Why I'll Be One of the First in Line to See 'Wonder'
Born with a facial difference, it’s a rarity for me to see anyone featured on the big screen who has a similar storyline to my own — especially with a storyline that is seen in a positive light. When it comes to Hollywood, often people with facial differences are shown as villains, awkward and social outcasts, or are not shown at all. Yet, most real-life people I know with facial differences are beautiful from the inside out, changing the world one life at a time.
When I picked up the book, “Wonder,” I couldn’t put it down.
When I found out there would be a movie? My excitement soared. (Ironically, before looking to see who was included in the cast, I told my friend, “Oh gosh — I hope Julia Roberts plays the mom of Auggie, the main character with the facial difference. I can’t imagine any other actress in that role.” And to add to my excitement, the casting department agreed.)
I’ve been excited for several movies in my lifetime, but never quite as excited as I am for “Wonder.”
My story may look different than Auggie’s, but the basics are still the same. From medical treatments to the bullying, for the first time in my life, I’ll be able to see a form of my storyline portrayed on the big screen.
When I talk to people who have read the book, I’ve learned how their perceptions of people have changed. I’ve heard the stories of discussions that parents have had with their children after their nightly reading, as “Wonder” took a turn on their nightstand. I’ve seen the concept of kindness being refreshed in people’s minds and actions.
Books and words have the power to change the world — and “Wonder” has. And now it’s about to hit the big screen this Friday. I have yet to see the movie, but I can only imagine how this movie may impact the world for years to come. I can only imagine the impressionable minds that may see the movie during a family night, walking out of that theater remembering that people are people — regardless of what they look like, or don’t look like — reminding them to treat others with kindness for the rest of their days on this planet.
Because of the work I do as a speaker and writer with a facial difference, I’m constantly in a variety of Facebook groups for people with a variety of facial differences — and “Wonder” has been a big debate on some of these pages.
Because the actor playing Auggie doesn’t actually have a facial difference. He’s a “typical” looking kid.
While I do agree it would have been preferred to have a child with the actual medical condition play the role of Auggie, I don’t know what went on behind the scenes in the casting process. Did children with the condition audition? I don’t know. Did the directors try to find a child who not only can play the role, but who also lives it? I don’t know that either. But the actor choice won’t stop me from going to see the movie.
I can understand why some people may avoid the movie due to standing their ground. About 95 percent of characters with disabilities are played by able-bodied actors, and that needs to change. It’s an important point to make, an important fact that needs to be changed. But I’m still going.
I’m still going because I want my ticket purchase to tell Hollywood these movies are craved, that they are needed. I want Hollywood to know I support the fact that they’ve made efforts towards showing someone with a facial difference in a positive light — and not just as the bitter, angry villain with a dramatic story. I want them to know I’m glad they’re sharing his story with love and humanity, and not with the stereotype that people with facial differences are “fearful” and “scary.”
But more importantly? I’m still going to see the movie, in theaters, because I want everyone walking in and out of that theater to know that the story of “Wonder” isn’t just a Hollywood story. It’s a story that’s real.
I want them to know, to be reminded, that people with facial differences do exist. That they are real people…That I am a real person, sitting in the same movie theater, watching the same movie. I want them to know that facial differences go beyond the two hours of a story they just saw on the screen.
As I go to to the theaters to see the movie, I hope anyone watching the 2017 production who may see me will realize they can start practicing kindness in that moment.
They can start practicing kindness by not staring at me. By not asking with a rude tone, “What’s wrong with your face?” They can show kindness by not calling me “contagious” or comparing me to a villain in their favorite superhero film. Kindness can be shown by not making assumptions about my story.
And better yet, I hope that if the movie leaves them with any questions about life with a physical difference, that they won’t be afraid to come up to me and ask out of genuine curiosity and a desire to learn, while using gentle body language and tone. (Not everyone with a facial difference would be comfortable with people doing this, so please be respectful if not all people with facial differences are open about their story.)
I hope the audience, including myself, walks out of that theater changed.
I hope we are all reminded to always, always choose kindness — because kindness matters.
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“Wonder” photo source: “Wonder” Facebook page