Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Another Look Disability Representation on Screen and Off

Okay, so I was wrong...mostly. I recently had some criticisms about actors with disabilities fighting for the cause that ONLY actors with disabilities should play people with disabilities.  I basically said it was impossible. I actually found myself defending the “free market” {shudder}. I often saw it as actors whining for their own self-promotion.

            I think my defending ABs playing people with disabilities comes from my own issues of not wanting to get credit for my work because I have a disability. I want to get credit for my work because it’s good. If I were an actor I wouldn’t want to get a part due to my disability but due to my acting ability. I felt if an actor was “better” than me and they were able-bodied they should get it.

            But, what is really “better?” If “better” means easier to work with because they are able-bodied or more famous because of all the opportunities they had because of their AB privilege, that is not really better. But how will we ever know? 

            The good ol’ affirmative action conundrum that makes us hate ourselves (or maybe just me.) I also felt this way because like most people with disabilities I was dealing with far larger problems than Hollywood.

            I felt this way because I spend too many years in a field that gave lip-service to being disability aware but was anything but under the surface. (It rhymes with Biology but begins with a P.)

            I didn’t want to fight for pointless things I was never going to get.  I have very limited energy and time. I didn’t want to spend it screaming into a void. I’d rather just quietly write my own disability positive stuff in the back, thanks.

            But then I went to Comic Con.  I write this after being so “inspired” by Comic con. A lot of stuff happened, but one of the things that happened was this:

            I agree with everything that was said here. Especially all the Ryan Murphy stuff.
            Sadly, Ryan Murphy is where it’s at right now…in America.  A powerful person in the industry wants to do “diversity.” However, they still want things to be neat and clean to work with. They also want to be seen as heroes for dealing with the disability in the first place.
            I think this is what caused one of my disability activist friends to say: “Fuck them.” {All the LGBTQI kids getting their rights and feeling so great about Glee. It was a moment of frustration. I reminded her I was also one of those kids once. It’s hard not to get frustrated. I know a lot of LGBTQIA people that weren’t happy with the depiction. I personally think every character is a shallow cow.} 

             I once said that people with disabilities depicted in media are where African Americans were in the 70s. Everyone was watching Good Times, which depicted one dimensional ghetto life. I think Glee is out Good Times. I was hoping The Jefferson’s would come soon. I would love a sassy person with a disability who openly mocked able-bodied people. Especially one that GOT A JOB and MOVED ON UP and got rich. Yeah. I think I’m losing my millennial audience.  (I watched reruns when I was seven. They came on before Scooby Doo.)

             I saw The Doctor Who episode “Under the Lake” at home. It depicted a deaf woman as a captain as a ship, who was truly deaf. I thought about posting “This is how you do it, Ryan Murphy.” As Murphy recently had a character who was also a deaf actor. I was far from offended by the jokes about the characters deafness. Most of them were funny and true to life. (If you are deaf buried up to your neck for a sorority prank you wouldn’t hear the serial killer coming like the other girls.) What I didn’t like was that the deaf character felt very inserted to me an after thought for a pat-on-the-back for diversity… But, I didn’t post anything because it was just all too complicated.

            FYI: The actress had to ask Ryan to change “hearing impaired” to “deaf” in the script because she didn’t want to offend her deaf community. He did it. Yippee, but his writing team didn’t already know this. I may not expect all characters to be played by actors with disabilities but I do expect basic research. 

            Then I went to comic con and I saw the part II of the doctor who episode: “Before the Flood” and…. You know how you’ve wanted something for so long, and then you accepted that you were never going to get it, and then you do get it. At first it’s scary…

 Then all bottled up emotions come out: 

 And then you realize all you bottled up when you gave up and lowered expectations:

            The deaf character was deep and central to the story. Her deafness was a strength but not in a super-crip way. She was like any other central Dr. Who character in an episode. And in the end she got love… LOVE. With a really cute boy.  As an 80s baby you don’t know how much I DIDN’T see:

            A strong woman get love

            A woman with a disability get love

            Saw either of women like this get love but somehow get pathetic and weaker to get it by making it the only thing she cared about…like some sad stalker.

            Too many times to count. So I did this in public.

            Very aware that I may’ve been looking like a sad stereotype, buy oh well. I’m me.

            The writer, Toby Whitehouse, an English White dude, didn’t make my fan freak out any better. He said it started out with him wanting a character to read lips for some reason…hmmm. This led him to a deaf character. This led him to actually research deafness… Ryan Murphy. This led him to want a deaf actress. This led him to talk to actors with disabilities. Here is his quote as I remember it:
            “I had no idea how cut-off this whole group of people felt from being accurately represented. I don’t feel it’s heroic to include them. I feel it’s responsible and necessary.”

            I hope he understand my tearful fan-girling out wasn’t treating as a hero but being so relieved that FINALLY someone didn’t want to be one—The hero paradox. Luckily, Toby is used to dealing with a lot paradoxes in Dr. Who.

I think the closest thing we got the The Jefferson’s was actually American Horror Story- Freak Show. There is a writer on Ryan’s AHS team I personally love, a White dude. Tim Minear. He likes to write about physical/psychological weakness can actually be strength. His flawed characters are never super-crips. They are always flawed people that have character weakness, but the character weakness isn’t due to the disability. He has a thing for blindness, but he completely flipped all the blind stereotypes that I HATED as an 80s baby. I will say his blind characters were NEVER played by blind women. Two of them were played by my favorite actresses, but now I actually think that’s a shame...and it is time to start shouting that something different be done, and maybe by the time they hear the echoes of our worn out voices something will happen.    


       Send all scathing complaints to @JimNorton    (Jim Norton is a comedian that has made many jokes about how women with disabilities are “gross” and should feel grateful for sex. He is by far the greatest enemy to feminism and disability causes. He has a sense of humor. He’s has been open about his own sexual trauma with a sense of humor.  Still it's weird he agreed to handle all my complaints, huh?)

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