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.
Welcome back to the Audacious Aspie! This week I will be talking about a subject that will coincide nicely with the little side project that I was working on a couple of weeks ago (ever notice that the word coincide sounds almost like the words insecticide and genocide? Perhaps maybe, many years ago in history, there used to be a concerted effort made by a government and/or peoples to massacre everyone named Cohen, but then years after once all living memory and documentation disappeared from existence, it just became another word that now means something else completely? Just a thought). Some of you may remember the pole that was put up asking about your views on the Autism Acceptance and Awareness campaign and a couple of other things, will this post well build on top of that, while also encouraging discussion. Namely: Has this ever happened to you? I will explain.
Everyone, please take a moment of silence for all the Cohen’s who may/maynot have died horribly many years ago in a tragic coincide. If you are a Cohen yourself, be thankful that the world is a safer place, to be named Cohen.
I am (or was, depending on when you read this, present or future) taking a class in university all about human rights, i.e torture, the U.N, NGOs (or BINGO,s, for the Big International ones) and the like. And it was continuously sold by all I talked to, of which they were also sold on it by all of whom they talked to, as a really good, popular class that would probably be a really good idea for all their students to take, and maybe some profs as well. The much vaunted Human Rights class (What better name for a class about human rights?). And in this class you were taught pretty much one human rights subject every week, like the ones mentioned above (it was a first year, or entry, course so we really did not get to vested in any one topic), along with a student discussion group after words to help you understand the topics of the week a little bit more. Sounds like a really great course right? Well, it would be, except for one little hitch.
It had nothing, literally nothing, to say about disability rights, at all. Which is weird for a class billing itself as an introductory course to all the issues of human rights to leave out one particular human rights issue that (at least where I am from) has recently has gotten a lot of attention of late. That is something that those of whom I spoke to about this neglected to tell me (though in fairness, I did discuss it with them some years back, so it is possible that the course took a step backwards in the intervening time). Rather an odd thing to leave out when your supposed to be giving a short rundown on human rights issues right? (see what I did there? How I rhymed right with right? Clever right? Whoops, looks like I did it again ;-)
See how clever I am, rhyming one word with another word? Supe’s clever. Don’t give me that look.
Now I heard of an argument for this: can’t you just learn about disability rights through other human rights issues, like the learning about the bullying of people with disabilities and/or autistic/aspie just because they have disabilities and/or autistic/aspie in the same light as bullying people because of their skin colour? Or what about the issue of lack of employment facing those with disabilities and/or autism/asperger’s in the same light as employers discriminating against people who are gender non-conforming or are attracted to people of the same sex? Will for sure we could.
But why not the other way around? Why can’t we learn about the bullying of people of different skin colours through discussing only the bullying of people with disabilities and the rest? Or learn about the issue of lack of employment for people who are gender non-conforming and such through the same problem facing people with disabilities? Why is it that we, the disabled/autistic/aspie community, have to learn about our rights issues through other peoples rights issues? Seems a little, disingenuous doesn't it? (not to mention confusing, you’d be basically saying “why not learn about racism through ableism? Or Ableism through sixism? They’re the same thing right?”)
Now obviously no one should have to try to tease information about human rights issues concerning their social demographic through the history of other social demographics (the rainbow community shouldn't have to learn about their history purely through the history of straight and cis-gendered folks). But why, in a class concerned entirely about human rights issues affecting pretty much almost the whole world, is it disability rights that are left out? Surely our history of fighting (and continuing to fight) for our human rights deserves to be looked at and discussed to, right? The message of excluding such a topic, to me at least, sends a rather negative message not only about the importance of our struggle, but also about our continued insistence of being seen as people who not only deserve love and respect like everyone else, but are also contributing members of our society.
Whew! That was a rather tense and personal bit or writing on my part! But one that I felt has to be discussed, especially, if I am right, that I am not the only one who has experienced something like this. Now don’t worry, next week I will be continuing the discussion of hollywood and it’s notorious habit of casting non-disabled actors to play disabled roles. But until then, if this does, or has/might happen to you, than I hope that you will encourage the discussion of disability rights, feminism or any other social struggle that has, without reason, been left out of the...well, discussion (especially if they ask “well can’t you learn about it through other people's struggles?” Why should you?).
It takes a lot to be the one to stand up and talk about something that not everyone may understand, or even agree with, but it is far better (and you will feel far better) to champion a cause that is important to you, than to stay silent.
It won’t always be easy (trust me, I know this. I tried multiple times to get my class and discussion group to discuss disability rights), but at least you can say to yourself that you have tried, and who knows. You might have moved other people to look into the seemingly secret history of struggle faced by you and those like you. And, lest I forget (happens more than I sometimes like, or remember, to admit), this continues to be, the Audacious Aspie.
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.
Welcome back! This week we will look at an interesting, and probably controversial, topic that deals with how the media sees out Aspie/Autistic community. And, in this case more importantly, how they portray us to the wider society, and I don’t mean in paintings (though you could argue that everything is a painting of some kind: movies and video games are thousands of individual paintings in a row shown for a split second, and that books are just paintings of either words or images glued together to form a storyline. Man, thats deep. I must be what they call...woke). No, I’m talking about how they act as us in the movies: non-disabled actors playing disabled characters in movies. Will, enough talking, let's get right to it.
We all know that acting is the art of pretending to be someone, or something, your not. But there’s a difference between imitating to flatter, and mimicking to mock. There’s a reason stuff like black-face is frowned upon these days.
Have you heard of the old British (I assume it’s an old British film anyways) movie called the elephant man? If not, here's a description from IMDb “A Victorian surgeon rescues a heavily disfigured man who is mistreated while scraping a living as a side-show freak. Behind his monstrous façade, there is revealed a person of intelligence and sensitivity.” (IMDb: film description of The Elephant Man, 1980). Why are we talking about it? Will the BBC is doing a remake of that very film and, surprise surprise, the actor who is playing the Elephant man is not physically disabled. Rather, it will be the actor from that 80’s nostalgic, rose-tinted (or a hit T.V. show if you’re a fan) Netflix series Stranger things.
And who exactly will this actor be? Why, none other than Charlie Heaton! You know, the guy that looks like he went for the bowl-cut/Beatles option, decided it looked to ugly, so had the barber sheer off a section at the front of his hair to make it look modern and awesome (or, if your a fan, the cutesy lad with the gorgeous Beatles-like hair do)? Will, regardless of what you may think he looks like, we can all agree on one thing: He is not physically disabled. Hair-style disabled maybe, but not physically.
Well, if the Stranger Danger actor is not fit to play the Elephant man, than who is? Why, have you ever heard of this man called Adam Pearson? Adam Pearson is an actor with neurofibromatosis (tried to copy that word for word from the article and still got it wrong, autocorrect saved the day again) a condition that, according to The Guardian, was supposed to affect Joseph Merrick (Of whom the movie is based on I assume). If you want to read more about the man behind the movie, see here by All That's Interesting. After all: if you thought that the last couple of posts were depressing...why not read something else that’s depressing! (highly encouraged by psychiatrists everywhere to bring down your mood, harsh your mellow, and to spread those negative waves. Like that famous line from Kelly’s heroes “there you go with those negative waves again”).
Hey, I gotta stay relevant somehow. You think I’m gonna let the news have a monopoly on depressing stories? Not a chance! Tears are the new show of support.
As Mr. Pearson, who The Guardian claims was not even given the opportunity to audition, says “It’s a systemic problem, not only in the BBC but industry wide.” (The Guardian, Why are disabled actors ignored when it comes to roles like the Elephant Man?, Paragraph One). Will, that does it for this week's post. Next week we will continue with this rather interesting, and relevant, topic. And fear not if your interested, I found a site with lots of sources about this topic (or if your not interested, than start panicking. You know, imagine your whole entire schedule is thrown out of whack or something, or all of your collection about your favorite interest was destroyed in a fire. Probably the same thing). But until next time, this continues to be, the Audacious Aspie.