Welcome back! This week we continue our look at why Hollywood keeps having non-disabled actors fill roles of disabled characters (physical or otherwise) and portray people with disabilities on screen. And what better example of this than the BBC’s remake of The Elephant man (it probably sounds more like the name of a superhero to those not in the know, but a lot sadder than most, is a one-off series and, while I did not see the movie myself, I get the feeling that everyone loses. Also a lot less action), where, once again an able bodied actor plays a person with physical disabilities. But what, if you remember form the last post, is the industry-wide systemic problem?
According to The Guardian, “it’s routine for non-disabled actors to play disabled characters, often gaining critical acclaim in the process.” (The Guardian, Why are disabled actors ignored when it comes to roles like the elephant man? Paragraph 2). How routine? Why not ask, as examples from The Guardian itself, Dustin Hoffman from Rain Man (why is it called Rain man? Is he supposed to be omnipotent about the weather because of his Autistic/Aspergerss? Best. Weatherman. Ever) or Eddie Redmayne (cool last name. To bad he does not actually have a red mayne, or any mayne for that matter). Also, while your at it can you get an autograph from them for me? Not that I like either of them much...or at all, but only so that I can have two autographs from celebrities to lord it over my friends. Thanks.
Much like this lady above: show it off loud and proud, saying “hey, I’m an egotistical man that had an unhealthy amount of emotional response after receiving two pieces of paper from people of whom I only know through the screen”.
What this entails is a whole lot of bad news, to varying degrees. So lets list them all! Yeaaaahhhh!! It: takes away both work and exposure from legitimate actors with disabilities, forcing more into unemployment! (not like there isn't enough already) It pushes disability representation to the side in our arts and cultures! (not that they need help with that) It also has non-disabled actors act out the characteristics of our disabled community, without any input (or involvement) from us! But if you think that it’s just people with disabilities who are making noises about this, guess again.
The trans community started to raise a fuss after a cisgender actor was slated to play a trans character. Fortunately, she was wise enough to drop the role. Now if only if only we can get a none-disabled actor, or at least a non-physically disabled actor to start with, to do the same (ah progress, you’re always fashionably late). According to The Guardian, a fellow actor once wrote that “actors ‘cripping up’ turns disability into a defining feature, disrupts the story and makes the audience become voyeurs of difference” (The Guardian, Paragraph 3). You know how you want to cringe when most horror movies try to depict disability (with the notable exception of, I think, A quiet place, of whom I heard actually had disabled actors in it), especially cognitive or mental disabilities? Yeah.
Well, that does it for this week's post. Next week we will continue on with this subject, finding out just why it can be seen as contentious (which happens when we can’t find conscientious on an issue from conscious people. Though that may seem pompous). But until then, this continues to be, the Audacious Aspie.