Loving the Other: Fantastic Films and Unlikely Couples. Disability Studies Quarterly, 39 (1), 2019.
This article uses a queer, critical disability studies framework to examine a diverse set of films in which one lover literally changes bodies to be like the other lover, such as in The Little Mermaid (1989), Avatar (2009), and the Twilight saga. The author argues that these films, what she calls "fantastic unlikely couple films," represent the values of companionate love, a relationship form that emphasizes similarity as the key to successful long-term relationships. Significantly, the values of companionate love are aligned with the (neo)liberal state. In the films analyzed, the physically transformed partner is also the weaker, more dependent partner. The shift to a more capable body—one similar to the body of the other partner—not only means that the couple will be more equal companions; it also means that the pair can now fulfill their destiny as productive workers and reproductive parents, independent of state subsidies and assistance.
On the heels of the groundbreaking Obergefell v. Hodges ruling legalizing same‐sex marriage in the United States, the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) movement for marriage equality has received unprecedented coverage. Few people, however, have heard of the marriage equality movement for people with disabilities (PWD). In order to understand the lack of coalition between the two movements, as well as the invisibility of the PWD marriage equality movement, I provide a conceptual analysis of both marriage movement discourses. Drawing on Cathy Cohen's work on secondary marginalization in the black community, I argue that both LGBT folks and PWD actively obscure the most needy, most dependent, and most queer members of their respective communities to gain sympathy and support from a (perceived) independent, heteronormative majority. However, bringing the two movements into dialogue can help us rethink intimate relationships, marriage, and who counts as a citizen worthy of rights.
From the publisher: In this exploration of intimate relationships between people with physical disabilities and those without, Sarah Smith Rainey shatters the myth of sexless, burdensome partnerships and in its place reveals a rich and rewarding continuum of emotional and physical intimacies. Rainey draws on interviews, autobiographies, and films to show how disabled/nondisabled couples not only build mutually satisfying relationships by giving and receiving in equal measure, but also move beyond traditional gender roles to create new forms of sexual intimacy. She also takes note of the challenges these couples face. With sensitivity and clarity, she offers an unparalleled portrait of the lived experience of disability and sexuality.