Have you ever heard that idiom – that you’re not supposed to meet your idols, because they could end up disappointing you? I think social media has proven this for me a few times. There are celebrities whose work I’ve always loved, but had to unfollow on Twitter or Instagram because of what they posted – it just didn’t live up to my expectations of them.
This is on my mind because of something I saw on Twitter earlier this week. For a bit of context – I love trivia, and I love Jeopardy. I DVR episodes! And Ken Jennings is one of Jeopardy’s most well-known winners, because of how long his winning streak was. I was a fan! But earlier this week, an old tweet of his (from 2014) was unearthed and revived. He said “Nothing sadder than a hot person in a wheelchair.”
Now, I’m not what you’d call a sensitive person. I don’t get offended easily, and I can take a joke, even if it’s at my expense. But that tweet caught me off guard, and it did not make me feel good. What made me feel even worse is that when he got some flak from the Internet, he basically battened the hatches and stood his ground. The tweet is still up, and he never issued any sort of apology.
Now, I’m not trying to just bash Jennings – 2014 was quite a while ago, and I suspect that if his mind wasn’t changed after the initial backlash to his tweet, it’s not going to change now. But… I guarantee that Jennings isn’t the only person who has ever had this thought, even if he was the unfortunate person who had the nerve to tweet it.
Just to be clear – calling an attractive person sad because they use a wheelchair isn’t a joke, and it isn’t funny. Assuming that my life is sad just because I use a wheelchair is offensive – and it’s wrong! And the underlying assumption on Jennings’ end – that someone in a wheelchair can never be worthy of being in a relationship with, that they’re “doomed” in some sense because of their wheelchair – is one that people with disabilities have been fighting so hard against for years. My wheelchair is part of my life – an important part – but it doesn’t define me.
Someone can be hot, and in a wheelchair. The two are not mutually exclusive. I know that I’m preaching to the choir a bit, in that the people that read this mostly know me, and know I’m in a wheelchair, and don’t think my life is sad! But coming across the tweet really affected me (in a way that surprised me a bit), so I thought it was worth sharing my thoughts on #HotPersonInAWheelchair. You can check that hashtag out on Twitter for more reactions, too!