Dear Hollywood: I Need to See More People Like Me in Movies and TV


Dear Hollywood,

Please cast disabled actors in roles so I can see people like me in movies and on TV. I recently saw the movie “Downsizing,” where one of the characters was an amputee. When I came home from the movie, I looked up to see if the actress was in fact disabled, and she was not.

In 1980, the show “Facts of Life” was among the first primetime TV shows to feature someone with a disability — Gerri Jewell, a comedian with cerebral palsy. In the years since, there has been very little progress with this issue, although there are a few recent shows featuring people with disabilities, including “Born this Way,” “Speechless,” and “Breaking Bad.”

I have a huge issue with Hollywood’s take on what disability looks like — it is so wrong I don’t even know where to start, but I will try. Hollywood creates characters that are disabled like Sean Murphy, a doctor who has autism and savant syndrome, but the actor who plays him does not have this disability. Instead, he consulted with a specialist in the autism world. Another big example is Artie Abrams from “Glee” who is supposed to be paralyzed from a car accident; that actor is not disabled. If you create a disabled character for movies and television, they should have their disability written into the storyline — not have an able-bodied actor be consulted by someone who is an “expert” on that aspect of a disability. The able-bodied actor is not going to truly understand disability, because they have never had one.

If you want a character who is disabled in your television show or movie, hire disabled actors and actresses. They are out there and I am sure they would love the work. I am sure they are able to do the work you ask of them; you just have to give them the chance to do it. Only then will true inclusion happen, and we will see ourselves on screen as we should be, true to who we are and what disability truly looks like in our eyes and not the eyes of Hollywood.

Sincerely,

Someone who needs to see more inclusion in movies and television


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