Actress Gal Gadot probably didn’t mean to offend anyone with a recent tweet — but she certainly did.
Stephen Hawking died Wednesday at the age of 76 from complications due to amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, a progressive neurodegenerative disease. On the day of his death, many, including “Wonder Woman” herself, mourned the world-renowned theoretical physicist and cosmologist on social media.
“Rest in peace Dr. Hawking,” Gadot wrote in a tweet. “Now you’re free of any physical constraints. Your brilliance and wisdom will be cherished forever.”
People with disabilities and their advocates took offense at Gadot’s statement that Hawking was finally free of his “physical constraints” and said the assertion was ableist, or discriminatory toward people with disabilities.
Hawking was diagnosed with ALS at the age of 21 — and is believed to have been living with the condition longer than any other patient in medical history. He spent the majority of his public life in a wheelchair and used a sophisticated computer system to speak.
Several people on Twitter explained to Gadot that it’s bothersome when a disability is viewed as something that inhibits a person from living life to the fullest and that death relieves a person of this burden.
Hawking has even credited his ALS as a motivating factor in his life.
“Before my condition was diagnosed, I had been very bored with life. There had not seemed to be anything worth doing,” he wrote in his 2013 memoir My Brief History. The realization that he might not even live long enough to earn his Ph.D. inspired Hawking to pour himself into his work.
“I suddenly realized that there were a lot of worthwhile things I could do if I was reprieved,” he wrote.
He added cheekily, “After all, if I was going to die anyway, I might as well do some good.”
Cartoonist Mitchell Toy also drew a tribute to Hawking that many viewed as ableist.
“It just reinforces the ableist view that disability is something negative,” filmmaker and activist Dominick Evans, who has spinal muscular atrophy — a progressive neuromuscular disability — told HuffPost of Gadot’s comment. “[It] encourages sentiments and beliefs that disabled people are somehow less simply because of their disability.”
“Do I think people mean something harmful when they say this?” he added. “No, I think they believe they are being kind, but the long-term implications of reinforcing Able Normative Supremacy in this world has direct implications and effects on disabled people ― especially with how we are viewed and treated.”