janice b

Why Janice Can't Be Fixed

I swear, never has any line in any episode of anything made me happier that the line: “You will not change, or fix, or do anything to my little girl!" 

This line was in the latest episode of WTNV when Kevin suggested that Janice, who we now know is in a wheelchair, could be fixed, and be made "better, and more productive." 

What I truly loved about this line though wasn’t just Steve being an awesome dad and defending his daughter. It was the words Steve uses. He starts with "change,” when he begins, adding on a fix to sort of reference Kevin. Change is a neutral word. It can be modified to changed for the better, or changed for the worse, but it really means moving from one thing to another, without actually becoming better or worse.

So when I heard Steve say “You will not change, or fix, or do anything to my little girl,” it was incredible. He doesn’t say it would be better for Janice if she could walk, nor does he say it would be worse. When he says change he means that it would simply be different.

I myself am not physically disabled, but I do have auditory processing disorder. I do have a few others, but I’m using APD to make my point here. APD is an invisible disability, which means that it can’t be seen.

When I don’t hear someone, I say: “I’m sorry, but could you repeat that?” Often times, I have to say that at least 3 times before I finally hear it. Unfortunately, people often get mad about it, and assume that I wasn’t listening, even though I was. So they’ll often cut themselves off, and say, “Well obviously you don’t want to know, or you would have listened the first time.

When this happens, I have two choices: I can explain that I have auditory processing disorder, or I can let it be. 

If I choose to explain that I have auditory processing disorder, I often have to deal with people saying that I’m clearly not deaf, or pointing out that I don’t wear a hearing aid, or just asking what that means. Then I have to explain it, and if they believe me, then they start to talk ridiculously slowly  and loudly, as well as being as simply as possible and making crazy hand motions.

If I choose to let it be, then I’m treated like a rude, awful person. People take a very hostile attitude to me, because they think I don’t care enough to listen to them, and they get very haughty and treat me like I have a superiority complex. But in spite of all of that, I usually go with this one, simply because half of the people I try to explain it to simply say, "Well I haven’t heard of it, so you must be making it up.”

The thing is that my disability is pretty easily avoid. All people need to do is look at my face and not mumble, because I learned when I was younger how to read lips. Which they would know if they asked me, and if they were willing to tolerate a slight inconvenience to themselves.

But people are often intolerant. For example, when I was in 3rd grade my teacher, who was well aware of my disability, told me to transfer to a public school. (it was a private school, because I find it easier to hear and focus in small classes) To quote her words, “You should transfer to a public school where they have the resources to deal with troubled kids with you.”

In my experience, children with disabilities are often treated as if though they are broken, as if though they are lesser than their more able peers. Which isn’t true. We aren’t lesser, just different. We aren’t broken, just different. 

When I was younger, I used to wish I was the same as everyone else. Not so that I could focus easier, or so that math didn’t hurt my head, or so that I could hear better. I wished I was the same as everyone else was so that they wouldn’t pity me. So that they wouldn’t think that my entire ability to function in life depended on them and their mercy.

I’ve never known life any other way that how I am. I don’t know what it’s like to not be different. But what I do remember is a time before people treated me differently. I remember a time before people let my disabilities define me more that my determination and sheer will did.

I am not my disability. I am not my hardships. I will not introduce myself as my hardships, anymore than you would describe yourself as not liking rock and roll music. My disability is a part of me, and it has helped make me who I am, but don’t confuse it with my identity, and don’t try to fix me.

When Kevin suggests that Strex can fix Janice, he doesn’t say that they can help Janice walk. He says that Strex can fix her, and by doing so, he is mistaking Janice for her disability. He is saying that Janice herself is broken, and that because she can’t walk, she is less of person. 

And when Steve says: "You will not change, or fix, or do anything to my little girl!“ What he means is that just because Strex can help Janice walk doesn’t mean that they can fix her, because Janice isn’t broken. Janice isn’t a girl trapped in a wheelchair. Janice is a Girl Scout who likes playing with her friends, having fun. 

I mean, the first time we heard about Janice was in Cookies, and the fact that she’s in a wheelchair didn’t come up even though Cecil is trying to sell cookies. He doesn’t say, "My niece, Janice, asked me to sell these cookies because she couldn’t because she’s in a wheelchair.” He doesn’t try to get pity for her to help him sell the cookies. It’s just so she can go on a camping trip with her friends.

Janice isn’t held up as some symbol of a struggle. There’s no, “If Janice can make it around town in her wheelchair then surely we can manage to fight Strex.” Janice isn’t viewed as disabled in Night Vale, and the one person who suggested that was promptly throw into another world’s desert.

So guys, when you start writing fan fiction about Janice, don’t make it about her struggle. Don’t talk about how hard her life is because she needs to use a wheelchair. Don’t minimize her to her disability. Because if her father doesn’t, and her uncle won’t, and if all of Night Vale doesn’t seem to view her as a helpless child, then I don’t think she would either.

Also, I’d like to point that she has not only survived to the age of 12 in Night Vale, she’s also in the Girl Scouts, so I’d imagine that she’s a really, really awesome character. Definitely not helpless, and probably capable to rescuing others in her troop.