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Vampire like me

by Lisa Egan

7th April 2008

Disabled comedian Lisa Egan is in search of a decent role model to hang her disability angst on. As TV lets her down, she finds herself turning to the undead ...
It was a dark, eerie Halloween night. The moon was full (I think, I couldn't really tell through the London smog) and the werewolves were howling outside my flat, demanding sweets or they'd egg my door.

I had settled in for a night of watching scary TV shows and gory movies with my suitably witchy black cat, when something occurred to me while watching Buffy the Vampire Slayer. In this episode, Buffy and Spike were planning their wedding and our cult heroine tells him she wants a daytime ceremony in the park. But Spike points out that it would turn him to a pile of dust being as he's a vampire n'all. Before I realised what was happening, I found myself screaming at the TV: "Buffy! Make a reasonable adjustment!"

I gasped in terror as I realised that the language of disability had penetrated my brain so deeply that it had now started to affect how I felt about fantasy TV shows. Shock aside, it made me realise just how much I have in common with Spike and all vampires by default. I'd be mortified if my spouse-to-be wanted to wed in a venue that was inaccessible to me.

Could it be that (long dramatic pause) vampirism could be considered an impairment? Lets take a look ...

Vampiral impairments

Diet -- The fictional human-cum-bats are well known as having special dietary requirements - high in liquid protein, garlic free - something that those of us with food intolerances are well versed in. When selecting a restaurant, knowing they serve edible food is just as important as knowing that they've got an accessible loo.

Employment -- Just like I'd need an accessible office, a vamp would need an office without a window - think of all that fatal sunlight that would pour in otherwise. Those of us who have tried to seek accessible working environments, can sympathise whole heartedly with trying to find an accomodating employer. For many of us, our working hours are an issue and flexi-time is a must for those of us living with pain or illness. I'd imagine it's a fairly big deal for vampires too - after all, they're not known as morning people.

Getting to work -- Trying to get from A to B without encountering a single ray must be as tricky as trying to use The Tube if you're a wheelie.

Socialising -- This must have its downsides too. How and when should you "come out" about your vampirism to your mates? A dilemma regularly faced by those of us with invisible impairments. I imagine that explaining Auditory Processing Disorder to my mates when I can't understand a word they're saying in a noisy bar, would be far easier than having to explain why I'd just gone all fangy because someone with a tasty-looking jugular had just walked past.

Interfering religious types -- Vampires spend their existence having crucifixes waved at them to try and make them go away. I'm sure I can't be the only crip who's had to make a sprint away from religious types who were convinced they could heal me.
Seeing as how disabled people are largely absent from film/TV/books, I've decided that I'm going to look to vampires for characters I can identify with. It makes sense to me. After all, strangers passing me in the street often look at me as if I may as well have fangs and a bumpy forehead.
Vampire fangs

Suggested vampire role models

Claudia -- The undead are unable to age; therefore, the sweet, innocent little Claudia - a very youthful Kirsten Dunst that Tom Cruise sires in Interview with the Vampire - is fated to remain as a child forever. This perpetual learning difficulty will remain regardless of how many years pass. Like me, Claudia is never going to reach anything on the top shelf at the supermarket as she won't be growing any taller. Ever.

Angel -- I'm very fortunate that my current employers make every effort to be fully accessible and inclusive, a blessing I share with TV's Angel from the Buffy spinoff series. When he goes to work for the evil law firm Wolfram & Hart, they make every effort to meet his access needs: from installing special glass in his office so he can gaze at the sun without bursting into flames, to being aware of his need for flexible non-standard working hours.

Dracula -- At some point in our lives, many of us will experience discrimination when going out on the pull. It's a sad fact of life that some people find the disability thing to be a turn off. The ultimate vampire, Dracula, experienced a similar prejudice and spent his existence questing for love. He struggled to find his perfect partner because people were prejudiced against his hideous form. I know exactly how he feels.
So, this Halloween I'm planning on vamping it up - the fangs, the bright red drinks (any excuse to hit the alcopops). If I drink enough, who knows, maybe I'll be unable to face sunlight the following day? I just have to hope I don't get staked through the heart. Can we say "no-consent Euthanasia"?
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