Welcome back! Last week we continued to look at The Guardian’s article on The BBC’s remake of The Elephant Man (at lot of the’s with a capital T in one sentence), hitting a significant, and controversial, snag in production: The time honoured tradition of hiring a person from one demographic to portray someone from another demographic (an infamous example being blackface). Why is it so controversial? Surely everyone can understand the need for an increased presence of disability (disabled actors playing disabled characters) on the big screen! I wanna see a disabled big actor or media executive get a meteoric rise in fame, blow it all on a couple of poor production choices and mired in scandals, than fall just as fast from grace to end up acting in/producing B-rated movies! Equal opportunities man! Will hold your horses, because we are about to find out why.
Keep a handle on those big beasties! Otherwise they’ll run wild! Though I’m not sure if there's any other way to run. Never saw someone run civilised, that's what people call “walking”.
One reason for this being a controversial topic, and why it should be okay for non-disabled actors playing disabled characters, is simple: Being an actor requires one to, well, act. To be something or someone they are not. That's why Tom Cruze can pretend to be an ex-military archaeologist in the remake of the mummy (hope I got that right), why The Rock can pretend to be either a character with an ex-military/sports background. Why some politicians can pretend to care for the little guy’s (emphasis on the term, little) while doing the exact opposite. Acting. Can’t be an actor if you can’t act.
It can also extend to occupation uses. The Rock can’t be a character with a military background, because (assuming he got all those muscles from being in a secret unit in the military, and not from a world-class wrestling bit that the US army wants us to believe. It’s a conspiracy y’all) he does not have a military background. Need someone to act as a cop? Hire an actual cop. Need a sexually-aware, angsty teen in your movie? Find a sexualy-aware, angsty teen (no shortage of those at least). Need an alien? Hire an actual alien (seems far fetched nowadays, but with everyone looking for other life out in space, we’re bound to find it eventually, Just hope they don’t try to invade us first before agreeing to star in our movies).
Hopefully the first time anyone of us sees an alien like this, it is because he is in a horror movie and not about to suck out this poor person’s soul.
But the article makes a counterpoint: such fears are groundless. Why, having someone with the same type of disability, or at least any disability, play the role of the Elephant man could add to the experience and story of the movie. Finally, someone who has at least some of the same experiences as the protagonist, and can act convincingly as the character. No to mention that a sense of legitimacy and acceptance would wash over the disabled community, as finally seeing one of our own play a major part in a movie detailing a rather sad moment in the history of people with disabilities (I may have already brought this point up before, but in my defense: I was tired when writing this.).
Also, according to the Guardian, such fears highlight, in their own way, the negative responses that minority communities face when speaking up for themselves (mind you, posting mean comments is historically one of the least harmful things done to minorities whenever they speak out for themselves. Ever read about the Huguenots in Medieval France? Poor guys). For people with disabilities in this case, who “have a long culture of being infantilized” (The Guardian, Why are disabled actors ignored when it comes to roles like the Elephant man?), i.e, to explain (slowly) to, by non-disabled people, as to why our own belief about our lives (how we should be treated, what resources we need, you know) is just crazy talk. Or, to be politically correct, a little muddled (an average Monday for us basically).
Well, that does it for this week. Next week will be a last look at this topic, my personal thoughts on it this time, followed by a completely new topic the week after! Gotta keep things fresh after all (as fresh as fruit picked right from the orchard without all those chemicals poured on in the supermarkets. Or at least supermarket-fresh). But until next time, this continues to be, the Audacious Aspie.