Disability in popular culture

As a kid, I would get very excited to learn that a disabled character was actually being played by a disabled actor, why you ask; because, so often this is NOT the case. I wrote a similar post here

 As I got older it became clear when they were played by able-bodied people, especially where wheelchairs were involved. The most recent example is Artie from glee. In the pilot episode they had him lose control of his chair and hit the wall during one of the songs. I’ll admit I found this hilarious but at the same time a bit demeaning to anyone in a chair.

Why can’t they use real-life disabled folk to play these characters? I just feel it would be way more authentic. I know they do this sometimes by why not all the time? You may remember the show Sue Thomas F.B. Eye, about a deaf woman who works for the FBI. The actor who plays Sue is deaf and signs throughout the show as well as lip-reads and verbally communicates. If you can have a deaf actor playing a deaf character why can’t you have a chair user when the character is in a chair?

Also I feel like the media glosses over issues of accessibility, rarely if ever a character is barred from something because of accessibility issues in fact usually the person is carried into the venue before that happens. How realistic is this response though? Not doable for someone in a power wheelchair, could this be why then that it is a rarity to have a character that uses motorized wheelchair? It’s easier to gloss over these issues if we make the character have the lesser form of injury, illness or disability, just so we can put them into a manual wheelchair instead of power?

All that said no wonder characters all too often that have disabilities seem transparent when watching tv or movies.

If you got to the end of this I commend you, it was long but I was on a role!

What are your thoughts on this subject?

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About lifeofthedifferentlyabled

Laura Forde founded her blog through my eyes: my life with cerebral palsy in December 2009 out of a great need she had, realizing that there was a vast gap in firsthand accounts of what life was like living with Cerebral Palsy: she knew then that the only way to see this reflected online was to create the change herself and thus this blog was born Laura was born four months premature, weighing a mere one pound three ounces and given ten percent odds for survival. She was diagnosed with cerebral palsy at the age of three. After graduating from college, she continued writing and doing what she loves to do most; speaking to groups about her life experiences and sharing what she has learned from her journey. Her blog lifeofthedifferentlyabled was created after discovering that the online community lacked the voice of people in her situation. In its first year, the site saw over 20,000 hits from all over the world. Her readers are from all walks of life; some with disabilities, parents of children, professionals, and others who seek to gain a better understanding of the world of the differently abled. You can follow her on Twitter or Facebook
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7 Responses to Disability in popular culture

  1. rog says:

    i get long winded myself , i think you covered it well

  2. I agree with you. Who better to play a person in a wheelchair than someone who actually uses a wheelchair? I was very disheartened a few years back when I found out that most of the children in the Toys R Us ads who are in wheelchairs and walkers are actually AB.

  3. 5kidswdisabilities says:

    You are SOOOO right! I also hate it when they do not use individuals with developmental disabilities. The actor playing a developmentally disabled person usually portrays the role in a demeaning way.
    Lindsey Petersen, http://5kidswdisabilities.wordpress.com

  4. Adelaide says:

    I was very pleased when on Patricia Bauer’s site a young woman who actually is blind was to play Helen Keller.

    (There is a wonderful paper by Liz Crow called Rethinking the problematic icon).

    I tend to write my characters with quite severe or multiple impairments, and often with prejudices to overcome. Often their impairments are invisible.

    In 2009 there have been many autistic characters in movies; for example Mary and Max and Adam. In 2008 there was The Black Balloon. This last had minor characters in the roles to make it more realistic.

    One of my role models for the last decade has been Ju Gosling, a disabled multimedia storyteller. She was in Australia some weeks ago: November 2009, I believe.

    • omg I have readership from Australia?

      • Adelaide says:

        You certainly do have Australian readership!

        Here is a great Australian site: CP Blogs Australia

        The blogs are from four different perspectives: a dad who has a son with cerebral palsy, Freya who ‘puts the social into social science’, Jenny Kapp the ‘information junkie’ and Robyn and Katrina with The Scene. The Scene is everything else, and there are great stories from Emily.

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