Emily Kranking

@ekranking | contributor
Emily Kranking, an actress with cerebral palsy, was recently seen in the Sundance smash short film F^¢k 'Em R!ght B@¢k as Linda. Emily also stars in Zeno Mountain Farm’s movie musical Best Summer Ever as Nancy. As a disability activist, Emily’s publications can be seen on The Mighty, Yahoo, and MSN, and she has recently begun her Master’s program in Disability Studies at the City University of New York. @emilykranking
Emily Kranking

Why Disney’s Seven Dwarves Switch-Up Should Make Us Grumpy

Let me start off by saying what everyone knows about me: I love Disney. I worked at Walt Disney World, for God’s sake! My ultimate dream is to voice their first disabled Disney Princess. As a Disability Studies grad student, I just applied for the Diversity & Inclusion internship at Walt Disney Animation Studios, which is also my dream place to work at! But, when the live-action division of Walt Disney Studios isn’t diverse or inclusive to my fellow disabled actors, I need to throw caution in the air and risk my chances for the fellowship by writing this. Apologizes to the WDAS recruitment team in advance! Last Monday, “Game of Thrones” actor Peter Dinklage, who is a little person with achondroplasia, shared his concern for Disney’s upcoming “Snow White and the Seven Dwarves” live-action adaption. Dinklage said on the WTF with Marc Marson podcast, “You’re progressive in one way [Casting a Latina actress for its princess] but then you’re still making that…backward story about seven dwarfs living in a cave together.” He adds that he’s still open to the movie. “Progressive spin? Let’s do it. Yeah. All in. But I just don’t know…the dwarf community is tired of this shit.” A day later, Disney followed up with, “To avoid reinforcing stereotypes from the characters and have been consulting with members of the dwarfism community.” This statement made me thrilled because it sounded like Disney actually does care about the disability and dwarfism communities. However, any hope that I had with this movie dropped like a bomb when popular movie website The Wrap leaked within seconds that Disney is officially cutting the dwarves. “Disney will fill the void with a group of what they describe as ‘magical creatures,’ according to casting sheets…” the movie site reported. “They are currently looking for voice actors to give these creatures personality.” If I wasn’t caught up with a family emergency when I read the news, I would have thrown my cell phone across the room in absolute rage. My disability is cerebral palsy, so I can’t speak for the dwarfism community. But, as a disabled actress who would love to be represented by Disney, I feel absolute pain from this. It makes it worse that Disney erased cerebral palsy from a real-life character in Christopher Robin (their 2018 live-action take on Winnie the Pooh). Aside from anger, my other biggest feeling about Disney’s statement is confusion. “We have been consulting with members of the dwarfism community.” How in the world was the conclusion to remove the dwarves from the movie? How did the logic become, “To remove the ableism from the movie, we will remove the disability from the movie?” Who were these members of the dwarfism community who you were working with? Is Disney talking to disability organizations like Little People of America? A whole organization is much more effective than one person at a time. It makes me truly happy that Disney is progressive with its casting in race and ethnicity. Rachel Zegler, who made a big splash into Hollywood as Maria in Spielberg’s adaption of “West Side Story,” is going to make the Latino community proud as Snow White (And need I say, Disney casting a real lyric soprano was the greatest shock in the world. Disney actually resisted celebrity casting to keep Adriana Caselotti’s legacy intact!). For the upcoming “Peter and Wendy,” newcomer Alexander Molony and Disney/ABC star Yara Shahidi — a Native New Zealander and an African American actress — are the titular hero and the Disney icon Tinker Bell. And I don’t think we need to go on about fellow Black actress and rising pop star Halle Bailey’s highly-anticipated take on the Little Mermaid herself. But diversity and inclusion aren’t just race and ethnicity. It is different disabilities and bodies, as well! My real concern and suspicions are the possible real reason why Disney doesn’t want the dwarves in the film: Star casting. Actual disability representation will stand in the way with Tom Hanks as Doc, Lewis Black as Grumpy, and Leonardo DiCaprio as Sneezy, you know? “We need to have big box office names to make money and to keep Mommy and Daddy interested,” says Hollywood. Was Disney’s conversation with the dwarfism community actually about casting big names as dwarves? If Disney has to cast voice-over actors for the dwarfs or “magical creatures,” that’s a big red flag. I’m praying that Disney is seeing little people for these “voiceover” roles to make up for it. Don’t get me wrong: If these “magical creatures” are what the dwarfism community wants, then we need to support this decision. Dinklage’s opinion is absolutely not wrong and not out of nowhere either. The story of Snow White and the Seven Dwarves is controversial to the dwarfism community, due to problematic stereotypes and bullying. Scholars Erin Pritchard and Robert Kruse write, “A person with dwarfism is rarely represented as an ordinary human being, but rather a mischievous being — happy to be ridiculed and laughed at rather than with.” It should be noted that the general response of Twitter to Dinklage’s comments was comparisons to Grumpy. Disability advocate Rebecca Cokley tweeted on her life experiences in bullying, “…You HAVEN’T lived until you leave your office to frat boys drunkenly imitating your walk at a bar as you walk by, chanting ‘Heigh-Ho! Heigh-Ho!’” Despite this, the reactions that I have seen on this movie from the dwarfism community are generally either cast little people in the movie as the Dwarfs and have them come to the writer’s room, or do not do this movie if you’re not going to get proper consultation.  Actress Kiruna Stamell agrees with Dinklage’s opinion, but still pitches, “The seven dwarfs could live in a house that is only accessible to people 4ft 2in tall. With an adapted kitchen and adapted vehicles. So, all the average height people in their world are forced to bend over for 40% of the film, sit in little chairs and stoop to use the stove…and the perils of bad ergonomic design are really and truly explored.” Comedian Brad Williams adds, “Make Snow White end up with one of the dwarfs, how about that? I mean, they have jobs, you know? They got good friends. They got a house. They like to protect her. They’re diamond miners, so they’re rich. They’re self-made, wealthy…come on, how about you end up with the dwarfs, and you have a progressive Snow White, and everybody’s happy.” As a past consultant myself, these are the responses that I expect from my peers, not the suggestions to take away acting opportunities from their peers.  Additionally, while talking about the new creatures with me, Cokley remarked, “By removing the dwarves, Disney is absolving itself of doing any actual learning or making things better. The opportunity to apologize, build developed characters of substance informed by the community, and demonstrate actual leadership in Hollywood is how justice actually happens. The dwarfism community is done being grateful for being patted on the head.” On a brighter note, there is one victory in the disability-casting progress: One of “Peter and Wendy’s Lost Boys,” Noah Matthews Matofsky, has Down syndrome! It is going to be spectacular to watch people with Down syndrome see themselves in a Disney movie. It is frustrating to see while Disney is taking one step forward with Noah and Peter Pan, they’re planning on taking seven giant steps back with Snow White. Special thanks to Rebecca Cokley, Stephanie Farfan, Nicole D’Angelo, Keely Cat-Wells, Marissa Erickson, and Matthew Josephs.

Emily Kranking

Why Disney’s Seven Dwarves Switch-Up Should Make Us Grumpy

Let me start off by saying what everyone knows about me: I love Disney. I worked at Walt Disney World, for God’s sake! My ultimate dream is to voice their first disabled Disney Princess. As a Disability Studies grad student, I just applied for the Diversity & Inclusion internship at Walt Disney Animation Studios, which is also my dream place to work at! But, when the live-action division of Walt Disney Studios isn’t diverse or inclusive to my fellow disabled actors, I need to throw caution in the air and risk my chances for the fellowship by writing this. Apologizes to the WDAS recruitment team in advance! Last Monday, “Game of Thrones” actor Peter Dinklage, who is a little person with achondroplasia, shared his concern for Disney’s upcoming “Snow White and the Seven Dwarves” live-action adaption. Dinklage said on the WTF with Marc Marson podcast, “You’re progressive in one way [Casting a Latina actress for its princess] but then you’re still making that…backward story about seven dwarfs living in a cave together.” He adds that he’s still open to the movie. “Progressive spin? Let’s do it. Yeah. All in. But I just don’t know…the dwarf community is tired of this shit.” A day later, Disney followed up with, “To avoid reinforcing stereotypes from the characters and have been consulting with members of the dwarfism community.” This statement made me thrilled because it sounded like Disney actually does care about the disability and dwarfism communities. However, any hope that I had with this movie dropped like a bomb when popular movie website The Wrap leaked within seconds that Disney is officially cutting the dwarves. “Disney will fill the void with a group of what they describe as ‘magical creatures,’ according to casting sheets…” the movie site reported. “They are currently looking for voice actors to give these creatures personality.” If I wasn’t caught up with a family emergency when I read the news, I would have thrown my cell phone across the room in absolute rage. My disability is cerebral palsy, so I can’t speak for the dwarfism community. But, as a disabled actress who would love to be represented by Disney, I feel absolute pain from this. It makes it worse that Disney erased cerebral palsy from a real-life character in Christopher Robin (their 2018 live-action take on Winnie the Pooh). Aside from anger, my other biggest feeling about Disney’s statement is confusion. “We have been consulting with members of the dwarfism community.” How in the world was the conclusion to remove the dwarves from the movie? How did the logic become, “To remove the ableism from the movie, we will remove the disability from the movie?” Who were these members of the dwarfism community who you were working with? Is Disney talking to disability organizations like Little People of America? A whole organization is much more effective than one person at a time. It makes me truly happy that Disney is progressive with its casting in race and ethnicity. Rachel Zegler, who made a big splash into Hollywood as Maria in Spielberg’s adaption of “West Side Story,” is going to make the Latino community proud as Snow White (And need I say, Disney casting a real lyric soprano was the greatest shock in the world. Disney actually resisted celebrity casting to keep Adriana Caselotti’s legacy intact!). For the upcoming “Peter and Wendy,” newcomer Alexander Molony and Disney/ABC star Yara Shahidi — a Native New Zealander and an African American actress — are the titular hero and the Disney icon Tinker Bell. And I don’t think we need to go on about fellow Black actress and rising pop star Halle Bailey’s highly-anticipated take on the Little Mermaid herself. But diversity and inclusion aren’t just race and ethnicity. It is different disabilities and bodies, as well! My real concern and suspicions are the possible real reason why Disney doesn’t want the dwarves in the film: Star casting. Actual disability representation will stand in the way with Tom Hanks as Doc, Lewis Black as Grumpy, and Leonardo DiCaprio as Sneezy, you know? “We need to have big box office names to make money and to keep Mommy and Daddy interested,” says Hollywood. Was Disney’s conversation with the dwarfism community actually about casting big names as dwarves? If Disney has to cast voice-over actors for the dwarfs or “magical creatures,” that’s a big red flag. I’m praying that Disney is seeing little people for these “voiceover” roles to make up for it. Don’t get me wrong: If these “magical creatures” are what the dwarfism community wants, then we need to support this decision. Dinklage’s opinion is absolutely not wrong and not out of nowhere either. The story of Snow White and the Seven Dwarves is controversial to the dwarfism community, due to problematic stereotypes and bullying. Scholars Erin Pritchard and Robert Kruse write, “A person with dwarfism is rarely represented as an ordinary human being, but rather a mischievous being — happy to be ridiculed and laughed at rather than with.” It should be noted that the general response of Twitter to Dinklage’s comments was comparisons to Grumpy. Disability advocate Rebecca Cokley tweeted on her life experiences in bullying, “…You HAVEN’T lived until you leave your office to frat boys drunkenly imitating your walk at a bar as you walk by, chanting ‘Heigh-Ho! Heigh-Ho!’” Despite this, the reactions that I have seen on this movie from the dwarfism community are generally either cast little people in the movie as the Dwarfs and have them come to the writer’s room, or do not do this movie if you’re not going to get proper consultation.  Actress Kiruna Stamell agrees with Dinklage’s opinion, but still pitches, “The seven dwarfs could live in a house that is only accessible to people 4ft 2in tall. With an adapted kitchen and adapted vehicles. So, all the average height people in their world are forced to bend over for 40% of the film, sit in little chairs and stoop to use the stove…and the perils of bad ergonomic design are really and truly explored.” Comedian Brad Williams adds, “Make Snow White end up with one of the dwarfs, how about that? I mean, they have jobs, you know? They got good friends. They got a house. They like to protect her. They’re diamond miners, so they’re rich. They’re self-made, wealthy…come on, how about you end up with the dwarfs, and you have a progressive Snow White, and everybody’s happy.” As a past consultant myself, these are the responses that I expect from my peers, not the suggestions to take away acting opportunities from their peers.  Additionally, while talking about the new creatures with me, Cokley remarked, “By removing the dwarves, Disney is absolving itself of doing any actual learning or making things better. The opportunity to apologize, build developed characters of substance informed by the community, and demonstrate actual leadership in Hollywood is how justice actually happens. The dwarfism community is done being grateful for being patted on the head.” On a brighter note, there is one victory in the disability-casting progress: One of “Peter and Wendy’s Lost Boys,” Noah Matthews Matofsky, has Down syndrome! It is going to be spectacular to watch people with Down syndrome see themselves in a Disney movie. It is frustrating to see while Disney is taking one step forward with Noah and Peter Pan, they’re planning on taking seven giant steps back with Snow White. Special thanks to Rebecca Cokley, Stephanie Farfan, Nicole D’Angelo, Keely Cat-Wells, Marissa Erickson, and Matthew Josephs.

Emily Kranking

Why Disney’s Seven Dwarves Switch-Up Should Make Us Grumpy

Let me start off by saying what everyone knows about me: I love Disney. I worked at Walt Disney World, for God’s sake! My ultimate dream is to voice their first disabled Disney Princess. As a Disability Studies grad student, I just applied for the Diversity & Inclusion internship at Walt Disney Animation Studios, which is also my dream place to work at! But, when the live-action division of Walt Disney Studios isn’t diverse or inclusive to my fellow disabled actors, I need to throw caution in the air and risk my chances for the fellowship by writing this. Apologizes to the WDAS recruitment team in advance! Last Monday, “Game of Thrones” actor Peter Dinklage, who is a little person with achondroplasia, shared his concern for Disney’s upcoming “Snow White and the Seven Dwarves” live-action adaption. Dinklage said on the WTF with Marc Marson podcast, “You’re progressive in one way [Casting a Latina actress for its princess] but then you’re still making that…backward story about seven dwarfs living in a cave together.” He adds that he’s still open to the movie. “Progressive spin? Let’s do it. Yeah. All in. But I just don’t know…the dwarf community is tired of this shit.” A day later, Disney followed up with, “To avoid reinforcing stereotypes from the characters and have been consulting with members of the dwarfism community.” This statement made me thrilled because it sounded like Disney actually does care about the disability and dwarfism communities. However, any hope that I had with this movie dropped like a bomb when popular movie website The Wrap leaked within seconds that Disney is officially cutting the dwarves. “Disney will fill the void with a group of what they describe as ‘magical creatures,’ according to casting sheets…” the movie site reported. “They are currently looking for voice actors to give these creatures personality.” If I wasn’t caught up with a family emergency when I read the news, I would have thrown my cell phone across the room in absolute rage. My disability is cerebral palsy, so I can’t speak for the dwarfism community. But, as a disabled actress who would love to be represented by Disney, I feel absolute pain from this. It makes it worse that Disney erased cerebral palsy from a real-life character in Christopher Robin (their 2018 live-action take on Winnie the Pooh). Aside from anger, my other biggest feeling about Disney’s statement is confusion. “We have been consulting with members of the dwarfism community.” How in the world was the conclusion to remove the dwarves from the movie? How did the logic become, “To remove the ableism from the movie, we will remove the disability from the movie?” Who were these members of the dwarfism community who you were working with? Is Disney talking to disability organizations like Little People of America? A whole organization is much more effective than one person at a time. It makes me truly happy that Disney is progressive with its casting in race and ethnicity. Rachel Zegler, who made a big splash into Hollywood as Maria in Spielberg’s adaption of “West Side Story,” is going to make the Latino community proud as Snow White (And need I say, Disney casting a real lyric soprano was the greatest shock in the world. Disney actually resisted celebrity casting to keep Adriana Caselotti’s legacy intact!). For the upcoming “Peter and Wendy,” newcomer Alexander Molony and Disney/ABC star Yara Shahidi — a Native New Zealander and an African American actress — are the titular hero and the Disney icon Tinker Bell. And I don’t think we need to go on about fellow Black actress and rising pop star Halle Bailey’s highly-anticipated take on the Little Mermaid herself. But diversity and inclusion aren’t just race and ethnicity. It is different disabilities and bodies, as well! My real concern and suspicions are the possible real reason why Disney doesn’t want the dwarves in the film: Star casting. Actual disability representation will stand in the way with Tom Hanks as Doc, Lewis Black as Grumpy, and Leonardo DiCaprio as Sneezy, you know? “We need to have big box office names to make money and to keep Mommy and Daddy interested,” says Hollywood. Was Disney’s conversation with the dwarfism community actually about casting big names as dwarves? If Disney has to cast voice-over actors for the dwarfs or “magical creatures,” that’s a big red flag. I’m praying that Disney is seeing little people for these “voiceover” roles to make up for it. Don’t get me wrong: If these “magical creatures” are what the dwarfism community wants, then we need to support this decision. Dinklage’s opinion is absolutely not wrong and not out of nowhere either. The story of Snow White and the Seven Dwarves is controversial to the dwarfism community, due to problematic stereotypes and bullying. Scholars Erin Pritchard and Robert Kruse write, “A person with dwarfism is rarely represented as an ordinary human being, but rather a mischievous being — happy to be ridiculed and laughed at rather than with.” It should be noted that the general response of Twitter to Dinklage’s comments was comparisons to Grumpy. Disability advocate Rebecca Cokley tweeted on her life experiences in bullying, “…You HAVEN’T lived until you leave your office to frat boys drunkenly imitating your walk at a bar as you walk by, chanting ‘Heigh-Ho! Heigh-Ho!’” Despite this, the reactions that I have seen on this movie from the dwarfism community are generally either cast little people in the movie as the Dwarfs and have them come to the writer’s room, or do not do this movie if you’re not going to get proper consultation.  Actress Kiruna Stamell agrees with Dinklage’s opinion, but still pitches, “The seven dwarfs could live in a house that is only accessible to people 4ft 2in tall. With an adapted kitchen and adapted vehicles. So, all the average height people in their world are forced to bend over for 40% of the film, sit in little chairs and stoop to use the stove…and the perils of bad ergonomic design are really and truly explored.” Comedian Brad Williams adds, “Make Snow White end up with one of the dwarfs, how about that? I mean, they have jobs, you know? They got good friends. They got a house. They like to protect her. They’re diamond miners, so they’re rich. They’re self-made, wealthy…come on, how about you end up with the dwarfs, and you have a progressive Snow White, and everybody’s happy.” As a past consultant myself, these are the responses that I expect from my peers, not the suggestions to take away acting opportunities from their peers.  Additionally, while talking about the new creatures with me, Cokley remarked, “By removing the dwarves, Disney is absolving itself of doing any actual learning or making things better. The opportunity to apologize, build developed characters of substance informed by the community, and demonstrate actual leadership in Hollywood is how justice actually happens. The dwarfism community is done being grateful for being patted on the head.” On a brighter note, there is one victory in the disability-casting progress: One of “Peter and Wendy’s Lost Boys,” Noah Matthews Matofsky, has Down syndrome! It is going to be spectacular to watch people with Down syndrome see themselves in a Disney movie. It is frustrating to see while Disney is taking one step forward with Noah and Peter Pan, they’re planning on taking seven giant steps back with Snow White. Special thanks to Rebecca Cokley, Stephanie Farfan, Nicole D’Angelo, Keely Cat-Wells, Marissa Erickson, and Matthew Josephs.

Emily Kranking

Why Disney’s Seven Dwarves Switch-Up Should Make Us Grumpy

Let me start off by saying what everyone knows about me: I love Disney. I worked at Walt Disney World, for God’s sake! My ultimate dream is to voice their first disabled Disney Princess. As a Disability Studies grad student, I just applied for the Diversity & Inclusion internship at Walt Disney Animation Studios, which is also my dream place to work at! But, when the live-action division of Walt Disney Studios isn’t diverse or inclusive to my fellow disabled actors, I need to throw caution in the air and risk my chances for the fellowship by writing this. Apologizes to the WDAS recruitment team in advance! Last Monday, “Game of Thrones” actor Peter Dinklage, who is a little person with achondroplasia, shared his concern for Disney’s upcoming “Snow White and the Seven Dwarves” live-action adaption. Dinklage said on the WTF with Marc Marson podcast, “You’re progressive in one way [Casting a Latina actress for its princess] but then you’re still making that…backward story about seven dwarfs living in a cave together.” He adds that he’s still open to the movie. “Progressive spin? Let’s do it. Yeah. All in. But I just don’t know…the dwarf community is tired of this shit.” A day later, Disney followed up with, “To avoid reinforcing stereotypes from the characters and have been consulting with members of the dwarfism community.” This statement made me thrilled because it sounded like Disney actually does care about the disability and dwarfism communities. However, any hope that I had with this movie dropped like a bomb when popular movie website The Wrap leaked within seconds that Disney is officially cutting the dwarves. “Disney will fill the void with a group of what they describe as ‘magical creatures,’ according to casting sheets…” the movie site reported. “They are currently looking for voice actors to give these creatures personality.” If I wasn’t caught up with a family emergency when I read the news, I would have thrown my cell phone across the room in absolute rage. My disability is cerebral palsy, so I can’t speak for the dwarfism community. But, as a disabled actress who would love to be represented by Disney, I feel absolute pain from this. It makes it worse that Disney erased cerebral palsy from a real-life character in Christopher Robin (their 2018 live-action take on Winnie the Pooh). Aside from anger, my other biggest feeling about Disney’s statement is confusion. “We have been consulting with members of the dwarfism community.” How in the world was the conclusion to remove the dwarves from the movie? How did the logic become, “To remove the ableism from the movie, we will remove the disability from the movie?” Who were these members of the dwarfism community who you were working with? Is Disney talking to disability organizations like Little People of America? A whole organization is much more effective than one person at a time. It makes me truly happy that Disney is progressive with its casting in race and ethnicity. Rachel Zegler, who made a big splash into Hollywood as Maria in Spielberg’s adaption of “West Side Story,” is going to make the Latino community proud as Snow White (And need I say, Disney casting a real lyric soprano was the greatest shock in the world. Disney actually resisted celebrity casting to keep Adriana Caselotti’s legacy intact!). For the upcoming “Peter and Wendy,” newcomer Alexander Molony and Disney/ABC star Yara Shahidi — a Native New Zealander and an African American actress — are the titular hero and the Disney icon Tinker Bell. And I don’t think we need to go on about fellow Black actress and rising pop star Halle Bailey’s highly-anticipated take on the Little Mermaid herself. But diversity and inclusion aren’t just race and ethnicity. It is different disabilities and bodies, as well! My real concern and suspicions are the possible real reason why Disney doesn’t want the dwarves in the film: Star casting. Actual disability representation will stand in the way with Tom Hanks as Doc, Lewis Black as Grumpy, and Leonardo DiCaprio as Sneezy, you know? “We need to have big box office names to make money and to keep Mommy and Daddy interested,” says Hollywood. Was Disney’s conversation with the dwarfism community actually about casting big names as dwarves? If Disney has to cast voice-over actors for the dwarfs or “magical creatures,” that’s a big red flag. I’m praying that Disney is seeing little people for these “voiceover” roles to make up for it. Don’t get me wrong: If these “magical creatures” are what the dwarfism community wants, then we need to support this decision. Dinklage’s opinion is absolutely not wrong and not out of nowhere either. The story of Snow White and the Seven Dwarves is controversial to the dwarfism community, due to problematic stereotypes and bullying. Scholars Erin Pritchard and Robert Kruse write, “A person with dwarfism is rarely represented as an ordinary human being, but rather a mischievous being — happy to be ridiculed and laughed at rather than with.” It should be noted that the general response of Twitter to Dinklage’s comments was comparisons to Grumpy. Disability advocate Rebecca Cokley tweeted on her life experiences in bullying, “…You HAVEN’T lived until you leave your office to frat boys drunkenly imitating your walk at a bar as you walk by, chanting ‘Heigh-Ho! Heigh-Ho!’” Despite this, the reactions that I have seen on this movie from the dwarfism community are generally either cast little people in the movie as the Dwarfs and have them come to the writer’s room, or do not do this movie if you’re not going to get proper consultation.  Actress Kiruna Stamell agrees with Dinklage’s opinion, but still pitches, “The seven dwarfs could live in a house that is only accessible to people 4ft 2in tall. With an adapted kitchen and adapted vehicles. So, all the average height people in their world are forced to bend over for 40% of the film, sit in little chairs and stoop to use the stove…and the perils of bad ergonomic design are really and truly explored.” Comedian Brad Williams adds, “Make Snow White end up with one of the dwarfs, how about that? I mean, they have jobs, you know? They got good friends. They got a house. They like to protect her. They’re diamond miners, so they’re rich. They’re self-made, wealthy…come on, how about you end up with the dwarfs, and you have a progressive Snow White, and everybody’s happy.” As a past consultant myself, these are the responses that I expect from my peers, not the suggestions to take away acting opportunities from their peers.  Additionally, while talking about the new creatures with me, Cokley remarked, “By removing the dwarves, Disney is absolving itself of doing any actual learning or making things better. The opportunity to apologize, build developed characters of substance informed by the community, and demonstrate actual leadership in Hollywood is how justice actually happens. The dwarfism community is done being grateful for being patted on the head.” On a brighter note, there is one victory in the disability-casting progress: One of “Peter and Wendy’s Lost Boys,” Noah Matthews Matofsky, has Down syndrome! It is going to be spectacular to watch people with Down syndrome see themselves in a Disney movie. It is frustrating to see while Disney is taking one step forward with Noah and Peter Pan, they’re planning on taking seven giant steps back with Snow White. Special thanks to Rebecca Cokley, Stephanie Farfan, Nicole D’Angelo, Keely Cat-Wells, Marissa Erickson, and Matthew Josephs.

Emily Kranking

Sia Insults Autistic Actors on Twitter After 'Music' Backlash

Celebrated singer Sia recently premiered her trailer for her movie “Music” — and there is a lot to unpack. The main problem, at first, was the casting of Maddie Ziegler (“Dance Moms”) as the lead character with autism, whose name is, wait for it, Music. Moreover, as you can expect from her name, the story depicts Music as the “eternally innocent” stereotype in the most polarizing way I’ve ever seen. Ziegler portrays Music as always happy and giggly, and she sees the world in her own little way (through music and singers). In her technicolor fantasies, she loves to twirl around in pretty pink dresses. Although Ziegler is 18, the character is described as a “happy little girl.” This movie clearly builds on society’s false assumptions that people with disabilities are cute babies who need to be protected. The casting, Ziegler’s performance, and the representation are all deeply problematic. This controversy could be a lesson for Sia on the importance of casting, story, and even who should be a consultant for your movie. (The highly controversial Autism Speaks teamed with Sia for “Music.”) But instead, Sia has been shockingly offensive and dismissive to actors with disabilities in her responses. In one tweet, she writes, “Casting someone at her level of functioning was cruel, not kind, so I made the executive decision that we would do our best to lovingly represent the community.” The most damning comment to an actor with autism was, “Maybe you’re just a bad actor.” I agree. I’ve never referred to music as disabled. Special abilities is what I’ve always said, and casting someone at her level of functioning was cruel, not kind, so I made the executive decision that we would do our best to lovingly represent the community.— sia (@Sia) November 20, 2020 Maybe you’re just a bad actor.— sia (@Sia) November 20, 2020 Sia’s intense defensiveness shows how Hollywood wants to change, but refuses to change. This is especially true for casting. Whenever it’s because of arrogance or the lack of correct consulting, Sia’s comments prove that she made little to no effort in finding an actor on the autism spectrum for the lead. She tries to make up for it with the 13 actors with autism in supporting roles. While it’s great that they hired these actors, this continues the Hollywood trend of literally pushing actors with disabilities to the side. While abled-bodied actors get Emmy and Oscar recognition for lead roles, disabled actors get little roles as participation trophies. The “you can’t act” insult was the most disgusting comment I ever read on Twitter. I believe it’s very clear based on the movie and her comments to actual people on the spectrum that she thinks people with autism are fragile and aren’t able to do anything. I am an actress with a disability (cerebral palsy). In the past (my upcoming movie “Best Summer Ever”) and the present (EPIC Players’ virtual production of “She Kills Monsters”), many of my acting colleagues have autism. And spoiler alert: They all can act wonderfully. They’re all enthusiastic. And they’re ready to work. They have agents. They get movie franchises (Anthony Hopkins). They get TV shows, such as “Everything’s Gonna Be Okay” (Kayla Cromer) and “Little Voice” (Kevin Valdez). Even Pixar made a short film starring a character with non-speaking autism (Madison Bandy). Sure, there’s a chance an actor on the spectrum might have a meltdown when they’re frustrated or they’re exhausted as they wrap up a long day of shooting. But you can’t assume that will be a concern just because an actor is autistic. That’s why you ask them what they need to feel comfortable, and adjust your schedule with accommodations as needed, just as Pixar did with Bandy. It could affect the movie’s timeline, but it’s worth it for growth and equity. Casting an actor with autism isn’t “cruel.” It’s an opportunity and a huge message that says “Actors with autism are here and they can work.” It was devastating to see a respected singer like Sia spew myths about actors with disabilities and bully them virtually. Even Anne Hathaway apologized for her character’s limb differences in “The Witches,” and she wasn’t involved with the design. It’s a pity that this is how we’re trending on Twitter. Instead of celebrating a movie that represents us (Hulu’s new movie “Run,” which stars newcomer Kiera Allen, who uses a wheelchair), we have to correct more Hollywood people on proper representation. I would say “Let’s learn from Sia’s mistakes and build a better tomorrow,” but obviously it’s not that easy.

Emily Kranking

'The Witches' and the History of Associating Disabilities With Evil

This week, the new film of Roald Dahl’s “The Witches” garnered criticism from the disability community. Anne Hathaway’s character the Grand High Witch has hands and feet with serious deformities which result in missing fingers and toes. The original design in the 1983 novel is similar, with missing toes and extended hands. Unfortunately, the Grand High Witch’s appearance is very reminiscent of limb differences, which include deformities of the hands and feet. According to the Amputee Coalition, two million Americans live with limb differences. Each year, 2,250 babies are born with this disability. Disability activists, parents of children with limb differences and organizations have voiced their disdain for the character design on Twitter and Instagram with the hashtag #NotaWitch. Among those who spoke out are the Paralympics, the advocacy organization RespectAbility, and athletes Amy Marren and Amy Truesdale. Warner Brothers Studio and Anne Hathaway have issued apologies since then. Hathaway even promoted the Lucky Fin Project, a non-profit organization that advocates for children with limb differences. Despite having a similar disability, I am actually not mad at Warner Brothers for accidentally making an offensive design. I am certainly not mad at Anne Hathaway for something that wasn’t under her control in the first place. I’m even not mad at Roald Dahl for the original design in the first place. So, if it’s not Warner Brothers, Anne Hathaway, or Roald Dahl to blame for the ableist character design, then what is? Ironically, what is to blame is something the disability community has been waiting for: Representation. In all of art history, disability has been represented in accurate portraits of people with disabilities and also exaggerated art pieces called grotesque. Grotesque shows people with disabilities with severely disfigured bodies — sometimes to the point that they are half-beast or even demons. The Grand High Witch counts as grotesque with her four fingers, toeless feet and bald head. But, she’s not the only grotesque character in fiction. For example, the Phantom of the Opera from the French gothic novel wears a mask because his face is disfigured. Additionally, Quasimodo from the classic novel “The Hunchback of Notre Dame” counts as grotesque because of his severely disfigured face and crooked back. Many other stories give their villains physical disabilities and disfigurements. The classic fairy tale villain Rumplestilken has dwarfism. The Wicked Witch of the West has green skin in the classic movie “The Wizard of Oz” and the popular musical “Wicked.” In the original novel, the Witch is blind in one eye and walks with a cane (in her case, her umbrella). Captain Hook from the beloved play “Peter Pan” has one upper limb while the other limb is merely a hook. The point is that we have all grown up with grotesque images and characters with deformities. So, it’s not surprising that Warner Brothers and Roald Dahl designed the Grand High Witch with limb differences. These ableist designs are deemed “normal” in fiction. But, is it OK to design villains with deformities because it’s common to do so? Of course not! That’s why education, through Twitter hashtags, public statements, and even my little essay, is essential. Because the disability community raises their voices, the general media is starting to learn more about disability and common mistakes in representation. Additionally, Hollywood is beginning to cast disabled actors and hire disability advisors for their movies and TV shows. I wouldn’t be surprised if, for the next fantasy movie that involves characters with disfigurements, the studio will employ disability advisors to advise on proper representation. If disability advisors become normalized, disability representation in future films will have happy endings for everybody.

Emily Kranking

What to Know About ADHD During Learning Disabilities Awareness Month

Not everybody knows that October is Learning Disabilities Awareness Month. So, let me shine a light on this month by talking about my learning disorder. All of my life, I have had ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder). ADHD is the most common learning disability with 6.4 million American children diagnosed with it. The type of ADHD I have is attention-deficit. Symptoms of attention-deficit ADHD include being distracted and zoning out, missing details during assignments, being forgetful with things in daily life, and losing things easily. I actually have all of these symptoms. The first time I noticed something was off about me was when I started second grade. I had just started at my siblings’ private Catholic school after attending a public school with a special education program. I was used to a very stimulating environment like I had at my old school, including being able to move around during very interactive lessons. Right away on my first day, I had a bad feeling. I was expected to sit in a singular place (a desk) all day. Just stay there and listen. I had to read along to textbooks all day with my teachers. I had to do worksheets. My focus was on the rocks. For the first couple weeks of school, after doing my assignments, I walked around the classroom to move around. I felt awkward, but better after moving around. Most of all, I found myself daydreaming and never found myself paying attention. Every single day, I was met with, “You have to pay attention, Emily!” and “U”s (unsatisfactory) on my work. Spanish was especially hard for me. At my old school, we didn’t learn a foreign language. In the afternoons, I would go to a special sensory class for students with disabilities, where we would play games and have therapies. I guess my other classmates did Spanish and science in the afternoon. So, imagine my shock at my new school where I had a teacher speak a foreign language I didn’t know. Clearly, my siblings and my classmates had Spanish very early on and knew what was happening. I intentionally spaced out the whole time. Not even her colorful wolf puppet was enough to keep my interest. As I grew older, my ADHD caught up with my child development. I still had attention problems, but I got better at focusing. As expected for each year at school, the curriculum became more challenging. So, I naturally knew that I had to pay attention to be on par with my classmates and pass my classes. Because I was patient with my ADHD and stayed on task, I persevered. I ended up being accepted to my dad’s Catholic high school and a four-year college after my community college. Society shouldn’t treat people with ADHD so badly. ADHD is common and it can be accommodated. People with ADHD, like me, can succeed in anything!

Emily Kranking

Piers Morgan Criticizes Insisting Disabled Actors Get Cast in Disabled

Monday morning, British anchor Piers Morgan, who is already known for making controversial statements on Twitter, wrote another problematic tweet. According to Morgan, “The ‘woke nonsense’ is demanding that only disabled actors can play disabled characters. That’s actually the opposite of equal opportunity.” Although his comments came from a spat with another Twitter user, the conversation started when he criticized the term “cripping up” — when an able-bodied actor plays a character who is disabled. All acting is bloody acting. This woke nonsense has to stop before it destroys everything. ???? https://t.co/QBxQgE9rmm— Piers Morgan (@piersmorgan) August 31, 2020 I agree with you about the need for equal opportunity. The ‘woke nonsense’ is demanding that only disabled actors can play disabled characters. That’s actually the opposite of equal opportunity. https://t.co/5gM6AMmDdu— Piers Morgan (@piersmorgan) August 31, 2020 What does being “woke” mean? Generally, wokeness — which comes from the African-American Vernacular English expression “stay woke” — means having social awareness. For example, recognizing that a group has been marginalized for a long while. While there is still so much work to do, it does seem that Hollywood is slowly becoming “woke” with disability culture. Stories about characters with disabilities, starring actors with disabilities, have been rising since last year. Last week, The New York Times published an article about rising actors with disabilities, with two being my real-life friends. Academy-Award winner and legendary actress Octavia Spencer recently made a public statement  about creating opportunities for actors with disabilities. This summer, studios such as Disney and Universal teamed up with my past workplace RespectAbility to meet with aspiring filmmakers with disabilities through an inclusive lab , which I was a part of as an aspiring writer (particularly for animation). As you can see, change is coming for us. It’s ableist people like Piers Morgan who are pushing us back to the dark ages. Mr. Morgan, you are an abled man. You get to see yourself (played by actors who look like you) literally everywhere on screen and stage. I never saw myself on television when I was a child, except on the show “ Arthur ” with a blind bunny named Marina. Even with her blindness , I could relate with her because she had a disability like me. Additionally, as a little girl, I only believed I could be a Disney princess because I am a white girl with blonde hair and blue eyes, just like Cinderella and Aurora. I thought of myself to be a blonde Disney princess, but never once thought of myself as a disabled Disney princess with cerebral palsy . And now times are changing, I could be a Disney first. Tell me: If being considered for a disabled role with abled people is considered “equal,” then why is the latter cast most of the time? Why are disabled people left out of their own stories more often than not? Was the time I lost a TV role of a murderess with cerebral palsy to a perfectly able person considered “equal?” Did the producer who said it would take “too long” to find actually disabled people to star in his disability-centric movie, “Come as You Are,” give disabled actors equal opportunities? People in the disability community are outspoken about this because these opportunities don’t happen, and unless we’re vocal about it, nothing will change. People with disabilities also deserve to have our stories told by disabled writers and directors. Maysoon Zayid, a fellow actress and comedian with CP, just now has her big break with the day show General Hospital. No so long ago, she sold a sitcom to ABC and got a talent deal. However, no writers with disabilities were hired or even considered. Thus, the pilot, written by a man like yourself, was “ stereotypical, offensive and what the disability community calls ‘inspiration porn.’ ” Because Zayid wasn’t trusted with her own story, the show never got made. By “demanding” that disabled characters are played by disabled actors, what we’re really saying is: disability isn’t a “role” that can be played. And because disabled actors don’t need to “act” disabled, they can focus on what being an actor really is: bringing a complex character to life. Next time you decide to tweet that fighting for disabled actors to play disabled roles apparently “destroys” everything , think about the last time you saw an actor with a disability on TV. Not a character with a disability that’s played by an abled actor. But, an actual disabled character. If you can’t think of the last time, then congratulations! You now know why we, actors with disabilities, need equality.

Emily Kranking

Living With Dysarthria and Cerebral Palsy

When I was in eighth grade, my last school musical was “Annie.” I was hoping to land the role of Grace Farrell, Daddy Warbucks’ secretary and one of Annie’s caretakers. Alas, the morning of the callback, the list was posted and as expected, I didn’t receive a callback for her. But, my friend Jenny* got a callback for her and I was excited for her. Between classes, I happened to see Jenny and came to congratulate her on the callback. Because of my dysarthria, a speech disorder that I have through my cerebral palsy, Jenny didn’t know what I was saying. “Callbuck?”“No, callback.”“Mullback?”“Callback.”“Starbucks?” At this point, I was fighting tears as I was trying so desperately to say “callback.” To make things more humiliating, a teacher was walking by and she tried to help both of us by finding out what I was saying. The teacher thankfully got “callback” and Jenny happily thanked me. That was the first time ever I felt humiliated and ashamed by my dysarthria. And it wasn’t the last. One situation led to two retail workers getting their manager for me at a shop after I simply said, “I’m looking around for fun.” Another caused me to have an actual emotional breakdown at a counselor’s office. When I was working at Disney World, I brought my dad’s death up in a conversation and the guest’s reaction? “Cool.” I sighed. I know he didn’t know what I just said. “Sir,” I said in an un-Disney, annoyed tone. “I said that my dad died.” The guest, bless his sweet heart, gasped and freaked out that he misunderstood me. Dysarthria is a daily struggle for me. Don’t get me wrong, it isn’t that terrible and my youthful voice comes in handy for acting opportunities. However, when you hear “What?” or “Can you say that again?” literally on an hourly basis, you get tired quickly. It doesn’t matter if it’s the simplest word or a whole conversation. A simple question from me gets just a nod from that person and then I have to say, “That was a question.” It’s draining. It’s exhausting. I sometimes feel like I want to cut off my tongue so I can get rid of this feeling. I snap at my mom a lot because she does not understand me. Snapping at friends is uncommon, but it has happened once or twice. If I snap at you over my dysarthria in the future, I am extremely sorry. But at the same time, let me get frustrated. It’s strangely therapeutic for me in a way. I’m a human, and a human with a challenge at that. Obviously, I won’t beat you up or cuss you out. But, walk a day in my foot braces. How? Find a way to grab your tongue and try to speak to people like that for a whole day. Get a sense of what my voice is like and how different it is to speak normally. Notice how your voice sounds and what words you can or can not say. Speak like this to everyone and notice how many “What?”s or “I don’t know, sorries.” that you’ll get. Awful, is it? Welcome to my life! *=Name changed for privacy reasons

Emily Kranking

One Vote Now Helps Americans With Disabilities Access Elections

This presidential election is a bizarre one as our country deals with an unexpected pandemic. Because of the infamous COVID-19 and how dangerous the contagion is, most of the voting process has taken place home through in-mail voting. But, for us — people with disabilities — is this enough? While the good news is that voting is now accessible for many of us, a lot of the first-timers could be missing the outside help they could get through a counselor. But luckily, people with disabilities can get virtual help, so they can be ready to vote remotely. One Vote Now is a resource website from the National Association of Councils on Developmental Disabilities. Now rebooted with a fabulous (and accessible) makeover, One Vote Now introduces navigators to the voting process and where to begin. One Vote Now shows navigators to website REV UP, where they can register to vote if they haven’t yet. Afterward, One Vote Now tells you the methods to vote. What is great is that One Vote Now gives you the choice of how to vote. If you want to stay at home to vote, that’s great! But if you also want to vote in public, they also have a link with available polling locations. One Vote Now also lists the Election Protection Coalition’s phone number if the navigator needs help with anything in the voting process. Though the primaries are ending, it is still not too late to register. The official presidential election is a few months away, so people still have time to vote. It is so important for people with disabilities to vote as it can determine their futures. Democratic candidate and former VP Joe Biden has posted his plans for citizens with disabilities. If someone with a disability likes his plans, they can vote for him. Or if they like President Donald Trump and are satisfied with his run so far, they can also vote for him. But, it’s not just the president of the United States — voters with disabilities are voting for their local government, which consists of people who will determine their local policies of education, health, finances and housing. They just need to read each candidate’s website and learn about what they believe in. One Vote Now is a great place for any voter with a disability to begin their electoral journey. The website layout is simple and easy to navigate. The resources are official voting websites and One Vote Now will take you where you want to go. Their motto, “Everyone Should Be Included in Our Elections” speaks for itself and they truly believe what they’re saying. So, if you are a voter with a disability that needs help or if you know someone that needs help, One Vote Now is accessible, fresh, and ready to help you get your vote out!