And I've got to say, in January I was bothered by fandom. Their language use, their concept what it meant to be disabled, their Othering of my life... It was something I talked about both publicly and in friendslocked posts on my own journal. One thing I said sums it all up pretty well: there are sometimes where I feel like reading The Secret Garden would make me feel better about being disabled than reading stuff coming from this fandom. So, when I write this meta, I'm already coming from a place of Othered discomfort.
I will start off by saying this: I love The Curious Case of Dean Winchester and found it really affirming, on a couple of levels - and not just on the disability front, although other parts have echoes there as well.
There's no magical fix. Bobby was paralyzed by the angels. He stabbed himself to save Dean and then, in order to manipulated Dean, Zachariah paralyzed him. Bobby quite literally thinks that magic might fix this problem and it doesn't work. The writers tackled a huge trope head on.
Bobby is pissed off. He's angry. He's got every right to be angry and the show recognises this. Neither Sam nor Dean tell him that he shouldn't be. Dean tells him not to be stupid, but Dean telling someone not to do something stupid is a bit like a cat saying not to chase mice. Also, being angry, knowing and accepting that you're angry is a far cry from quite literally gambling your life away.
Bobby still hunts. He has to do it differently and faces different obstacles (like stairs), but he's still a hunter. He still makes it to the graveyard. He still knows more about everything than anyone else. He still knows how to defeat a witch. He still kicks ass and takes names.
Dean is still hurting from Hell. Just as there's no magical fix for Bobby's legs, there isn't a magical fix for Dean's mental scars from Hell. They're both suffering and dealing with problems no one else in their (insular, hunting, isolationist) world has. Yet, they still support each other, even though most of the time it's through insults.
Patrick is neither good nor evil. He gives life and he takes it away. He's about as close to Fate as I think we've seen and far closer to the Trickster than any other monster of the week we've seen. He's kinder than angels and he gives Ash the life to see his granddaughter's bat mitzvah even as he took Dean's life. I enjoyed that Patrick isn't evil. Characters always have the choice whether or not to play against him and sometimes Patrick loses. He's not cheating at cards; he's just that good.
Mostly, though, I want to commend the writers of the show for doing what canon didn't - having a disabled character who is smart and independent and allowing his anger and allowing him to be as reckless as the ablebodied characters. I'd like to thank them for recognising Dean's mental distress - and the fact that he's coping somehow - and relating it to Bobby's highly visual disability. It was well-written, tasteful, and, even better, entirely in-character for the characters involved.
I've seen reactions to this episode that are pretty much in direct contrast to my delight. I originally was going to write a meta this week interpreting the Supernatural universe through Simonian heresy, but I think this is more important. It strikes very close to home for me.
I have admitted biases when it comes to this kind of episode. (I am already sympathetic with Bobby and wanted to see him kick ass, so it wasn't hard for me to get focused on Bobby in this episode. If I did not already have a disability, I don't know if I'd have the same reaction. On the other, who knows where I'd be without, all things considered?
But I've seen more than one review/reaction slamming on Bobby for his self-pity. I've seen the stairs leading to Patrick's apartment slammed on for being something that just sidelines Bobby and they should have kept the elevators working.
Let me put this really simply: No.
You got that?
It's not having a pity party if you're angry that you can't do something you've always done. Let me relate it this way - because when you degrade in this manner, it's always personal - when I was 18, I suddenly lost the ability to handwrite. As an English major and a creative writer, I was beside myself. There would have been a very deep, very real psychological problem if my reaction to this had been, "Oh, that's too bad that this thing I depend upon daily no longer works. I guess that's life and things are sunshine and unicorns." If Bobby had had that reaction, I would have been beside myself (and probably started a one-person letter writing campaign.)
His legs don't work. He's allowed to be angry. It's good that he's angry. That's what happens when something gets taken away from you - you get angry. He probably isn't going to regain use of and - as Dean told him at the end of the episode - that is okay and it doesn't make him any less of a hunter. On the other hand, it's okay that he's angry and upset and all that jazz.
As for the stairs being stupid, I can only assume that the people writing that have never been in a position where they needed to go somewhere or do something and been confounded by a staircase. They pop up in the most inconvenient places and do make lives incredibly difficult. Sam didn't need to think about - he was fully capable of taking the stairs - but Dean had trouble and Bobby couldn't use them at all. It's not a stupid plothole when it's life for some people.
I was really happy to see that they were recognising that Bobby is facing handicaps in his life that he didn't before his paralysis. That's what life with a disability means, that's why his emotions are real and valid, that's why it's called a disability. Sure, it would have been convenient for the elevator to be working, but life often isn't. I appreciated what I saw as a touch of realism.
... I'm going to stop here because my chicken is exploding and because I'm actually angry with fandom again. Finally Supernatural has good representation of disability - a good representation of a minority, a positive one - and people... aargh.