Terrible, Thanks for Asking

Ghost Kingdom - Transcript

This is a transcript of a “Terrible, Thanks for Asking” episode entitled, “Ghost Kingdom.” The text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future for accuracy.

Listen to the episode here.


Hannah: But when you're a little kid, you kind of expect everything to be balanced out like it is in the movies. Like, the good guys always win over the bad guys or that, like, there's always going to be some happy ending at the end. But I think real life is very different from that. 

I’m Nora McInerny, and this is “Terrible, Thanks for Asking.” 

And that was Hannah Diviney. And that lovely accent you’re hearing is Australian. We all love an Australian accent, don’t we?

Hannah and I met the way so many of us meet: the internet. Hannah at the time was 17, and she listened to the podcast and sent me a message, and then just started messaging on Instagram and then moved it to WhatsApp. We sent texts. We sent voice notes. We would sometimes video call, and Hannah called me her fairy godmother but really I think she meant “her fairy internet sister,” because so many of her thoughts and feelings felt like re-living and re-playing my own teenage years … with one big addition: 

Hannah is also disabled.

Hannah: I often joke that being disabled is like having a full-time job, but you don't get any breaks and you don't get paid. 

Kind of like most media internships! 

The job that Hannah doesn’t get a break from is having cerebral palsy. 

Hannah: I was born three months early. So my birthday is supposed to be in November, but it's in August. And basically, when I was born, they were told that I had a bleed on my brain, that there was cysts on my brain as well, and that those cysts would acts like black holes, which basically means that when they dissolved, so did the parts of my brain that they were attached to. And for years we were like, “What do you mean?” Like that kind of sounds like I don't have as much brain as I'm supposed to. And then recently, I had to have an MRI, and we pulled the scans out and we could actually see the holes. We’re like “Oh! Okay. That's what that is.” When I was born, I was diagnosed with a thing called Perry Ventricular Luchi Malatia, which is basically, it's a condition where it eats away at the white matter in your brain. And that's what left me with cerebral palsy. 

Cerebral palsy exists on a spectrum. When Hannah was a baby the doctors gave her parents the worst case scenario: They said that Hannah would likely never walk, talk or feed herself.

Hannah: There's everyone from those people who kind of walk a little lopsided and maybe don't have use of one hand to people who can't talk, can't move, can't really do anything on their own except breathe and swallow, and sometimes even that is difficult. I guess it's just luck. There's no reason that I didn't end up that way. There's nothing that I did that they didn't do that or that their parents didn't do. But I'm kind of luckily in the middle of the spectrum, like, obviously my legs and arms don't work, but I have a great advantage and I'm well able to communicate for myself. 

Hannah grew up around her two young sisters who are, as Hannah describes, able-bodied, and classmates who were also mostly able-bodied people.

Hannah: So growing up is quite interesting because obviously they're quite physically capable humans, and they spend a lot of time playing sport or doing like, gymnastics or ballet or those sorts of things, which is all obviously stuff that isn't available to me, as someone with cerebral palsy and someone who has to use a wheelchair. It often made me ironically end up feeling like the youngest because there was so much that I needed help with as well. Like I still need help getting out of bed or like in the bathroom or getting dressed or that kind of stuff. And I used to express that, having been quite angry and just frustrated at the world, not not really understanding like, why they could do things that I couldn't do. And obviously, as you get older, you understand that sometimes life just isn't fair and that's the way that things are. When I'm 3 years old and see my best friend at the time stand up after she's finished her lunch at daycare, and I'm watching the way she stands up, and then looking at my body and thinking that I want to stand up, I'm wondering why I can't, which was like, the first moment that I realized that something is different. My body's not like everybody else's. It means I have a lot more compassion for her and basically that I just want to wrap all the younger versions of myself up in a hug and say it's OK. 

So the real world can be hard for a young Hannah. Her physical ability was just different from her friends or her sisters. And so was her mind, and her personality. Little Hannah was inquisitive and creative...

Hannah: I was the kind of little kid who asked so many questions, to the point where my parents would literally be like, “You have to stop, that is enough, like we cannot answer all of these anymore.” So I was super curious and imaginative. I tended to find a lot more kind of space for myself in books and things like that, and that's probably because of my disability. Surprise.

So, as children, what we know about the world and our place in it comes mostly from stories. The books we read, the movies we watch. And Hannah’s world, from those earliest days in the hospital, was built around stories.

Hannah: The first kind of writer that I really connected with was Beatrix Potter, so like the stories of Peter Rabbit and all that sort of stuff. My mom used to read those to me in hospital when I was a teeny tiny baby and obviously had, like, no concept of stories or reading, but they'd been told that would be good for my development because the original diagnosis was that I would never walk, talk or feed myself.

Imagine tiny Hannah, a little premie, being read to — her little brain with those little holes in it absorbing the wonder of these different worlds. As soon as she can, Hannah wants to MAKE those worlds. She doesn’t just tear through stories in books and movies … she starts to write them.

Hannah: I actually have my first story, I grabbed it in case you wanted to see it. I have it up here. 

Nora: Oh my god. Yes. Read it. Yes. 

Hannah: OK, so it is called “Christmas at Andu,” because that is the name of the preschool that I went to. And it says, “One day, Hannah and her friends at Andu were so excited, because it was nearly Christmas, when Santa would drop their presents off and they were having a party to celebrate.” 

The story Hannah wrote at 4 was written out by her mother on alternating sheets of red and green paper, bound and decorated with tinsel. And it takes place at her preschool, Andu, around Christmas Time.

Hannah: “When Lisa” — that was the name of my preschool teacher — “started the music, everybody was dancing, then everyone got really hungry, so they ate up all the party food, but then they were really tired. So all the Andu children lay down to rest,” because obviously in preschool, you have—

Nora: Nap time, baby. 

Hannah: Yeah. 

Nora: Yeah. 

Hannah: We should, we should bring that back for adults. 

Nora: We really should. And whenever kids whine about naps, I'm like, oh, sorry, someone's going to put you to bed and then wake you up and feed you. Sounds rough. 

Hannah: Sounds pretty great to me. 

Nora: Like, just enjoy it. 

Hannah: Yeah. “When they opened their eyes, they were not Andu, they were at Santa's kingdom. They were all very excited because there were so many toys to play with and make. At last, they went to the gates of Santa's room. Santa asked all the Andu children what they wanted for Christmas. When everyone had told Santa what they wanted, they suddenly all felt very tired again. Then they lay down and close their eyes. When they open them, they were no longer in Santa's Kingdom. They were back in the Andu classroom. Then all the mums and dads were at the door to pick everyone up. The teachers wondered where the children had been. Then Hannah told Lisa they had been to Santa's kingdom and he wished everyone at Andu a very merry Christmas.” 

The End!

This first story of Hannah’s changes everything for her. All of her able-bodied sisters and friends can go and do whatever they want … and Hannah can do whatever she wants — in her stories.

Hannah took a lot of inspiration from the familiar -- the world of fairy tales and fantasy. And those stories tend to share familiar arcs: The character who takes a journey to fix some aspect of their life that isn’t fair. The princess who gets saved by the handsome prince. The character who has had a hard go of it, but they’re so good that eventually it all works out. Happily ever after, every time. Always reaching for that happily ever after. 

But there’s another thing that these stories share, which is that people with bodies like Hannah’s — disabled bodies — are treated very differently. 

Amanda Leduc is the author of, “Disfigured: On Fairy Tales, Disability, and Making Space.” And she put it so well. I’m quoting here: 

“These stories might purport to reach for a better world, but the disabled body is only ever viewed by them as broken, and often only as worthy of a happy ending once the disability has been eradicated or otherwise ‘overcome.’ What does it say when some of the most subversive narratives we know continue to entrench and perpetuate static ideas about the disabled body?”

That’s the end of the quote. But think about it. Ariel loses her voice … but gets it back, which means Eric can REALLY fall in love with her.

Elsa learns to control her ice fingers …

Snow White and Sleeping Beauty come out of their comas and the Beast turns back into a prince. (Although I know I'm not the only person who thought he was hotter as a beast in the cartoon version. Right? He totally was.)

Because there’s no overcoming cerebral palsy, and no eradicating it. Hannah’s a kid who knows her body is different, and who also has to undergo serious medical procedures that would make anyone scared. To help with her mobility and her growth, doctors have to break her femurs -- our largest and most painful bone to break -- glue them back together and put metal plates in them. 

Hannah: I was 10, and 10-year-olds don't want that kind of pain or that kind of rehab. 10-year-old me wanted to watch movies and listen to Taylor Swift songs and spend my summer in the pool instead of in bed or in hospital or on all the different pain medication that I ended up being on, which is pretty heavy duty stuff. And that experience changed a lot of things, because up until then I'd been pretty OK with how things were. Like, I obviously still struggled and had days where I absolutely hated being disabled and stuff, but from that surgery in particular, that was when the kind of seeds of anxiety and stuff sort of went into like, full bloom, and that was sort of my first experience with, like, proper pain and real fatigue. 

Recovery from a surgery that large isn’t easy, and tiny little Hannah is on serious painkillers and undergoing physical therapy. The experience is isolating. But she finds solace in stories. In reading, writing, music. 

And she finds a serious connection with another young girl who loves all the same things, who grew up on fairy tales and make-believe: Taylor Swift.

Hannah: I think I was 8 or 9 when a singing teacher that I had — because I used to love to sing as well — said, “Hey, I've got this really great song that I think your voice would be perfect for.” And she played me “Love Story.” And immediately my brain was like ding! Light bulb moment. So that surgery that I was talking about happened a few months before Taylor Swift's “Fearless” tour, which was my first concert, and I remember that tour being like a beacon of light that I had to kind of work towards. Like, if I can just get to the “Fearless” tour, then I'll then I'll be OK. Like then all of this stuff will have been worth it. And I think quite seriously, which is not something you want to hear someone say when they're 10, that tour saved me in a lot of ways.

Nora: what did you hear and feel in Taylor's music that struck that place in you? 

Hannah: Well, I think she was going through a lot of the same things that I was going through. Like, we both wanted the same thing, and that was like, desperately to fit in. And then I think, like the way that she constructed stories in her songs really appealed to me because I was like, “Oh, well, I want to write like that. Like, I want to take the stuff that happens to me and turn it into things that we can enjoy.” So I think it was definitely her songwriting that got to me the most and still has to this day. 

“Love Story” -- the song that hooked Hannah -- is about a girl falling in love for the first time. The lyrics are about balconies and staircases and a forbidden love that parents don’t understand. 

As a Swiftie, I know that Taylor started writing songs in part because her childhood was lonely. She wasn’t invited to parties. She was left out by her peers. It’s what makes her and her music so relatable to her younger listeners (and to her middle-aged listeners): that it reflects our very human need to feel seen and valued, and to find our place and our people.

Hannah: If it wasn't for Taylor Swift's music, I don't think that I would have made it through that particular period. And like, I'm the kind of kid who, unfortunately, has really struggled with friendship for most of my childhood and into my young adulthood, and often it would feel like, “Well, I don't I don't really have anybody, but at least I have Taylor's music.” 

Nora: Did you really feel like you didn't have anyone? 

Hannah: Yeah. Yeah. It was, it was pretty bad for a while there. I was bullied pretty consistently throughout primary school and high school. There would be things like parties or just people having people over, even like them deciding that sport was something that was really important to you, because at ages 9 and 10, you start to realize that, hey, this sport thing might be kind of fun. Or just whether they were parts of the playground that weren't, like, super accessible to me or different things like that, it was a very lonely time. And that's probably the Hannah that I wish I could most give a hug out of all the Hannahs that I've been. You wonder if there's something that's like, wrong with you, but obviously you don't want your disability to be the thing that's wrong with you, because you can't change that. Like, that's going to be with you forever. So, like, what are you supposed to do if that's the thing that's wrong with you?

Nora: You're like, “I hope it's just my personality, like, I can change that.” 

Hannah: Yeah! Like I'll be whoever you want me to be. But if it's the fact that I'm in a wheelchair, well, like, sorry, buddy. You’re stuck with this. I had this one girl, and at the time, I thought she was my best friend. We were 16, 17, so she was kind of like the Abigail to my Taylor Swift, if you will. I remember I went over there for a sleepover to her house, and I'd been at her house for maybe half an hour, and she sat me down and was like, “I've got some stuff I need to.” I was like okay. Just kind of those immediate alarm bells of like, “This is not going to be good.” And she kind of said, “Uh, yeah, you drag everybody down around you. You're like, not a great deal of fun to be around. You, like, you just sort of drain people.” And I remember sitting there. And instead of yelling or defending myself or saying, “I don't think I want to sleep over now,” I froze and I smiled and said, “OK,” and continued to sleep over and then went home and like, crumbled into a million tiny pieces. Because all I've ever wanted was friends, and I thought I'd finally- I'd finally found what I thought I'd, like, I found the friend that you're that the movies tell you you’ll have. Like, that was definitely my entire thing when I was at school, I was very much like, “Yes, I am the girl on the bleachers. I just want people to see!” And unfortunately, when people don't understand something or someone, they tend to lash out, or they tend to not know what to do, so they don't do anything. The amount of times that I would hear as a kid, “Oh, we wanted to invite you, but like ... stairs,” or something like that. 

We’ll be right back. 

High school is universally kinda miserable. It just is. When Hannah and I met, she was in high school, and she was miserable. And it made me rethink those years of my life. I went through all my old journals. I was shocked to see that my rosy memories of those years did not represent reality. Reading notebook after notebook, I saw that yep, I was miserable and anxious and depressed and felt worthless and horrible for all four years, with these intermittent bursts of joy. 

In the U.S., one of the big milestones of this time of high school is the prom. It’s a formal or semi-formal dance where girls spend hundreds or thousands of dollars on a dress and hair and makeup, and boys rent tuxedos and buy corsages and you eat a fancy dinner and take photos. It’s like a dress rehearsal for an elegant adulthood you’ll probably never have. It’s a celebration of youth and hope and grinding on the dance floor to songs that would make your grandmother blush if she understood the words.

Where I went to high school, the prom was a school event. Students helped organize it, but the school was the ultimate shot-caller. They signed the check for the venue. They sold the tickets. Grownups, ultimately, were in charge. Which is a good thing. In Australia, or at least where Hannah went to school, their version of prom was called formal.

Hannah: So formals generally involve — for the girls, anyway — like the dresses. Some people’s will be really expensive. Like, we once had a girl, I think she was 16, so this was a Year 10 formal. So like the least important of the lot, she spent like 900 dollars on a dress. So you have that kind of level. Like, that was the thing that we’d all seen in movies, and those sorts of events represented nightmares for me.

And a lot of the elements are the same: dressing up, dancing, dinner … but a major difference is that formal is organized by students entirely.  Which is bananas. What’s going on down under?!

Hannah:  So the Year 10 one would be like this ... kind of dodgy hotel. Our teachers wouldn't be involved, so it'd be like the first time that we were there without super adult supervision, so you can imagine what that was like for a bunch of 16-year-olds. They're like, “Oh, suddenly we've discovered this thing called alcohol,” like,  how that works.” So the anticipation was like, “Oh, my God, we're going to a dance.” You're 16. You want it to be like those movies that we see. And I wore like, this white top with this flowery skirt. And I had someone come and do my makeup, which is a big deal for me because I never wear makeup. And I went with some friends, because we were the kind of kids that nobody was asking. And you sit around, you have a nice meal, you dance, like, to some music, and you notice that the popular kids who never talk to you at school suddenly OK to dance around you. Not with you, but like ... just in your general space, which was really weird because it was like suddenly you're OK to dance. d involve me that way, but like if I asked you to involve me at school, you'd look at me like I was something on the bottom of your shoes.

So that’s her first formal: It kinda sucks, but she gets to wear a beautiful outfit and get all dolled up at least? My first prom, I got food poisoning and my date didn’t like me at all, but my dress made me look like a wedding cupcake, and I loved it. 

The next year, when formal time rolls around, things are even worse.

Hannah: People like harbor cruises here, like on Sydney Harbor, which is obviously on a boat. But if you're in a wheelchair, boats aren't super accessible to you. And there was me and one other girl in a wheelchair, and no matter how hard we tried to explain to them that, like, we can't go on a boat, they still had it on a boat. We literally would tell them, and it got to the point where teachers got involved on our behalf and we would cry and they still were like, “No, we're having it on the boat.”

The students are unmoved by Hannah and their other disabled classmates. They go ahead with the formal on the boat, knowing that they’re leaving some peers behind.

And you know what? Teenagers don’t have fully developed brains. They’re out here running around with a brain that is only partially assembled, that puts them and their needs first. And that sucks. It really does. It’s unfair and it’s garbage and it’s humiliating.

But there’s always Year 12, which is the biggest deal of all the formals. So the next year, for her final formal, Hannah goes all out for her dress. 

Hannah: My dress was a special circumstance, because my parents had bought it overseas, they'd been to Ireland with my younger sisters for a wedding, and I hadn't been able to go because I was obviously in senior year, so taking an international trip probably wasn't the best way to study. And they came home and presented it as like this big surprise and were like, “We hope you like it.” And it was like this red silk dress with flowers all up the side. It was beautiful.

It’s a dress worthy of a Taylor Swift video or a fairy tale. And she gets it months in advance, in anticipation. By the time Year 12 is in full swing, the location of the Year 12 formal is announced. 

Hannah: You find out months in advance, and it’s this really fancy place, and obviously my immediate instinct, whenever I go anywhere, is obviously to check how accessible the place is. So I'm like, checking and I'm going, “Oh God, they've done it again.” Like, after the whole fiasco with the boat last year and all the stuff that happened, like, how have they not got it through their heads after six years of being at school with me and this other girl who was in a wheelchair as well, that we would very much like to be included. 

The location isn’t accessible to Hannah in her wheelchair. And she needs her wheelchair. So here she is, with a dress and a dream and a dance she can’t get into. 

Nora: Do you cry, do you rage? What do you do? 

Hannah: You do both of those things, and then you try and very calmly, but also like, with steam coming out your ears, explain to the girls who are organizing it, “Hey, guys, this is Year 12, and this is the big one, like, this is the one that that everybody has basically been waiting for, like, since they were old enough to sort of understand the concept of prom, or like a formal. And like, it would be nice if we could go.” And in the end, they did end up making it accessible, but they had made such a scene and such a fuss around, like, the inconvenience of it that it felt like we weren't wanted there. So we — both of us, me and the other girl — decided not to go. Because we just felt completely unwanted and unvalued.

These formals are a good microcosm for how Hannah has experienced life: trying to fit into a world that just won’t budge for her or for people like her. A world where she and her existence are an afterthought. 

I’m going to quote LeDuc again, writing about fairy tales:

“Why, in all of these stories about someone who wants to be something or someone else, was it always the individual who needed to change and never the world?”

That sentence was written about fairytales, but it works well here — for formal, and for so much more. The expectation is that Hannah will suck it up or back off. The expectation is not that the world will change, or that her classmates will, but that Hannah will. That she will make it easier for other people to be around her. That she’ll make her existence more palatable for them, that she won’t make a fuss or be a bother.

We’ll be right back.

Hannah’s in college now. She’s a whole four years past that Year 12 formal, but so much of that experience still rings in her ears.

Hannah and I have a lot in common: We are Swifities. We love to read. We are highly emotional. And we both love the show “This Is Us,” and depending on where you are in this show, the following minute may or may not be a spoiler, but I actually don’t think it is at all. It’s not. It’s more about a concept than a specific plot point. If that makes sense. Your call, though.

Here’s Hannah.

Hannah: OK, so if you say that the episode where Randall is at the, like, support group, and they're talking about ghost kingdoms, and then and he's trying to say like, “Yeah, that's what I had in my head, a ghost kingdom where I wasn't adopted.” And as soon as I saw that scene, it was like somebody had just shot an arrow. I was like, “Curse you, Dan Fogelman. How did you know this?” Because I never had it articulated before. But I have a ghost kingdom in my head. I have a place where I'm not disabled, where I imagine what my life would look like. For a long time, like Randall, I guess I felt ashamed that I had that in my head. Because I was like, what am I doing with the life that I actually have, if I have this life that can never be? Because obviously, like there's a lot about my life that would be different if I wasn't disabled. It's not just a case of suddenly being able to walk or run or go up and down stairs or that kind of thing. Like, there would be people in my life who I didn't know if I wasn't disabled. There would be things that I wasn't doing, things like this, or there's no guarantee that I would be, like, focused on writing because I could be out playing sports or that kind of stuff. Or that I would have had, like, the childhood trauma, I guess you could call it. So it's a whole different life. I actually haven't really said that out loud to that many people, aside from my parents, because I often don't know how people will react. Like, whether that's something they will expect as normal or whether that's something that they will judge me for. 

Nora: What do you think people will judge you for? If you say like, “Well, yeah, there's a part of me, I think, about a life where I don't have CP. I think about a life where I'm, you know, where my life is much more similar to the lives of my little sisters or my peers.” 

Hannah: Um, I think it's just like, it comes back to that not wanting to appear ungrateful for things and also not wanting to necessarily present to everybody that, like, being disabled has to be like, a miserable experience, because I feel like that's that's a lot of the narrative, too, like so many people will say, “Oh, I don't know how you do it. If  I was in your position, like, I just wouldn't wouldn't do it.”

Nora: It's not like, I mean, you can't opt out. You can be like, “Oh, what? I refuse.”

Hannah: Just be like, “Sorry, not you're not doing it today.” It's not like that all the time. There are wonderful moments of joy and there are things that I never would have got to do or or thought about being a part of if I wasn't disabled. But we have to also be able to have space to be like, “This thing is hard. Sometimes it is terrible. And it's OK that it's terrible.” Because I feel like also in order to make it easier for other people to see past a disability or to accept us, we often don't want to … not that we don't want to talk about it, but we don't want to … we don't want to say, like, “Actually, today is a really bad pain day,” or, “Today I got upset because my sister drove to school and I would give anything to drive a car,” or like, “Heck, I’d just like to be able to walk out the front door and go for a run.” Like, those sorts of things. It's not necessarily even the big things. Like, it's not like, “Oh, if I wasn't disabled, I'd love to go to the moon.” It's, “I’d really love, like, if I could just go out there and run, and that would be a way of processing what's going on in my head or if I could just walk up and down the stairs,” or that sort of stuff. 

We all participate in this useless and painful exercise, don’t we? Imagining who or what we would be if things were just … different. If we were born into a different situation, if we’d taken another road. And there’s a little bit of shame in that sometimes, because even in our imagination, changing one thing changes everything. 

Without CP, Hannah wouldn’t be this same Hannah. And there’s a lot to love about who she is and  about her life. It’s Hannah’s CP that has forced her into a lot of it, that has made her exactly who she is and how she is.

Hannah isn’t too old for fairy tales or for Taylor Swift. Neither am I. And her focus right now isn’t about how to fit into the world, but how to change the world. 

Starting with -- or at least including -- fairy tales. 

Hannah: So the petition I started is essentially to get Disney Studios to create a disabled Disney princess. And I sort of had the idea for a long time. It kind of first sort of started coming together in 2015 after I went to see the film “Inside Out,” which I thought was like this beautiful portrayal of, like, mental health and anxiety and all that stuff but at a level that kids can understand. And I remember thinking, “Well, if there are people out there committed to making films like this, surely it wouldn't be so difficult for them to kind of leap over and create a disabled princess or character.” But in terms of the petition, I started that in December of last year and at the moment, I think we’re, like, just shy of 36,000 signatures from around the world, which is really, really mind blowing to me. 

The kind of princess Hannah imagines is one whose disability is central to her character but not a problem to be solved. A princess who is in a wheelchair and finds love and adventure not by leaving it behind, but in it. A princess who saves the day without having to change who she is in this world. A protagonist who, like all good protagonists, longs for change … but creates it in her environment, not just in herself.

Hannah is -- no disrespect to her or other 21-year-olds -- still a kid. A college kid living with her parents and staying up too late (I see her online when I know she should be in bed, and yes I’m tattling). She has no connections to Hollywood. But she made this petition anyway. 

There is a ghost kingdom where this happens for her and other kids like her: where her voice is heard, and the world changes. Where kids like Hannah can see themselves on screen, and other kids can see disabled kids as fully formed human beings whose body is just a part of their humanity. 

Hannah: And then I think it's really important to obviously show able-bodied kids that the differences that people have aren't something to be afraid of. I will often have little kids like, stare at me or ask questions or whatever when I'm out and about, and sometimes the parent reaction is to, like, shush them or hurry them along or like, not cause me any trouble. And I often feel like saying, “It's OK. Like, I'd prefer you come and ask the question.” Because, like, then I can teach you and then maybe that makes it easier for you to like, grow up into being an ally. 

Kids are a great place to start, aren’t they? While they’re forming their worldviews, while they’re absorbing stories about the world and the people in it, while their imaginations are firing on all cylinders and their brains haven’t been fully calcified by the incessant input of phones and emails and notifications and the grind of daily existence. What if they had more stories that included more versions of humanity and heroics, a shift in the narrative from “fixing” what is “wrong” on an individual to how we should instead help the world change and adapt?

Hannah: It's definitely a start, and I hope that more people get on board because basically what I was trying to do was create it so that the disabled kids of the future, and even the able-bodied kids of the future, don't have to wonder what their lives could look like. And I want to be very clear that I'm not expecting this princess to be saved by someone riding in on a white horse. Like, that's not the narrative that I want to create, because disabled people don't need saving. Like, I want people to see us as the hero of our own story, and I want it to be obvious that people with disabilities want the same things. We still want the friends, we still listen to the same music, we still want to fall in love and have adventures and do all of those things. 

All of those things, and so much more. 

If you want to support Hannah’s petition, we linked it in our show notes.

If you’re Taylor Swift and want to write a song with Hannah, you should DM her.

If you’re Disney and want to make a disabled princess, same thing, DM Hannah on Instagram.

And if you want to read the book we referenced, it’s called “Disfigured: On Fairy Tales, Disability and Making Space,” and it’s by Amanda LeDuc. We’ll link that in the notes, too.

I’m Nora McInerny and this is, “Terrible Thanks for Asking.” And our production team is Marcel Malekebu, do dooo do do, Beth Pearlman, do dooo do do, Jordan Turgeon, do dooo do do, Jeyca Maldonado-Medina, do dooo do do, Megan Palmer. Doot doot doot. 

A lot of people help us make this show. Geoffrey Lamar Wilson, who is such a beautiful musician. He made our theme music. You gotta go check out his music at geoffreylamarwilson.com. I am telling you, you will love it. 

We are a production of APM, American Public Media. We have many ways that you can support this show. You’re doing one right now. You’re listening to this show, such a huge way to support us. Thank you. The fact that you share your time with us is very meaningful, and I appreciate that. If you would like to financially support this show, we have a little thing we’re calling TTFA Premium. We are doing ad-free episodes, we’re doing bonus content, longer interviews, all this kind of stuff. You can get in on the fun at TTFA.org/Premium. We will be back again next week.