Barbara Gordon Has Never Been Broken

Aug 30, 2018

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Disabled people aren’t broken. Despite the many self-deprecating jokes I make about my health, my worth is not tied to it. My worth is tied to my humanity and that alone. When comics frame characters with physical or mental disabilities as “broken” it’s disheartening. Don’t get me wrong, I would love to get rid of my fibromyalgia but I am also not about to put my life in the hands of a skeezy scientist at Cadmus or Star Labs to do it.

In the New 52, Barbara got the use of her legs back during Gail Simone’s run. In it, Barbara had a neural implant installed at the base of her spine. The treatment was dangerous and while I understand the decision to get Barbara back in the cape and cowl was purely editorial, the implication that disabled people need to endure dangerous and unnecessary surgery to become “useful” or “whole” is unfair.

I can only speak for myself but ultimately, it is hard to justify a surgery that is not absolutely medically necessary. I have gone back and forth with my endocrinologist on taking out my thyroid. All surgery has risks.

Losing the representation of Oracle wasn’t easy but her legacy remained. Her time as Oracle is often referenced throughout Simone’s run and in Rebirth. 


The most recent Batgirl sees Barbara Gordon chasing down a villain named Grotesque, which is about how I feel about this comic. During their brawl, Barbara is hit with a taser to the back of her spine where the implant that allows her to walk is. Following being tased and thrown out a window, Babs regains the use of her legs. During her internal monologue, Barbara says, “Breakable. We are all breakable. I know that. I’ve been broken before and kept going.” She goes on to argue that it didn’t matter so long as her mind was intact.

I have extremely mixed feelings about Barbara getting her legs back, to begin with but whether or not Barbara stayed in her chair, she was never broken. Furthermore, as someone with multiple diseases that cause chronic brain fog and persistent fevers that more than likely affect my short-term memory and brain function, the idea that if my mind breaks, I break is offensive.

I have worked long and hard in therapy and with friends to establish the fact my worth is not tied to my health.

It is obvious that an able-bodied individual wrote this, which is fine. What isn’t fine is the fact that there is no sensitivity editor or disabled editor behind the scenes stopping the internalized ableism in this issue.

The miracle fix storylines need to end as does the frequent reinforcement that disabled people are broken. A similar instance happened in X-Men when Professor Xavier said he felt “whole” once he was able to walk.

My disabilities do not make me less whole. I might move slower but I am not my body nor my mind. I am defined my humanity. Barbara Gordon has saved the world more times over as Oracle than Batgirl but it doesn’t matter. Barbara is a good person who has done good things and that is where her value lies.