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Picture a world in which an actor with a disability wins an Academy Award. Sadly, that storyline remains no more than a Hollywood fantasy.
In recent years, the #OscarsSoWhite trending hashtag campaign has shed light on the lack of diversity in the movie industry. Yet ahead of this year’s Oscars on Feb. 24, society’s definition of diversity all too often remains narrow and only encompasses race and ethnicity.
Dustin - Hoffman - Best - Actor - Protagonist
Ever since Dustin Hoffman won Best Actor in 1989 for playing a protagonist with autism in “Rain Man,” about half of the Best Actor winners have also portrayed people with disabilities or illnesses. Yet it’s alarming that Hollywood seems to greatly value stories of disabilities without actually employing actors, directors, storytellers, or technicians with disabilities.
Year in and year out, actors without disabilities are nominated for playing characters with disabilities, most recently Sally Hawkins in “The Shape of Water” and Eddie Redmayne in “The Theory of Everything.” Meanwhile, according to a Ruderman Family Foundation study, 95 percent of television characters with disabilities are played by able-bodied actors.
Upside - Bryan - Cranston - Millionaire - Blockbuster
“The Upside,” which casts Bryan Cranston as a quadriplegic millionaire, is the latest blockbuster capitalizing on stories of disability without casting a an actor with a disability to portray the character authentically.
This is a clear missed opportunity to promote inclusive casting and affirm that artists with disabilities will always be the expert of the disability experience. There are so many qualified actors with disabilities out there. Why didn’t “The Upside” choose to proactively advance diversity, a value that so many of us purport to cherish?
Upside - Trend - Representation - Disability - Media
“The Upside” also exacerbates the trend of limited authentic representation of disability in media. The current prevailing narrative suggests the experience of disability is one of tragedy. But I, for one, have no interest in audiences seeing yet another picture which reinforces that idea.
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