Dis-ruptions: Heavy Metal Appropriations of Disability in Media

Eric Smialek, Samantha Bassler

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review


Our chapter analyzes three different media formats’ appropriations of disability for symbolic and commercial reasons. Our first approach, “Disability as PR,” addresses how concert footage and social media celebrate the apparent visibility of disability in the metal community. For instance, memes position the metal community as a benevolent collective that offers graciousness toward wheelchair-bound scene members. Our second approach, “Disability as a Prop,” shows how symbols of injury in music videos communicate horror and discomfort. Metallica’s “One” uses footage of a disfigured soldier to associate injury with dread and the uncanny. We reveal how it relies on public discomfort and fears toward becoming disabled. Our third approach, “Disability as Freak Show,” investigates where metal recordings caricature disabled people. In subgenres like pornogrind, disability functions as a carnivalesque spectacle to provoke disgust and humour. This humour relies on an unspoken consensus about the undesirability of sex with partners who have disfigurements, or cognitive/congenitive physical disabilities. We critique these messages as they appear in concert banter, song lyrics, and album artwork.

Ultimately, we critique ableist worldviews from disability scholarship to metal research, joining calls within metal studies to raise social awareness in the metal scene for a more inclusive community.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationHeavy Metal and Disability
Subtitle of host publicationCrips, Crowds, and Cacophonies
EditorsJasmine Hazel Shadrack, Keith Kahn-Harris
Place of PublicationBristol, UK
Number of pages18
ISBN (Electronic)9781789389470
ISBN (Print)9781789389456
Publication statusPublished - 1 Apr 2024

Publication series

NameAdvances in Metal Music and Culture
ISSN (Print)2752-4426
ISSN (Electronic)2752-4434

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