Wheel of Fortune‘s ableist tendencies are endless. I’ve previously written about some of these here.
But its ableism extends in other directions, too. Back in August of this year, I made a social media post focusing on Vanna and wrote:
She is 62 and still “looks” (is “required” to look) much younger. If she gained some weight or started showing signs of aging (and refused plastic surgery/etc) or needed a cane or anything else, she’d likely be replaced or eliminated. Ableism and normativity negatively impact her, too.
These thoughts have resurfaced given that Pat is currently on sick leave and that Vanna is hosting. (Vanna is doing a wonderful job, by the way.) Pat got sick. The show must go on. So he has been temporarily replaced. While this–temporary disability–is certainly different, it still matters and matters in the context of disability being part of life.
I have thought more about Vanna, too. Say, she decided to “go gray,” as is said, or was unable to wear high heels and dresses or couldn’t do all of the traveling and longs days they do, I imagine they would be looking to replace her or change her role. Or the social media criticism directed toward her would increase.
And, importantly, Vanna knows all of this.
Society makes sure of it.
Ableism forces Vanna–and people across the planet–to resist aging, to resist change, to fear disability. Ableism trains people from birth to hide signs of losing–or not having–said ableism. Ableism effectively locks people in at a given time and place and position: Vanna is suspended somewhere between ableist expectations for a widely-recognized media/television personality and Vanna’s biological body. Vanna receives little say.
Dr. Andrew Joseph Pegoda