Ableism is discrimination and social prejudice against people with disabilities and/or people who are perceived to be disabled. Ableism characterizes people who are defined by their disabilities as inferior to the non-disabled.
I was first introduced to the books when my friend's little sister with Sotos Syndrome brought them from the library. I could not believe that when I flipped through the pages many of Gege Heffley's targets were special needs just like myself and her. She said she got the books before the live-action movie was coming out and I tried my very best to explain to her that sometimes humor and stereotypes can harm and hurt people like us often in horrible ways. Middle School is hard but it’s even harder for people like Rowley in the book who could be interpreted as having Downs Syndrome. When someone like Greg not only manipulates you but continues to do so out of pure joy and satisfaction, that is ableist bullying. This is because what Jeff Kinney does not admit is that Greg Heffley is an ableist bully put into a positive light. He admits that Greg does what he does because he’s 12 years old but it does not make what he does right in any way.
In the books, Greg writes in his titular Diary that the people in his class that are not like him are all morons. His relationship with Rowley seems like a friendship until the second and third books when Rowley discovers that Greg is manipulative and even abusive to some of Rowley’s friends. When Rowley realizes that he too is being abused and manipulated he stops being friends with Greg, and Greg continues planning out his Diary of a Wimpy Kid much like Regina's Burn Book in Mean Girls with no punishment or consequences.
I like Rowley and the other special ed children in the book were what schools call Partial Integration Students. This meant the special ed room was our safety net and we took classes back and forth between special ed and regular ed often with regular ed kids. Regular ed kids who had bad social boundaries when it came to us in their space, one time I had a bad sinus infection with dark circles on my eyes so some girls who thought it was unsightly plastered my face with makeup even though I did not want it. It was fifth and sixth grade when I heard the R-word the first time and read in horror Flowers for Algernon, about a low-functioning man who takes medicine to help him function until the lab rat who took the same medicine dies from the meds.
Imagine being a person who took meds to help you function and reading that book twice along with The Outsiders. Yet this book is now a part of the reading curriculum for special ed rooms with no questions about Greg's behavior and how to give Greg's Diary the Burn Book treatment like in Mean Girls.
Why were there no editors in the room where it happened that Diary of a Wimpy Kid got published saying or addressing it being a dinner bell for bullies to keep being bullies to special ed children? This issue was addressed by a down syndrome girl who did something very brave. She sent a letter to the publishers of the series about how the language of the book harms and hurts special needs people. She had heard nothing back from Jeff Kinney or the publishers which is sick and disreputable for any children's author to do since J.K.Rownlings transphobic comments on Twitter. On my Reddit community for diagnosed autistic people, I had to ban and block people from r/LoadedDiper a fan community of the books from commenting and harassing others for agreeing with me.
Jeffy Kinney can do as many signings and charitable things as he does but that should not make him less accountable to the special needs community. Just like Walt Disney, he built something that looked nice on the surface with a terrible underbelly. Despite calling his worker's family he was anti-Union and anti-Semitic and now Disney is on the ableist bandwagon. Jeff Kinney can as Martin Luther puts it, “Put crosses on the little shoes” but he still can’t get away from hell because God or whoever you believe in likes a good craftsman. What Greg does to Rowley and other characters can be read the wrong way by young children and parents have to talk to their children about ableist bullying behaviors before engaging with Diary of a Wimpy Kid.
Good craftsmen are people like Charles Schulz, Bill Waterson, Hindrich Hoffman, Dr.Seuss, Tezuka Osamu, and myself who want to showcase special needs people and their struggles as people who have thoughts, personalities, feelings, and emotions. A lot of comics deal with mental health issues from the very beginning, Struwwelpeter has uncombable hair syndrome and ODD, Zappel Phillip has ADHD, Hans Gluck has ADD with Aspbergers and they were created by a child psychologist Heidrich Hoffman who wrote his book because he could not find one that piqued his son's interest. Thus he created the first comic book called Der Struwwelpeter which is what my comic Struwwelkinder is based on.