Why I only watch shows and movies about disabled people with actual disabled actors
This is an issue I never even considered before I became disabled in 2016. No judgement here if that’s you too, but if after reading this short and sweet diddy...if it hasn’t at least opened your mind a bit about how absolutely little disability is portrayed in the media (and usually it’s seen as a “bad” or “devastating” thing)—then I don’t know if I can help. But I’ll try!
So there’s this movie coming out with some actors I love! But honestly I probs won’t see it.
It seems like it’s pretty close to home, what with the whole navigating disability thing and working with a personal care attendant (PCA) to boot. (How do they know my life??) I’m sure it’ll have some funny lines, and it will most assuredly point out frustrations of being a disabled person in the world (which will definitely open people’s eyes to how inaccessible it still is!). Yay for that!
What I’m having a hard time coming to terms with: an able-bodied actor is playing a disabled person. Think about it, like really hard. Let it sink in, and wash over you.
Spoiler alert: it sucks.
Do you watch the Daily Show? Trevor Noah even admitted to thinking it was fine (but now sees it from another perspective).
So here’s the tea:
give disabled actors a chance to play these roles! A-listers can play opposite them (if that’s what the Hollywood executives are worried about?). Its actually quite diminishing, y’all. If you are thinking that somehow disabled actors aren’t as ‘talented’, then that is an intrusive, ableist, thought. (You know, on account of thinking an entire group of people is less than, and stuff.)
It’s important to understand why we might have these preconceptions or ideas about something as vast and diverse as the world of disability. It’s honestly such a big part of the world, but RARELY ever gets a chance in the spotlight. I would even venture to guess, if you or a loved one isn’t disabled, that the most you think of disabled folks is when you’re trying to find a parking spot, amiright?
**I’ve said this in earlier posts and social media as well but, please refrain from using the word ‘handicap’ in all ways describing disability. Wonder why? Watch more here as NowThis threads together disability activist Annie Segarra’s words.
Anyway, representation matters! I feel like I say that a lot, but it bears repeating.
Once more for the people in the back: representation matters!
Here are some places to start.
(these are a few resources that highlight actors with disabilities! If you have other resources on this topic, please share them with me!)
https://www.phamaly.org/ This is an awesome resource in Denver: a theater company that only casts disabled actors! If you didn’t know, disability is extremely diverse in every way and this theater company celebrates that. The performances are top-notch, and someday when I’m able to travel I will definitely go there.
Speechless, ABC. The main actor who plays JJ, who is non-verbal, has Cerebral Palsy (which is what the actor has too), and uses a wheelchair. Very highly recommend! Especially for anyone who has a PCA, the relationship between them is the best!
Atypical, Netflix. The main actor doesn’t have autism, so the first season is a bit rough once you realize that, although it’s done as nicely/tactfully as it could be. A lot of disability activists reached out about the show, and it’s glaring lack of representation, and season two features disabled actors throughout the entire season which: 1-showed flexibility and 2-showed they actually listened!
Sure they aren’t perfect but, it’s still a big step for the community. That’s exactly why I’m like “dammit Hollywood, a main role in a big time movie starring a guy in a wheelchair and you give it to a guy who can walk, run, and presumably jump. How the hell would this guy know more about disability than the average disabled dude? The answer is next to nothing. Unless you are disabled, there are so many things that you don’t know, and that’s the truth. How will you find out? Just ask the disabled actors that don’t have work.”
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