• Disruption and Disability Futures in Captain America: The First Avenger (2011) and Captain America: The Winter Soldier (2014)

      Tankard, Alex; University of Chester
      Marvel superhero movies celebrate the transformation of disabled people into weapons. First Avenger depicts a disabled man rebuilt by military technology into a patriotic superhero. In Winter Soldier, the Soviet cyborg’s brutal, non-consensual modification serves to emphasise Captain America’s wholesomely perfected body. At first glance, both films seem incapable of critiquing the historical ableism that made Captain America’s modification a desirable image of disability-free future in 1941 – let alone its modern manifestations. However, re-watching First Avenger after Winter Soldier reveals a far less stable endorsement of eliminating disability: now alerted to the series’ precise anxieties about bodily autonomy, one can perceive an undercurrent of disability critique running through First Avenger too – often literally in the background. The film exposes the historical ableism that shaped Steve’s consent to modification, and begins to establish his sidekick Bucky Barnes as a persistent critical voice capable of envisioning a different disability future. This essay is therefore not only about ableism in a pair of superhero movies, but also about how these ableist films contain seeds of an unexpected critique of their own disability representation.
    • ‘Killer Consumptive in the Wild West: the Posthumous Decline of Doc Holliday’

      Tankard, Alex; University of Chester (Routledge, 2014-07-08)
      This chapter discusses how representations of consumptive Wild West gunfighter 'Doc' Holliday in life-writing and film have changed since the 1880s, and suggests that this reflects changing attitudes towards tuberculosis and disability over time.
    • “There was something very peculiar about Doc…”: Deciphering Queer Intimacy in Representations of Doc Holliday

      Tankard, Alex; University of Chester (Taylor and Francis, 2014-12-08)
      This essay discusses representations of male intimacy in life-writing about consumptive gunfighter John Henry “Doc” Holliday (1851-1887). I argue that twentieth-century commentators rarely appreciated the historical specificity of Holliday’s friendships in a frontier culture that not only normalized but actively celebrated same-sex intimacy. Indeed, Holliday lived on the frayed edges of known nineteenth-century socio-sexual norms, and his interactions with other men were further complicated by his vicious reputation and his disability. His short life and eventful afterlife exposes the gaps in available evidence – and the flaws in our ability to interpret it. Yet something may still be gleaned from the early newspaper accounts of Holliday. Having argued that there is insufficient evidence to justify positioning him within modern categories of hetero/homosexuality, I analyze the language used in pre-1900 descriptions of first-hand encounters with Holliday to illuminate the consumptive gunfighter’s experience of intimacy, if not its meaning.
    • Tuberculosis and Disabled Identity in Nineteenth-Century Literature: Invalid Lives

      Tankard, Alex; University of Chester (Palgrave Macmillan, 2018-03-15)
      Chapter 5 as sample from monograph. Wuthering Heights ridiculed consumptive stereotypes, and Jude the Obscure exposed socioeconomic and cultural factors that disabled people with chronic illness, but neither could hope for a better future – much less suggest real strategies for improving the lives of people with tuberculosis in the nineteenth century. Beatrice Harraden’s 1893 bestseller Ships That Pass in the Night also offers a complex, bitter critique of the way in which sentimentality obscures the abuse and neglect of disabled people by nondisabled carers; it undermines the Romanticisation of consumptives, and shows consumptives driven to suicide by social marginalisation that leaves them feeling useless and hopeless. Yet its depiction of a romantic friendship between an emancipated woman and a disabled man also engages with the exciting possibilities of 1890s’ gender politics, and imagines new comradeship between disabled and nondisabled people based on mutual care and respect.