Roswell, New Mexico is set to improve disability representation in season 3

From Digital Spy

Roswell, New Mexico season two spoilers follow.

The media are incredibly lacking in disabled characters. In the 2018-2019 TV season, only 2.1% of characters on TV were disabled, compared to nearly 1 in 5 people in the UK who are disabled. When it comes to the disabled characters that do exist on screen, many often fall prey to harmful tropes — their disabilities being fixed or cured, being sidelined as minor characters to be pitied, or they're reduced to villains, never good guys or heroes.

One character who has so far been very impactful in terms of disability representation is Alex Manes (Tyler Blackburn) on Roswell, New Mexico. For one thing, the war veteran avoids many of the harmful tropes so many other disabled characters fall into. He is central to the main story of the show and is allowed to be openly disabled without ever being sidelined.

Photo credit: The CW
Photo credit: The CW

Alex is so much more than just a one-dimensional character, too: he’s quick-witted, he can fight, he cares for others, he’s respected — and most importantly of all, he's never pitied by others. He’s allowed to grow and make mistakes. He’s allowed to be a part of the story, and a part of the team. He saves the day, and he falls in love, too.

While disabled characters, in general, are lacking, disabled characters that belong to other minority groups are also incredibly rare. That's why it's so powerful to see that Alex is also gay.

His being both disabled and part of the LGBTQ+ community is so important for viewers who are both LGBTQ+ and disabled. Alex might not be 100% proud of his sexuality yet (thanks to the abuse he faced from his Dad), but he's still an example for members of both communities to point to and feel less alone.

Alex’s relationship with Michael Guerin (Michael Vlamis) is a key part of this representation. They might not be together at the moment, but the love between 'Malex' is undeniable, representing not just a loving gay couple but also a loving relationship between a disabled person and an able-bodied person.

The very existence of Malex flies in the face of harmful ableist beliefs where some think that disabled people can't, or aren't able to find love. In short, Alex's relationship with Michael isn't just important for queer and disabled viewers. It's also important that audiences in general see this kind of representation too.

Roswell, New Mexico also subverts other ableist tropes with Alex’s character. One example of this can be found in episode four of season two, where it seems for a moment that's he's turned against the aliens, thereby fulfilling the disabled villain trope. However, it just turns out that Alex is actually trying to get information out of his Dad to help Michael and further the good fight, which he typically does with Kyle Valenti through Project Shepherd.

Photo credit: The CW
Photo credit: The CW

In all aspects, Roswell, New Mexico is deftly avoiding tropes and with Alex in particular, continues to create a fully-fleshed out character with agency, and a story of his own.

This representation looks set to improve even more in season three. Speaking exclusively to Digital Spy, former showrunner Carina Adly MacKenzie hinted at a "lighter love story" for Alex as he begins dating Forrest (Christian Antidormi), a historian we met in season two.

Not only will this help Alex become more proud of his sexuality, inspiring disabled and LGBTQ+ viewers, but this storyline is also important because it's all his own. It’s one that's not centred around any of the main characters (Liz, Max, Isobel or Michael), which means Alex will subvert another trope in disabled representation, growing and developing in a storyline outside of ones that are in service of the able-bodied protagonists.

Alex’s relationship with Forrest will be his "journey" to go on, not one he goes on to help others, and that is so impactful for disability representation because it’s something we so rarely see.

While we doubt Alex will ever stop helping Liz and the others, it will be great to see a disabled character enjoy their own separate arc alongside that one. A storyline that’s typically never afforded to disabled characters, where Alex can grow and develop in a central relationship before he and Michael potentially find their way back to each other in the future.

Alex isn’t played by a disabled actor, so this particular example of disabled representation might not be entirely perfect, but Tyler Blackburn and the Roswell, New Mexico team are still doing a great job overall. Alex remains a powerful example of disability representation that other pieces of media should try their best to replicate and improve on further.

Roswell, New Mexico airs on The CW in the US and on ITV2 in the UK.

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