Friday, 12 July 2019

Why Toy Story 4 Fails on the Disability Narrative

Why Toy Story 4 Fails on the Disability Narrative

We all see the world from our own perception - I guess what other way to see it is there? As a author I often write in multiple points of view, so I have an insight into how perceptions can differ to a situation from a variety of characters. An example of this could be three people are standing on the sand at the beach. One is loving the sand between her toes and the wind whipping her hair in her face. It makes her feel at peace and content. One is hating the sand clinging to her feet and is wondering how she is going to get all the sand out of her car after their day at the beach. The third would rather have gone to the pool for a swim as she hates sea water, the lice, the seaweed and any other critter that may be in there too!

We can see from that brief scenario, three different reactions to the one situation.

Yesterday I went to see Toy Story 4, the latest instalment by Disney. I have really enjoyed the Toy Story franchise and have a Woody and Jessie doll. They belonged to my son and his name, Nick, is written on the sole of Woody's shoe. So you can see that nice memories are connected to these films.

I was quite excited to see number  4, as I'd read an online article at that spoke about the film raising awareness of disabilities. As a disability and inclusion advocate, and a visually impaired lady, this excited me. When I posted this article on my Facebook page, the comments back did not match the I went with an open mind, and not quite as excited as I initially was. .

Click on this link to read the opinion piece: - Toy Story 4 Shows How Representation of Disabiliities Can Change the World

Now with that headline I think you can see why I was excited.

So how did I feel at the end of the movie?

In three words, severely let down.

Let me explain why I was so disappointed, by referring to the three elements that the article highlighted as being great disability narrative.

1) Child in the Kindergarten has a cochlear implant.
There is only one main Kindergarten scene. The scene shows the first day of Kindergarten for Bonnie, the little girl who now owns the Toy Story team of toys. She doesn't have a good start as the other children completely ignore her. See the pictures above from the movie. Woody has sneaked to the Kindergarten in her bag as he is worried about her (she didn't want to go). He sees her distress in being left alone (where was the teacher???) and rescues some craft supplies from the trash can for her, and she makes 'Forky' who becomes her favourite toy. Now as I was watching Bonnie, I did not take a lot of notice of the other kids who were around her, and in the background, as none of them interacted with her. Apparently one of those other children according to the article had a cochlear implant but I do not know which one. I hope it wasn't the 'trash boy'. (My son did not notice the child either and he has perfect vision...)

My Tip - If I was the scriptwriter I would have the child with the cochlear implant interact with Bonnie to make it more noticeable. Put it out there. That child could have made their own forky with Bonnie.

2) Bo Peep's Arm Breaks
Yes Bo Peep's arm breaks and she says to Woody who is horrified, that it happens all the time and she is fine with it. She laughs and swings with only one arm and is strong. BUT then she gets the tape and tapes it back on, then is back to being a normal two armed doll with no disability. See the picture I found above. (I don't quite get that her arm doesn't need to be bandaged all the time, but I will go with the creativity of it.)

My Tip - Again if I was the scriptwriter and wanted to use Bo for disability awareness, make the amputation permanent, and have her coping with it like amputees do.

3)  Gabby Gabby feels she isn't loved by a child because she has a broken voice box
Gabby Gabby is a creepy character, living in an antique store being guarded by multiple Benson dolls, which my youngest daughter called Snappy from the movie IT. This part of the movie played out like a horror movie to me. She is the villain of the story, wanting to forcibly take Woody's working voice box to replace her own which has never worked (was defective as she called it).She says that if her voice box worked, she would have a child and be loved, like Woody was. So with the help of her evil Benson doll guards, she corners Woody and manipulates him into giving her his voice box.This whole scene I have a problem with, particularly if it is meant to show disabilities in a good light... which it doesn't.

At the end of the movie we see Gabby Gabby deciding to go after a lost child at the carnival. The little lost girl, picks her up, pulls on her voice box cord, and she speaks perfectly. The girl cuddles her and they go off happily and the girl is found by her parents.

So if we reflect on this, in light of the article, Gabby Gabby's storyline is to reflect imperfections in humans and that we can be loved as we are. BUT, now this is a big BUT... she is not loved for how she was. Gabby is loved at the end after her 'disability or imperfection' is fixed. If we relate this to disabilities, it is saying that a person with a disability can't be loved just the way they are - they have to be fixed.

My Tip - I think it's pretty self explanatory - have an imperfect doll being loved for its imperfection. 


I have gone looking to see if there are any other articles on this subject and I found one that I like:

This article brought up a couple of extra points that I agree with.

Woody who has no idea what it is like to be defective, is the one who gives Gabby Gabby a pep talk. It would have been better for Bo who knows what it is like to have an arm that keeps falling off, give her the pep talk. Bo is a strong independent character, so it would have been perfect.

It is the 'normal' abled-bodied character (Woody) who rescues Gabby Gabby. It is he who talks to her after Harmony, the owner's granddaughter rejects her after her voice box is fixed. Wouldn't it have been nice to see another disabled toy help her? They could have had a broken Benson or one of the other toys in the antique shop reach out to her...

Kristen Lopez finishes her article with: And from a disabled perspective, she certainly helps me think that perhaps some representation is better than none at all. Now, from my own disabled perspective, I don't agree with this. If movies are going to portray disabled characters they need to be empowering and not ableist. They must show that people with disabilities are perfect in their imperfections and are happy to be the way they are. Being disabled can be a great thing!

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Wednesday, 10 July 2019


O is for Obstacles

Obstacles, you know, those invisible and invisible road blocks or barriers that hold us back or pose us challenges. They cause us stress, and could even cost us financially or take a toll on our health and well being.

Some examples of obstacles are:
  • financial
  • health/body related
  • time 
  • distractions
  • conflict
  • physical objects
  • environmental factors
  • fear
  • perfectionism
  • lack of patience
  • lack of focus
  • anxiety
  • lack of education/knowledge
You get the idea I am sure and probably can think of more.

Have you noticed that some people seem to have more obstacles than others, but everyone experiences them? Can you think of someone who has experienced a large obstacle and can you think of someone who experienced lots of smaller obstacles? I am sure you can. Maybe one of those people is you.

While you're thinking about the obstacles, I want you to turn your mind to how these people reacted to their obstacles and how they dealt with them? If one of the people is you, how did you react and how did you deal with the situation?

Let's say I have a friend, Sarah. She really wants a promotion to help pay off her mortgage but she's put in a couple of applications for vacancies in her department but has not received them. The feelings of rejection have been really hard for her to cope with and she's sick of seeing her more flamboyant colleagues getting more than what she thinks she deserves. Sarah's just found out she missed out on another position she applied for within her department which has added another arrow into her heart, but she's also just been told by a colleague that there is an opening in another department. She is anxious at the thought of moving from her department as she is comfortable there, and she thinks she'll probably receive another rejection which she thinks would send her over the edge of her sanity. What do you think she does?

In this scenario, the obstacle is a combination of not getting promotions, a low self-esteem and anxiety caused by rejection, and a feeling of comfort in her current workplace.

What do you think she does?

Sarah has a couple of options. One, she could stay in her job which she isn't satisfied with and won't help her accomplish her goal of paying off the mortgage more quickly. If you look at the diagram above, that would be sitting in the red spot, her comfort zone. Or second, she could apply for the new job but to do that she would have to pass through the fear zone. These are the obvious two choices she has, but if we think about it, there are probably other things Sarah could do as well. What about approaching the head of her department and having a chat with them to find out why she isn't being promoted, and if it involves personal development or professional development, then she could work on those things. She could go and study something which would improve her chances. She could work on her feelings of rejection and developing her resilience. She could start looking for other jobs while she is in the job she is doing. In the diagram above, these would be in the learning zone.

So many people stay trapped in their red comfort zone. I admit I was one of those. Suffering from anxiety and a low self-esteem I stayed in my safety box. I went for promotions but didn't get them. After getting the 'we've chosen someone else', I'd feel frustrated and rejected and my self-esteem would take a plummet, and I'd crawl back into my safety box. I didn't grow much and my mind stayed fixed. If I even thought about moving from my job to a different one in another place, severe fear and anxiety would envelope me. The psychologist Dweck, calls this a fixed mindset.

Have a watch of these videos:

The above comfort zone diagram and Dweck talk about a growth mindset. I can now proudly say that I have one of those. Since leaving my comfort zone, forced out by severe anxiety and depression, I have been challenging myself and kicking down the obstacles, or finding a way around them. I am not avoiding them, or letting other people solve them for me. Whether these obstacles are mental and psychological ones due to my anxiety and depression, or physical ones due to my visual impairment, I am facing them head on. I have been on a journey to becoming the best version of myself, free of the fears that held me hostage.

If we look at the Growth Zone, you can see it says that if you are in that zone, you have a purpose, you are out living your dreams, you have new goals and you are conquering objectives. I can fully identify with that, as now instead of not doing things because of my obstacles, I am problem-solving, and finding ways to go and do them. If things go wrong, I am trying to stay calm and make rational decisions. It hasn't been easy but each time I achieve something new, I have grown and it has shown me that I can do whatever I put my mind to. There is so much freedom outside of your comfort zone and fixed mindset!

Can you relate?

Which zone or which mindset do you have? Are you stuck in your comfort zone cage or have a fixed mindset? Or are you in the learning zone or the ultimate growth zone?

There are different ways you can approach an obstacle to overcome it. Have a read of this blog post by Jeffrey I. Moore which I found quite helpful:

7 Proven Ways to Overcoming Obstacles

I have my own three tips for you to attack, knock down and overcome your obstacles. They are:

  1. Keep calm. When you suffer with anxiety as I do, the first reaction can be a rise in adrenalin in your body causing a thumping heart, sweating and a spinning head, or a panic attack. These reactions are the opposite of calm. What I've needed to do is to stop and stand still, take some deep breaths, do some self-talk and pray. It is impossible to make a rational decision when your brain and body is not in a calm state.  
  2. Ask for help. I hate asking for help as I have social anxiety. But I've learnt that if I want to save myself more stress, than it is what I need to do when I am encountering obstacles. Whether it is ringing someone, asking someone, or calling a company who can help you, it's good to ask for help. And I've found most people are more than happy to help you.
  3. Plan and do. So you need to make a decision about what you are going to do. Sometimes you may need to do some research first before you can plan.. You may need to talk to someone. You may need to backtrack. But if you are going to overcome an, decisions have to be made and a plan of attack worked out. Once you have made your plan you then need to act upon it. Don't let fear stop you. You can do it!

I want to leave you with a challenge. I'd like you to try and do one thing that challenges you psychologically or physically in the next week. Let me know what it is and how you go. Write a comment below or email me at

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