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Disability Bitch and the Spastic Transformer

25th November 2010

• Disability Bitch is published every Thursday

Readers, this might be a little premature but I think disabled people could be seeing a turnaround in their public image over the next few months. First of all, our reputation as good-for-nothing recession-creating benefit-scrounging money-wasters could be overtaken by the bankrupt Irish, who George Osborne has just lent far more money than disabled welfare claimants ever cost him.
boxed spastic transformer
Second, we've just been endorsed by esteemed leader of the Autobots, none other than Optimus Prime. Seriously, it's true. You know that I LOVE TRANSFORMERS and you know it's only four weeks to Christmas, right? Well, I know what's top of my Christmas list now and I can't think of a better use of my DLA £10 Christmas bonus (if it hasn't been taken away?).

Transformers are a byword for all that is cool in the world of the pre-teen: they're strong, they're violent, they're produced in animated form ... and hunky men star in action movies about them.
The 'Spastic Transformer' box
You may wonder why I'm suddenly so interested in this big movie, cartoon and toy franchise. Readers, all my dreams have come true: there's now a disabled one. Sort of.

Just the other day I heard that the nice people at Hasbro were planning to release their ultimate toy ever: a Spastic Transformer. And I'm not even joking.

Yes, someone has made a Transformer robot with the word 'spastic' written on the box. Speaking as someone who has the word 'spastic' emblazoned across the front of my medical records, I couldn't be more delighted.

Until now, I've spent the last 30 years being slightly embarrassed about the word I have no choice but to carry round with me everywhere I go: it's part of my diagnosis, you see.
For the uninitiated, although it's widely deemed offensive in the UK, 'spastic' is a medical term used to describe increased muscle tone, commonly linked to certain types of cerebral palsy, MS, and so on. Unfortunately, it sorta evolved into a playground insult along the way, and hence is also commonly associated with bullying and harassment, and doesn't get used much these days. Well, it does, but if you use it in front of a teacher, you'll end up in detention, right, kids?

Meanwhile, in America it is very definitely still a disability word, but it's used as slang rather than an insult and is perhaps not quite so insulting, though every time an American celebrity uses it there's a bit of a rumpus and everyone spends three days trying to work out whether it was offensive or not.
Tiger Woods mid-swing
Back in the day, using the word 'spaz' at a press conference was pretty much the worst thing Tiger Woods had ever done and there was, briefly, an international scandal. Ha! Bet Tiger wishes a minor disability insult was the only PR disaster he had to contend with these days!

When the word 'spastic' comes into public consciousness like this, the usual course of action is that the person who said it falls over themselves (geddit) to apologise and claims they didn't know it was offensive. Not so the Transformer people, who have cheerfully named one of their creations after him. They proudly unveiled the 'spastic' robot on their website, announced it was due to launch in January next year, and seemed quite surprised when a bunch of Brits wrote in and complained.
The upshot was that the beautiful Spastic robot will not now be released in the UK. Now I won't ever know what my brother robot transforms from and into. Given that Spazzes aren't known for their dexterity, I can only assume this one's transformation from machine to robot is very basic indeed.

Perhaps he doesn't actually transform at all, but just stands very still trying not to topple over? Or perhaps he transforms into Superman? Maybe we shouldn't go there.
I'm so desperate to know that I'm going to fly out to the US to get me one now. After all, this is the first time in my life the word spastic has ever been associated with anything even vaguely cool - albeit in the world of 9 year old boys - and these politically correct killjoys go and cancel it.

Had the Spastic Transformer been a success, our public image could've been changed forever. Do these lifelong whingers not see what they have done to me? I'm now destined for a life of continued shame and misery, and it's all their fault. Get over the word 'spastic' and move from victim to hero-bot, you hear me?

STOP PRESS

We've just heard that Hasbro have taken the decision to completely withdraw their plans to use Spastic as a brand name for their toy robot range around the world, not just in the UK. They still intend to release the product but now under a different name. It is part of their 'Power Core Combiners 2011 Wave 2’ range.

A spokesperson at Hasbro in the UK told us they don't know the new name as yet.

Comments

  • 1. At 2:45pm on 25 Nov 2010, Ranald wrote:

    Goddam do-gooders have they no understanding at all? Why should we crips not have a positive role for once?
    Never mind, our day shall come...

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  • 2. At 8:03pm on 25 Nov 2010, Aspi_Andy wrote:

    I've only found them for sale in the US at the transformersclub com

    http://www.transformersclub.com/shop//index.cfm?ProductID=2314&do=detail
    so far still looking

    Complain about this comment

  • 3. At 8:04pm on 25 Nov 2010, Aspi_Andy wrote:

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the House Rules.

  • 4. At 8:04pm on 25 Nov 2010, Aspi_Andy wrote:

    I've only found them for sale in the US at the transformersclub com
    so far still looking

    Complain about this comment

  • 5. At 6:11pm on 26 Nov 2010, grim wrote:

    Hasbro have decided to change the name for one reason only. Because disabled people are no longer 'cool' or 'trendy', and to be associated with a group who will shortly become the lowest of the low, (yes even lower than smokers), will make their profits shrink. In fact I believe the new transformer will be named Power Core Combiner, Worker slave who needs absolutly no help from either the Government, or the NHS, and works constantly before dying two days before their retirement age! Winner all round!

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  • 6. At 6:40pm on 04 Dec 2010, DavidG wrote:

    It's actually worse that DB's article implied. Spastic was apparently going to be one of the Decepticons -- the evil bad guys of the Transformers Universe. And while adults might not have picked up on that little gem, you can be sure the kids would have.

    Googling around the subject revealed a depressing number of sources that believed spasticity really did mean someone was mentally handicapped.

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  • 7. At 7:10pm on 04 Dec 2010, DavidG wrote:

    Doh, did I really just say 'handicapped'? Blame the stuff I've been reading through and be thankful I didn't recycle the R-word.

    Amusingly, I just found this on the Hasbro corporate website 'We have an immediate need for a results-oriented, innovative global marketer to support our Transformers brand' -- No surprise there, Sherlock!

    Power Core 2 Transformers Pack: $9.99
    Being disablist at Christmas: Priceless

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  • 8. At 8:49pm on 04 Dec 2010, DavidG wrote:

    I rather like the cartoon response here: http://www.shortpacked.com/2010/comic/book-12/05-neww-2010-comics/spastic/

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  • 9. At 09:16am on 03 Jun 2011, U14892237 wrote:

    I call my wife spa* and she calls me spac** (we both have disabilities aside of the usual human ones and realise that these terms are inaccurate but who cares) we do a lot of disability living work making things accessible for people. We went to florida and were unable to purchase a Spastic-they were sold out and not getting any more. I want a Transformer Spastic-could they please do one that turns from a wheelchair user to a harrier jump jet or something..... Please?

    Complain about this comment

  • 10. At 09:17am on 03 Jun 2011, U14892237 wrote:

    I call my wife spa* and she calls me spac+* (we both have disabilities aside of the usual human ones and realise that these terms are inaccurate but who cares) we do a lot of disability living work making things accessible for people. We went to florida and were unable to purchase a Spastic-they were sold out and not getting any more. I want a Transformer Spastic-could they please do one that turns from a wheelchair user to a harrier jump jet or something..... Please?

    Complain about this comment

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