help him, but he won’t let her. Alex’s depression is causing physical symptoms in the form of stomach pains. His family seems distant so it’s doubtful that they know what is really going on with him. It is unclear whether or not he will survive the suicide attempt, but it does raise a good point. Around 20% of people who attempt suicide and survive are left with permanent damage.
- Self Harm: A lack of appropriate coping skills leads many people cut or burn themselves to deal with emotional pain. This is only touched on this season, but it seems like it will be explored further next season.
- Violent tendencies: One of the kids on the tape, Tyler, is on the fringes of the group and is being bullied by many of the kids. On the season finale, we see that he has a stockpile of weapons and ammo. It’s unclear what he plans to do, but it seems like he may shoot up the school in season two.
There has been some backlash. It’s been condemned for “glorifying” suicide. I saw it as humanizing suicide. It is often described as weak or selfish, but this showed not only the pain that it caused her loved ones, but also showed the pain that she was in. She was not thinking clearly and truly thought it was the only way out. Plus, they didn’t sugar coat the death scene. It was gruesome, painful, and horribly traumatic to her parents when they found the body.
There was also a surprising amount of criticism for Hannah not actually saying “no” to her rapist. Humans respond to a physical threat with fight or flight, but women can also freeze under duress. Does it meet the legal definition of rape if you don’t scream “no”? I don’t know, but I think it does morally. Consent is very simple. Ask someone if they want to have sex and if they say “yes” then it’s consensual. If they say “no”, are too drunk to make sense, push you away, or are passed out and you don’t stop then you are a pig —- case closed.
Some people found it rather frustrating that there were so many plot holes and no clear way to figure out how everything could have been prevented. I never really saw them as plot holes. I think it just showed the confusing nature of mental illness. Some of the inconsistencies of Hannah’s story were likely as a result of how she was feeling at the time. For example, she saw her parents financial problems as her fault because they were forced to move due to a conflict she had at her last school. (We aren’t told anything about the incident and it’s unclear if it contributed to her current situation) Since we are on the outside looking in, we know that the family pharmacy’s failure has more to do with the Walgreens down the road than anything else, but kids have a tendency to blame themselves. Clay’s mom is in sharp contrast with Hannah’s distracted parents. She spends most of show trying to get him to open up about his depression, trying to convince him to take his medicine, attending PTA classes on suicide prevention, etc. Clay just pushes her away leaving her confused and worried.
Mental health is complex because people are complex. There is no one size fits all treatment plan. The important thing is to keep trying. Don’t give up on yourself or your loved ones. If taking it one day at a time is too much, then just try to make it from one hour to the next. Because of shows like these, awareness is at an all time high. I truly hope that this encourages people to seek help. I also hope that it leads to more empathy for those who are struggling with mental illness. It is often seen as a personal failure rather than a medical condition. No one should suffer in silence. If you or someone you know needs help, here are a few places to find the support you need.
I’m not a big gamer, but I really enjoyed this article. It explores disability culture within the games.
Gimpin’ ain’t easy. I am constantly looking for new ways to save money. Homemade laundry detergent is just as good as store bought, but much cheaper. This method seems much easier than the liquid I have been making.