Supercrips, Solidarity, and Crip Families in The Bad Batch
Dr. Johnathan Flowers
Content notes: eugenics, applied behavioral analysis, torture, genetic manipulation, ableist terminology
Spoilers below for The Bad Batch season one.
When I set out to write about The Bad Batch (an animated series on Disney+) and disability, I had in mind an essay that would make clear the ways in which The Bad Batch, as the latest addition to the Star Wars canon, opened a space for more nuanced representations of disability within the Star Wars universe. To be clear, it is not the case that Star Wars has lacked for disabled representation: 2016’s Rogue One introduced Donnie Yen’s Chirrut Imwe, a blind warrior whose martial arts skill and characterization recall other blind martial arts masters from Asian cinema. Chirrut’s characterization not only managed to avoid many tropish depictions of blindness, together with his partner Baze Malbus, Chirrut’s characterization made clear the interdependent nature of disability support structures upon which many disabled people rely.
Prior to the introduction of Chirrut, on-screen depictions of disability in Star Wars have treated disability as something easily fixed, most notably through the provision of readily available prosthesis, or as the source of monstrosity as is the case of Darth Vader, who Obi-Wan Kenobi describes as “more machine than man, twisted and evil.” While not an explicit rendering of disability as monstrous, the implications of Obi-Wan’s language are such that much of Vader’s “twisted” nature can be attributed to both the Dark Side of the Force and his status as a multiple limb amputee. Still further, Star Wars’ relationship with disability is further complicated through Obi-Wan’s description of the eponymous Jedi Mind Trick, a psychic “nudge” that apparently works on the “weak willed.” Here, we might trace a historical connection of “weakness of will” with narratives of mental illness or “mental infirmity,” which have been used as justification to strip disabled people of their autonomy.
Given this problematic background, I approached writing about The Bad Batch with a sense of trepidation: while it might be easy to read The Bad Batch as an empowering narrative about a crew of plucky disabled adventurers in a galaxy far, far, away, I was concerned that the uniqueness of the Batch, their presumed disabilities, would be treated as the source of their excellence, transforming the narrative into what is commonly called a “supercrip” narrative. Now, to be clear, this is not the case: indeed, The Bad Batch not only subverts “supercrip” narratives, but it also actually makes clear the ways in which disability remains present within the Star Wars universe through creating a context wherein disability and advanced technology can co-exist. Unfortunately, in doing so, The Bad Batch also makes clear the ways in which modern Star Wars narratives rely upon eugenic assumptions to drive the plot.
Before addressing the question of eugenics which looms large in the background of The Bad Batch, I need to set forth the critical lens that demonstrates how The Bad Batch subverts the “supercrip” narrative, despite its central characters being “enhanced” clone soldiers. Like Covino¹ and Wälivaara², I take Sami Schalk’s³ reevaluation of the supercrip narrative to be my starting point. Schalk’s analysis is pertinent as The Bad Batch veers towards supercrip territory through the presentation of their disabilities as elevating them beyond the capacity of “default” clone troopers, yet Schalk’s argument that “to dismiss outright all representations of supercrips as ‘bad’ is to disregard potentially entire genres of popular cultural productions, ones which tend to have very large audiences,”4 should inform how we view the Batch as supercrips. Further, this outright dismissal of all supercrip narratives as universally problematic limits the ways in which disabilities studies scholars, like myself, can engage with and see ourselves represented in media. Thus, in calling for a reevaluation of the supercrip, Schalk is calling for a more nuanced understanding of supercrip narratives.
For Schalk, forcing a fictional narrative into the confines of a realistic paradigm strips the narrative of contextual elements that make possible the world established by the narrative. To this end, Schalk recommends that we engage in an analysis that considers the complexities of genre conventions and the nature of the fictional universe in which the characters come to life as we proceed in our analysis. With this view, the supercrip becomes a narrative form organized around a disabled person or character through the use of genre or medium specific techniques that make visible the character or person as a supercrip. In this mode, less attention is paid to what the supercrip does within the narrative, or the essential elements of a supercrip as such, but how narratives about supercrips are made possible, and make possible the supercrip as an archetype, through the deployment of genre specific conventions. To this end, Schalk follows Amit Kama in presenting a typology of supercrip narratives, beginning with the “regular supercrip narrative.”
For Schalk, following Kama, the “regular supercrip narrative” focuses on a disabled character or individual who, in the execution of an otherwise mundane task, is elevated to the status of supercrip through the assumption that disabled people do not engage in activities that would otherwise be considered mundane by non-disabled individuals by virtue of the presumed impairment of their disability. While Schalk gives the examples of playing on a sports team, getting married, and raising children, “regular supercrip narratives” can be constructed from the materials of the lives of everyday disabled people through the ongoing perception that being disabled means that we are unable to live full lives. As an example, I encounter “regular supercrip narratives” within academia on a daily basis as my very being within the academy with ADHD is taken by many to be an achievement beyond that which people with my disability are assumed to be capable of. Thus, the “regular supercrip narrative” trades on ongoing ableist assumptions about the capacities of disabled people to elevate a disabled individual or character to the status of “supercrip.”
Schalk’s second type of supercrip narrative, the “glorified supercrip narrative” focuses on disabled people who manage accomplishments that are in excess of even those expected of able-bodied individuals. Here, as Schalk notes, the supercrip narrative serves the purposes of demonstrating an implied possibility of “overcoming” a disability to achieve extraordinary success, thereby treating disability as something that can be overcome with enough effort. While this is problematic in of itself, as no disabled person ever “overcomes” their disability given that it forms a critical mode of their embodiment, Schalk notes that the focus of such “glorified supercrip” narratives is often those disabled people whose cultural and social positionality enables them to draw upon resources nor broadly available to the majority of disabled people. Thus, this version of the supercrip narrative often elides or suppresses the privileges or race, class, gender, and sexuality that serve to enable the exceptional accomplishments of the “glorified supercrip,” thereby building upon the “regular supercrip” in further problematic ways.
The final type of supercrip narrative Schalk provides, and the form that is most pertinent for our analysis, is the “superpowered supercrip narrative” which Schalk describes as “primarily a fiction, television, or film representation of a character who has abilities or “powers” that operate in direct relationship with or contrast to their disability…These are the stories of characters like the blind detective with extraordinary hearing or the superhero who gains powers after a potentially disabling accident.”5 Schalk distinguishes the “superpowered supercrip” from the “glorified supercrip” through the ways in which the supercrip becomes exceptional through the result of their powers, abilities, or prosthesis, rather than through their own effort such as Cyborg (aka Victor Stone), a character from DC Comics. That is, while the “superpowered supercrip” might need to engage in a process of accommodation for their disability which requires effort, an example might be Daredevil’s learning to control his enhanced senses after the accident which left him blind, the exceptional nature of the “superpowered supercrip” is still ultimately grounded in their possession of superpowers, rather than through the effort displayed by the “glorified supercrip.”
There is, however, an additional element to the “superpowered supercrip” that makes it a valuable frame for analyzing The Bad Batch: despite possessing superpowers, the “superpowered supercrip” is still disabled within the setting of their narrative. Here, an example might be valuable: for much of his depiction within X-Men comics, Charles Xavier used a wheelchair as his mobility aid despite being one of the most powerful psychics in the narrative. While his wheelchair was often enhanced by a variety of futuristic technologies, Xavier was still disabled within the narrative in ways familiar to the audience. Thus, the core of the “superpowered supercrip” narrative is not that the superpowers eliminate their disability altogether; rather, the “superpowered supercrip” is a disabled person with superpowers which make them exceptional. Put simply, the “superpowered supercrip” exists within a world wherein they are still disabled, despite being superpowered.
It is this element of the “superpowered supercrip” retaining their status as disabled within the narrative that allows for the “superpowered supercrip” to introduce a nuance that is often lacking in conventional applications of the “supercrip” to narratives like Star Wars and The Bad Batch. In applying the “supercrip” as a typology of narrative structures, we must bear in mind the construction of disability within the fictional world that we are analyzing before presenting a given narrative as falling in line with the “supercrip” designation. Thus, as Schalk states, “in our discussions of supercrip narratives, then, we should consider what constitutes disability (materially and socially) in the context of high-tech assistive devices, altered abilities, and fictional worlds,”6 a point which is extremely valuable in our understanding of The Bad Batch not just as a potential supercrip narrative, but a narrative about disability. Thus, in discussing both the “supercrip” and disability within fictional worlds, we need to be clear about what constitutes disability in that world, and not necessarily whether the representation of disability in that world is analogous to disability in our world. To this end, characters that we might otherwise view as disabled in our world, may not be disabled within the fictional narrative under analysis, and conversely may not be designated “supercrips” or disabled at all.
Here, an example from Star Wars itself might be valuable. Darth Vader, a multiple limb amputee who relies on both cybernetic prosthesis and breathing assistance built into his suit, would not be considered a supercrip within the narrative of Star Wars, nor would Luke Skywalker who is a single limb amputee. As Covino notes “The Star Wars universe has many dangers that are potentially disabling. It is not limited, however, in its technology: if a hand or an arm needs to be replaced in Star Wars, it can be done with little fuss,”7 thereby normalizing the loss of a limb as a minor inconvenience. In his discussion of the eponymous scene in Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope where Obi-Wan Kenobi disarms Ponda Baba by severing his arm with his lightsaber, Covino notes that the loss of a limb or even multiple limbs is treated as a minor inconvenience, a brief interruption on the level of a bar scuffle, and certainly not worth commenting on by the barkeep himself. In fact, to Covino’s point, the fact that more attention is paid to the entrance of droids C-3PO and R2-D2 by the barkeep than to the maiming of a patron is evidence that the loss of a limb in the Star Wars universe is but a minor inconvenience, whereas in our world, such a loss would require immediate attention and result in a significant change in Ponda Baba’s life.
For Covino, therefore, “the lack of any serious reaction to the bloody flesh on the cantina floor illustrates access to technology that renders such a severe wounding as nothing more than an inconvenience (rather than imposing a lifelong disability).”8 That said, numerous other examples demonstrate Covino’s point: Anakin Skywalker and Luke Skywalker both lose limbs in combat and immediately engage in otherwise “mundane” activities after the fact. For example, after the loss of his arm in Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones, Anakin Skywalker is seen embracing Padmé Amidala and proceeding through the aftermath of the Battle of Geonosis without much of a thought for his lost limb. Similarly, in the same film, after Obi-Wan severs the arm of Zam Wesell, he proceeds to interrogate them as if he had only inflicted minor injuries upon her. To be clear, all the above incidents were the result of a fateful encounter with a lightsaber, a weapon that cauterizes the wounds that it inflicts, however, the lack of concern for the loss of the limb indicates a broader cultural lack of concern about the loss of a limb as a disabling condition. Finally, to cement the “mundane” status of limb amputation, Obi-Wan’s chosen lightsaber form, Shii-Cho, emphasizes defeating opponents without causing serious injury or loss of life. Further, Shii-Cho, as one of the earliest Jedi lightsaber forms, is described as fundamentally in keeping with the Jedi’s peacekeeping philosophy, a philosophy which apparently does not consider severing a limb to be a “serious injury.”
While the above establishes the critical and narrative context for the engagement with The Bad Batch to follow, there is one additional element of the Star Wars setting that we need to cover before discussing The Bad Batch itself: the cloning in the Star Wars universe. While the nature of cloning in Star Wars is not given extensive treatment in the films or the larger metaverse of The Clone Wars and The Bad Batch, what is clear from its depiction on screen and in supplemental materials is that cloning is treated as a process of mass production subject to specific quality controls and industrial standards. Nowhere in the Star Wars metaverse is this made more abundantly clear than in the context of the clone trooper project, specifically insofar as all clone troopers are based upon the genetic template of Jango Fett, the best bounty hunter at the time of the project, modified to conform to the needs of the Grand Army of the Republic and later the Imperial Army. These needs included an increased growth rate, about twice as fast as a “normal” human, and modifications to reduce their capacity for independence and independent thinking. Combined with the implantation of a biochip which ensured absolute loyalty, the clone troopers were intended to be ubiquitous products which conformed to a single production standard that acted as a norm against which clones could be measured.
There are two things to note in the above: first, Tech, one of the Bad Batch, notes that the modifications to the clones’ capacity for independent thinking and independent action took the form of “inhibited cognitive functions” to better aid in their following orders and carrying out mission objectives to the letter. In keeping with the broader narrative of Star Wars, we might view the entirety of the clone trooper corps as disabled. Recall the previous mention of the Jedi Mind Trick working on those who were “weak willed.” As part of the revised Star Wars canon during the run up to the sequel trilogy, it was revealed that the troopers that Obi-Wan “mind tricked” in the famous scene in A New Hope were themselves clones that had survived the clone wars. As such, their “weak will” could be read as a product of their “inhibited cognitive functions” which would make them more susceptible to the manipulation of the force. That is, Obi-Wan was largely more effective in mind-tricking Stormtroopers because of their disability, rather than due to his strength in the force. However, even bearing this in mind, the cognitive impairment of the clone trooper corps is itself not an anomaly: it is a feature of the production process and, as such, is normalized within the broader metaverse of Star Wars. To be clear, within the context of the clone trooper project, the clones weren’t disabled; however, within the context of the broader galactic society, the clones did express features of disability which they subsequently learned to accommodate as they resisted or overcame their programming or had their biochips removed.
Second, the entire clone trooper project itself should be considered an exercise in applied eugenics. Indeed, Fett’s template was specifically selected due to his efficacy as a bounty hunter and Mandalorian commando. As a template, Fett’s modified genome represented a normative standard to produce additional clones and against which clones could be compared for the purposes of “quality control,” or, to ensure conformity with an imposed standard of biological organization. Put simply, the Fett template established a standard model to produce persons who could be judged against the Fett standard for the purposes of judging deviance from an assumed normal. While this judgment is grounded in the representation of the clone trooper process as an industrial process meant to produce a standard product which would be subject to quality controls, from a disability perspective, the clone trooper project is not distinct from bioethetical proposals to “edit out” undesired traits from the human genome thereby producing a “superior” or “improved” individual. While this process resulted in individuals who were in many respects disabled, the process also resulted in what Prime Minister Lama Su called one of the finest clone armies produced by Kaminoan science. That is, within the narrative of Star Wars, the clone trooper project was an exceptionally successful deployment of commercialized eugenics on a massive scale.
That said, this isn’t the only time Star Wars has dipped its narrative toes into eugenics as a plot device: the presumed antagonist of the first two films of the sequel trilogy, Supreme Leader Snoke, was a “strand-cast,” a bio-engineered organism created through combining the DNA of Emperor Palpatine and other donors. Like the clone troopers that preceded him, Snoke was purpose built to serve as Palpatine’s proxy and thus contained a deep connection to the Dark Side of the Force by virtue of his development from Palpatine’s DNA. What is notable about Snoke’s inclusion here is that his production was an offshoot of Palpatine’s attempts to create a perfect vessel to house his essence so that he could cheat death. That is, like the clone trooper project, Snoke’s creation was a byproduct of a larger eugenic project to create a perfect organism through genetic manipulation that would eliminate the imperfections from his genome. In this, Palpatine was less successful with his intended hosts than he was with the clone trooper project: the majority of the subjects of the project were born with “impurities” that led to their rejection, with the final subject of the project being born utterly Force blind. This, however, did not deter Palpatine’s eugenic aim: he allowed the Force blind subject to reproduce “naturally,” resulting in the protagonist of the sequel trilogy, Rey, as a perfect host who inherited all of the beneficial qualities of his bloodline. Simultaneously, Palpatine also sought to take custody over Ben Solo, later known as Kylo Ren, whose status as the latest in the Skywalker bloodline all but ensured that he could function as a perfect vessel for Palpatine’s essence.
To be clear, both Palpatine’s project to create the perfect vessel and the clone trooper project that he spearheaded had the aim of producing perfect human organisms through genetic manipulation to purge them of undesirable traits not suited for the purposes of their creation. For the clone troopers, this was the purging of independence and other traits not necessary in a soldier; for the strand-casts, this was creation of a perfect vessel for his will, a vessel capable of containing his essence. In both contexts they provide the necessary background for any discussion of the Bad Batch and disability through Schalk’s reconsidered supercrip narrative, and to make clear the ways that The Bad Batch reframes narratives of disability within Star Wars.
Having established this background, let me be clear: The Bad Batch is not a supercrip narrative. Indeed, Nala Se, the Kaminoan Chief Medical Scientist of the clone trooper project refers to the Batch as “medically defective clones whose cellular mutation enhanced traits desirable in a soldier,” traits which include Hunter’s enhanced senses which allow him to detect the electromagnetic signatures of droids and other machines, Wrecker’s brute strength and presumably his childlike behavior, Tech’s “exceptional mind” which manifests in out of the box thinking and an enhanced problem solving capacity, and Crosshair’s improved sharpshooting skills. The only exception to Nala Se’s thesis is Omega, the only female clone to date and the last sample of Fett’s pure genome, and Echo whose status as a multiple limb amputee warranted his assignment to the Batch by virtue of the extent of his prosthesis and his PTSD, which classified him as “medically defective.” Still further, Nala Se makes clear that the Batch’s “defects” are the result of “preexisting aberrations in (their) DNA,” which would have been eliminated in the production process of clone troopers. Here, through the language used by Nala Se, the scientist ultimately responsible for the maintenance and upkeep of the clone troopers, do we have the first indication of the Bad Batch as disabled troopers. As such, we might assume that the Batch are “supercrips” due to the ways that their disabilities, and they are disabilities, elevate them above the rank and file clone troopers. However, doing so would disregard the broader social and cultural context of their disabilities within the overall narrative of Star Wars.
Recall in the description of the clone trooper project above, that every clone trooper was intended to be identical to one another due to their derivation from a common template. While subsequent experience might result in the development of unique personalities, each trooper was expected to conform generally to a normative standard. To this end, while the Batch’s disabilities do make them more effective at their jobs, this enhancement is always framed in the language of deviation from the assumed and enforced standard of the clone trooper project. The Batch’s status as “defective” is reinforced by the institutional structures, the social organization of the Grand Army of the Republic, an organization which is intensified as it is reorganized into the first Imperial Army. While Nala Se’s designation of the Batch as “medically defective” is one telling example of their status within the institutional and social structures of the Army of the Republic and the Imperial Army, that the “regular” clone troopers refer to the Bad Batch as the “defect squad” highlights the ways in which their disability is taken up as a mode of marginalization within their broader social world. That is, despite their relative success in their assigned roles, their “preexisting aberrations,” or disabilities, are viewed as marking the batch as “less than” in the eyes of the regular clone troopers.
Were this not enough, the medical droids tasked with maintaining the health of the clone troopers, who function as extensions of the institutional structure of the clone trooper project, also refer to the Batch as “genetically defective” while treating Echo for wounds sustained in a brawl started as a result of the regular troopers referring to the Batch as the “defect squad.” In Echo’s context, the description of “defective” takes on additional import as it immediately follows Echo having a minor panic attack brought on by his apparent trauma at the hands of the medical complex. To be clear, Echo’s prostheses were forcibly attached to him by the Separatist military after the loss of his limbs during the events that resulted in his capture. While not part of the Bad Batch series, the process of Echo’s treatment is depicted during the Clone Wars animated series and the traumatic nature of the circumstances mirrors much of the abuse suffered by disabled people at the hands of a medical and scientific complex that seeks to “fix” disability through technological solutions imposed upon us. To turn back to the topic at hand, despite the purported benefits of their “aberrations,” the Batch are subject to the marginalization that accompanies an ableist social organization, despite the prevalence of technology which renders disability a non-issue for most members of galactic society. That said, rather than “superpowered supercrips,” the Batch are among the first clear cut representations of disability in Star Wars that makes clear the persistence of ableism within the broad structures of Star Wars’ fictional world.
This then, raises the question as to the nature of the ableist structures that organize the social context in which the Batch operates. We can take a clue as to this structure from the language used by Nala Se and the medical droid which represents the broader institutional structures of the clone trooper project, specifically through the ways in which both use the language of medicine and science to articulate the deviation of the Batch from the enforced norm. This language aligns with what Shelley Tremain calls the medical model of disability, described in the following:
disability is, in effect, assumed to be equal to, or the inevitably detrimental consequence for human functioning of, an objective biological characteristic (i.e., a naturally detrimental human attribute), namely, an impairment. As biological human attributes (or characteristics), impairments are assumed to possess transhistorical and transcultural properties that exist before and independent of social norms, practices, and policies. In short, on this conception of disability, impairments are the objective, biological precursors to disability, that is, the intrinsic characteristics (pathologies or abnormalities) of individuals that manifest in remarkably uniform kinds of “disabilities” (construed as abnormal functioning).9
This point bears mentioning as the forms of marginalization encountered by the Batch are grounded in their treatment as “medically defective” such that despite their successes as soldiers, many of which are attributed to their defects, they will always be viewed as defective or less than, as the product of aberrations which should have been corrected in their production process. To be more concrete about this application, one of the primary displays of the Batch’s disabled status is their unwillingness to adhere to standard military doctrine like their clone brethren. More than anything else, their creative problem solving and unique tactical acumen, or out of the box thinking is taken as the sign of their abnormality as it causes them to deviate from the established norms of conduct expected of clone troopers. Still further, it is this abnormality that enables the Batch to resist the effects of both their clone conditioning and their implanted biochips which ensures the loyalty of the run of the mill clones.
As the Batch’s disability manifests primarily in their unwillingness to blindly follow the orders programmed into the run of the mill clones, it is this abnormality that the medical industrial complex that maintains the clone trooper project sought to correct. This functions in line with Tremain’s medical model of disability, specifically insofar as the social organization of the newly formed Imperial Army, under the direction of Governor Tarkin engages in “the development of scientific and medical research and interventions that promise to correct, eliminate, and prevent impairments that entail disabilities and their attendant restrictions on people’s life prospects.” In the first episode, Tarkin not only engages in a series of aptitude tests to determine the suitability of the Batch for integration into the social structure of the Imperial Army, but he also embarks on a project to discipline the Batch back into line with the rest of the clone troopers through the forced activation of their biochips, which ultimately culminates in the use of what appears to be shock therapy on Crosshairs. To be clear, the scene in which Crosshairs’ biochip is reactivated recalls the use of shock devices on disabled children to “correct” the behavioral manifestations of their disability. Intentional or otherwise, the sequence, and its place within the medical model of disability, clearly cements the connection of the Batch with the ongoing history of disability and attempts to “correct” disabled people.
In the above, the organization of the social context of the Army of the Republic and the Imperial Army around the medical model of disability is unsurprising given the mass-produced nature of the clone troopers. That is, because the troopers are the result of a process of production which itself includes the development of scientific and medical research interventions intended to ensure their conformity with a specified purpose, it is unsurprising that any in-universe understanding of the clone troopers would rely upon a medicalized treatment of ability to enforce quality control over the troopers themselves. Indeed, given the mass-produced nature of the clone troopers, we might characterize the totality of the maintenance programs implied in the clone trooper facilities and support apparatus as functioning in line with Tremain’s description; however, the above should be taken to reframe the understanding of the Batch as disabled characters within the broader narrative established by the clone troopers as character and the larger Star Wars universe. Put another way, because of the medicalized understanding of the clone troopers as products it is through the medical model of disability that their disability becomes apparent both as a social consequence of their “aberration” and through the ways that the eugenic nature of the clone trooper project makes intelligible the Batch as disabled.
As disabled characters whose disability is central to their narrative, the Batch largely evades the tropeish depictions of the supercrip or tragic depictions of disability in media. Further, they also resist narratives in science fiction that treat their disability as fixable, going so far as to point to the ways in which such fixes are disciplinary, as in the example of Crosshairs’ literally being tortured into compliance with the normative expectations of a clone trooper. This point bears special mention as not only is the process of disciplining Crosshairs into conformity with the rest of the clone troopers depicted as uniquely painful, it also results in a version of Crosshairs which is devoid of the compassion depicted by other members of the Batch. While this “improved” version of Crosshairs is treated as a tragic figure, the tragedy in his character is not ultimately rooted in his disability. Rather, it is rooted through the ways in which he commits acts of cruelty in the name of being a “good soldier,” or in line with the normative ideal of what a “good soldier” should be. That is, it is the result of the disciplinary structures imposed upon him that Crosshairs becomes a tragic figure, something made clear through the words of Omega who seeks to absolve him of any potential guilt that comes from his disciplining in line with the ideals of a good soldier. Indeed, Omega’s statement that Crosshairs cannot help being what he is, or what he becomes ultimately disciplined into, does not ultimately excuse Crosshairs’ actions: it makes clear that the ways in which his actions can be understood are products of disciplinary action imposed upon him.
The above is crucial as it is Omega’s compassion for Crosshairs, and her position in the narrative, which makes clear one of the most valuable elements of The Bad Batch as a narrative about disability: its value as an open vision of solidarity within the disability community. While the Batch are united by their shared experience of disability, and experience not limited by the nature of their disability or its presentation, but the recognition of a shared experience of difference in a world that demands conformity. Here, the mode of solidarity I have in mind is best described by Sara Ahmed:
Solidarity does not assume that our struggles are the same struggles, or that our pain is the same pain, or that our hope is for the same future. Solidarity involves commitment, and work, as well as the recognition that even if we do not have the same feelings, or the same lives, or the same bodies, we do live on common ground.10
Nowhere is this clearer than the inclusion of Omega into the Batch. As Omega is a “pure” clone of Jango Fett, save for the modification to her genome which resulted in her female gender, it might be easy to assume that Omega is not disabled in the same ways as the rest of the Batch, however, recall the above statement that the Batch is united by their experience of difference as much as their designation as disabled. Omega’s gender notwithstanding, her possession of a “curious mind” which tends to lead her into trouble, as well as what Hunter describes as an “enhanced state of awareness” which Omega presents as an above average sensitivity and empathy to the world around her, tends towards a reading of Omega as just as non-normative and neurodivergent as her brothers in the Batch. While all of the above might be attributable to Omega’s cloistered upbringing on Kamino, it is her admitted sense of her own difference and her comfort with the Batch that is, in my view, indicative of the kind of solidarity that makes up the disability community. Narratively, both Omega and the Batch recognize one another as kindred, members of the same community, a point emphasized by Omega’s defense of the Batch immediately after meeting them, and her attempts to ensure the Batch’s survival after she adopts them as her brothers.
For their part, the Batch makes every attempt to include Omega where possible. While Hunter initially attempts to find Omega a home with a more ‘normal’ family, Omega’s desire to remain with the Batch and Hunter’s subsequent recognition that he has much to learn about caring for and including her in the activities of the Batch, indicates the ways in which intracommunity solidarity is an ongoing process of negotiation and mutual recognition of need. That is, while Omega and the Batch might have initially come together across their shared awareness of their disability, the process of becoming a crip family, of attaining solidarity, was one that required mutual understanding and all members of the growing community as they adapted to their changed circumstances.
To be clear, the narrative of The Bad Batch is still ongoing and there are still three episodes left of the first season. However, the Batch are among the few Star Wars properties that I, as a disabled Star Wars fan, felt “at home” in. From the Batch’s description of standard clone troopers as “regs,” which I read as functioning in the same way that “neurotypical” functions in the disability community, to Tech’s objection that the Batch is “more deviant than defective,” the Bad Batch has finally made clear that there is a place for disability in a galaxy, far, far, away.
1 Covino, Ralph. “Star Wars, Limb Loss, and What It Means to Be Human.” Disability and Science Fiction: Representation of Technology as Cure, edited by Kathryn Allen, Palgrave Macmillan, 2013, pp. 103–13.
2 Wälivaara, J. “Blind Warriors, Supercrips, and Techno-Marvels: Challenging Depictions of Disability in Star Wars.” Pop. Cult. 2018, 51, 1036–1056
3 Schalk, Sami. “Reevaluating the Supercrip.” Journal of Literary & Cultural Disability Studies, vol. 10, no. 1, 2016, pp. 71–86.
4 Schalk, 84
5 Schalk, 81
6 Schalk, 82
7 Covino, 109
8 Covino, 110
9 Tremain, Shelley. Foucault and Feminist Philosophy of Disability Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 2017, pg. 86
10 Ahmed, Sara. The Cultural Politics of Emotion pg. 189
Johnathan Flowers is a Professorial Lecturer in the Department of Philosophy & Religion at American University. Flowers’ research areas include African American intellectual history, Japanese Aesthetics, American Pragmatism, Philosophy of Disability, and Philosophy of Technology. His current research focuses on the affective ground of experience, identity, and personhood with a specific emphasis on race, gender, and disability as felt orientations in and towards the world. Additionally, Flowers works in the areas of Science and Technology Studies and Comics Studies where he applies insights from American Pragmatism, Philosophy of Race, and Disability Studies to current issues in human/computer interaction, artificial intelligence and machine learning, and representations of identity in popular culture.
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