This week I’m getting my geek on a bit. I am now in the post-Game-of-Thrones era, and while I pretty much despised most of the last three episodes, there’s one thing in particular that rubbed me the wrong way.
WARNING: This article is spoilery, so maybe stop reading now if you want to watch Season 8 of Game of Thrones first!
Okay? We’re all good?
Right, I’ll move on now.
So, cutting to the chase, after an almost unanimous vote, Brandon Stark becomes the chosen monarch of the six kingdoms. Tyrion Lannister, who I had loved so much, bestows the new king with the appellation, Bran the Broken. Did I mention that this king uses a wheelchair because he was tossed out of a window by a guy who was banging his twin sister, and they wanted to keep it a secret? And the guy was Tyrion’s brother? This means one Lannister caused Bran’s injuries (leaving him permanently unable to walk) and another Lannister underscored that event by calling him Bran the Broken.
Since Bran’s fall, he has grown to become a person who survived white-walker (ice zombie) territory, can be a shapeshifter by entering the mind of any living thing, and is the Three-eyed Raven, which means he’s like the Wikipedia of Westeros—he can see everyone’s past. He also was intuitive enough to give Arya the dagger that would kill the Night King, thereby destroying all the ice zombies at once and saving humankind.
He also survived a George R. R. Martin tale. So, that’s a big thing, too.
But Bran will be forever known as “Broken?”
Writers of Earth, take a note and memorize it: DISABLED PEOPLE ARE NOT BROKEN!
Holy moly, have you even met us? We’re not even close to being broken or even having hairline cracks! That’s because our spirits are more powerful than fire-breathing dragons. Even on the show, Bran stares down the Night King (and pretty much everyone else). He’s not afraid. You cannot break his soul. That stare of his was the best part of the writing for him in this last season.
So, why would they ruin that by underscoring the condition of his legs? And another thing: Sansa declares that Bran cannot father children. While that might be true for some people, was it true for him? Many people who use wheelchairs can have children. I must admit, it felt like a cheap add-on, writing-wise.
As I type this, I’m wearing a shirt that says: Body is disabled. Irish works perfectly. This is my cheeky way of saying my spirit, the essence of me, is unaffected by my mental or physical health. My spirit is what pushes me through that which tries to limit me. When people ask me, “How do you do it?” (Where “it” is *gestures at all the things I go through on a regular basis*.) That’s how. My spirit. It’s strong AF.
My legs are full of neuropathy, my brain battles anxiety and OCD, but am I broken? Hell no.
Not even with a hairline crack.
Abled writers need to take note of this. And for pity’s sake, engage with disabled people, hire them as sensitivity editors or as part of your writing team. Don’t fly this plane without us!
Disabled authors, keep telling your stories! We need to take over the tropes with our truths. Write all the things in all the genres!
We are not broken, no matter the state of our mind or body. Especially when we live in community with other disabled folks.
We are not broken, not matter how many narratives try to say otherwise.
We are not broken, not matter how many doctors or medical professionals make us feel “less than.”
We are not broken.
We are not broken.
Pass it on.
Cait Gordon is the creator and editor-in-chief of the Spoonie Authors Network and is author of Life in the ’Cosm and The Stealth Lovers (Fall of 2019). Her short stories have appeared in Alice Unbound Beyond Wonderland (Colleen Anderson, Exile Editions), We Shall Be Monsters (Derek Newman-Stille, Renaissance), and Space Opera Libretti (McNett and Rossman, Fall of 2019). Teaming up with sensitivity editor Talia C. Johnson, Cait is co-editing the Nothing Without Us anthology, a collection of short stories that feature protagonists who identify as disabled, Deaf, neurodiverse, Spoonie, and/or who manage mental illness.
A bit of a social media junkie, Cait can be found on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram. She also has an author website and is the creator/editor of the Spoonie Authors Network. If you need editing services, visit her biz, Dynamic Canvas Inc.
I, too, was stunned when Tyrion––a person with dwarfism who is repeated treated as less than human because of it––called Bran/The Three-Eyed Raven “broken.” To paraphrase Butch Cassidy “Bran has 20/20 vision while the rest of the world is wearing bifocals,” another condition that breaks no one.
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It made no sense for Tyrion to call him that. Especially since he was the one to tell Jon to reclaim the word Bastard so it couldn’t be used against him. And for Tyrion to put that label on Bran? That was full of nope.
I completely agree!
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