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Thread: My latest blog - Ironbutt

  1. #11
    Quote Originally Posted by Scorpion View Post
    So, I don't disagree about discrimination and prejudice against the disabled, just the particular blackface comparison.
    I can fully appreciate that sensibilities and sensitivities around loaded language will vary, you are the first person to express disagreement. This is not to suggest that your POV is any less valid -- after all, the article distilled to its essence is about minority expression.

  2. #12
    Quote Originally Posted by Scorpion View Post
    Also, while it could be argued that there are better actors than Blair Underwood who are actually disabled, they don't have much, if any, name recognition. Quick, name three disabled actors that an average able-bodied person will know. Sure, Underwood may not be an A-lister, but a network show (or a big movie) without a name lead is a huge risk for the bean counters, even if it's the best creative decision. Christopher Reeve being an unknown starring in Superman: The Movie was a genius move, but Hollywood is scared of genius moves like that.
    I don't disagree entirely with what you are saying about name recognition but you kind of have to ask yourself why that is. Name me ONE actor that's disabled and has much name recognition, if at all (other than for typically or token roles here and there). Sure there's the logistics of it all, such as scenes that portray pre-injury, pre-disability, etc... that aren't as easy as you mentioned. But I'd be more willing to point out that there aren't as many opportunities for PWD to ''make their name'' in the first place and that it's just unfair to argue that justifies getting someone able-bodied to play the part. Just pointing that out, just ticks me off when people try to argue something when they fail to see the root cause of it in the first place.

    Anyway, any visibility is better than none, played by an abled-bodied actor or not
    Last edited by twistties; 05-27-2013 at 11:52 PM.

  3. #13
    Senior Member Scorpion's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by twistties View Post
    . . . But I'd be more willing to point out that there aren't as many opportunities for PWD to ''make their name'' in the first place and that it's just unfair to argue that justifies getting someone able-bodied to play the part. Just pointing that out, just ticks me off when people try to argue something when they fail to see the root cause of it in the first place.
    I do see the root cause, and I'm not sure how you read my post and surmised that I don't. That's part of the education and enlightenment I was saying Hollywood needs; wanting name recognition isn't justification for not hiring an actor who's disabled (though the bean counters would say it is), it's just one of a myriad of reasons, some justifiable, some not.

    Another part of the education and enlightenment is making Hollywood realize that a disabled character can be more than just an inspiration or a villain, and a disabled character can just be a character, with little or no acknowledgement of his or her disability.

    I just think that wanting and going for more inclusion in Hollywood isn't served by demanding they only cast people with disabilities in roles of characters with disabilities. To mix metaphors used in this thread, it isn't so black and white.

    Asians and Latinos/Hispanics want and deserve more inclusion in Hollywood, too. But that's a whole other issue...

  4. #14
    Senior Member ~Lin's Avatar
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    I agree with Scorpion on most parts. Personally, I don't think always having disabled actors play disabled characters is the answer. What I'd like to see is disability being taken out of the equation on most parts. If being disabled is the most important facet of the character, then by all means look within the disabled community first. This is where I think the analogy to blackface comes in, who better to portray what disability is truly like than a disabled individual. But I'd prefer for more characters that being disabled or not is one of the least important attributes; and as a result the opportunity for a disabled actor getting the part be on par with that of an able bodied actor. For the selection of who to play a character come down to who best embodies the character. I think we're finally there (but maybe I'm naive?) when it comes to most races. We have top actors now in a variety of races, and many people don't pay any attention to race when casting. Grey's Anatomy is a show well known for its rounded cast. For the character of Dr Bailey, I believe the writer said she initially pictured a tall blonde woman. But when Chandra Wilson came in to read, she best embodied the character. Robert David Hall is an amputee, but the fact that his character is as a result also an amputee is a small one.

    How we get to that point, I don't know. Maybe giving disabled characters top priority a la some type of affirmative action will get us there. Or, maybe doing so will continue to encourage "us" and "them" and further widen the gap between disabled and able bodied actors.
    Board Member of Assistance Dog Advocacy Project working in Education. Feel free to ask me any service dog questions!

    I am not paralyzed. I have a genetic connective tissue disorder with neuro complications and a movement disorder.

  5. #15
    Senior Member Scorpion's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by ~Lin View Post
    How we get to that point, I don't know. Maybe giving disabled characters top priority a la some type of affirmative action will get us there. Or, maybe doing so will continue to encourage "us" and "them" and further widen the gap between disabled and able bodied actors.
    Part of the answer is educating Hollywood (and Madison Avenue) on the benefits of including people with disabilities. Many able-bodied people have friends or family members who are disabled, and they'll be drawn to movies, shows, and advertisements with people with disabilities. And, yes, without focusing on the disability all the time.

  6. #16
    Senior Member NikkiMaya's Avatar
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    I actually agree with Scorpion re the blackface reference and I thought he/she made some really great points as well. I think the situation for actors with disabilities is really bad, and there should be way more access and job opportunities. Overall, I thought Stephen's post was excellent also. The blackface reference was the one place he lost me.

    I don't know if this is helpful at all, but there is a big debate in the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender community about whether or not to compare the f-word to the n-word. Some gay people like to make a point about how hurtful the f-word is by comparing it to the use of the n-word, and how hurtful that is, and how it is supposed to be reserved for use only by black people (even though it isn't). In the online commentaries I have seen, African American people have argued that no, the two words should not be compared because it takes away from the unique and historical degradation of the n-word and relates it to something separate. I agree with this. I don't think we need to compare something painful and wrong to something else that was uniquely horrible to make a point.

    That's my two cents. I will probably post again to weigh in on the situation for actors with disabilities. I have a lot of thoughts on this subject and I'm glad to find a forum to share.
    In our world constituted of differences of all kinds, it is not the disabled, but society at large that needs special education...to become a genuine society for all. -Frederic Major, Former UNESCO Director General

  7. #17
    Senior Member flying's Avatar
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    Several people all righty pointed put what I would like to see, and that is people in chairs get non disabled rolls. This is really picking up with non white people, playing just people roles, and not some so called black or Hispanic parts. Why couldn't a disabled person play just the guy next door without any mention of his or her disability. Recently I've been seeing dwarfs playing non short roles so its probable coming soon to a TV near you.
    T12L1 Incomplete Still here This is the place to be 58 years old

  8. #18
    Senior Member NikkiMaya's Avatar
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    Twistties brought up an important point. There aren't any blockbuster Hollywood stars that made their name post-injury or illness, and I think it is unacceptable to argue that PWD should be passed over continually because they have no name recognition. This is self-perpatuating cycle that can feed on discrimination.

    There are a lot of actors with disabilities, and there are many who are quite skilled just like AB actors. The Screen Actors Guild has a Performers with Disabilities Committee and the organization Inclusion in the Arts and Media of People with Disabilities exists to enhance the status and promote awareness of performers with disabilities. Notably, the Theater Breaking Through Barriers in New York City is an off-Broadway theater dedicated to advancing actors and writers with disabilities. Their plays are reviewed in the New York Times frequently.

    However, as Stephen and others mentioned there is still a lot of discrimination and lack of visibility. Every year Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation publishes a report called "Where We Are on TV." The report tracks the presence of minority characters in scripted primetime television shows. It shows on page 15 that in 2012:

    "This year, the number of broadcast series regulars with a disability is lower than in recent seasons by dropping to four characters, compared to five in 2011 and six in 2010—making PWD only 0.6% of all regular primetime scripted characters this upcoming season. ABC, CBS, NBC and Fox each have one character with a disability while The CW has none. Following the season premiere of ABC’s Grey’s Anatomy, Dr. Arizona Robbins is now an amputee. CBS has a character on CSI: Crime Scene Investigation who uses prosthetic legs, NBC features a character with Asperger syndrome, an autism spectrum disorder, on Parenthood and a character on Fox’s Glee uses a wheelchair."

    In terms of actual discrimination and lack of inclusion, I found this concrete information from a report by Backstage, an audition website.

    "In 2005, the Screen Actors Guild published a report about the employment of its members with disabilities. It said that roughly one-third of the union's disabled members were able to find film or television work in 2003, and that they worked on average four days a year. It also said that despite contract language (found also in Actors' Equity Association and American Federation of Television and Radio Artists contracts) that bars discrimination based on disability, roughly 36 percent of respondents said they felt some form of discrimination in the workplace, "including not being cast or being refused an audition because of their disability." Disabled actors who auditioned frequently tended to work more, according to the report, but it added that many performers weren't candid about their abilities, for fear of "being viewed as an object of pity and incapable of doing the job."

    SAG's report concluded that more advocacy and education were required, as was more-accurate data collection within the industry. Hired actors are not tracked with regard to disability as they are with respect to race, gender, and age.

    Since the report was published, advocacy has increased. SAG, Equity, and AFTRA launched the "I Am PWD" campaign in 2008 to promote inclusion and accessibility for people with disabilities. That same year the National Endowment for the Arts held its first National Summit on Careers in the Arts for People With Disabilities. But despite those events, SAG's most recent casting data report, tracking 2007-08, shows that the industry still does not collect data on working actors with disabilities. In a written statement, the union added that these actors remain "virtually invisible" in entertainment media."

    So there are clearly some big problems despite the positive work being done.

    Notably, at least eight characters with disabilities on cable programs are portrayed by actors with disabilities:

    In HBO’s Game of Thrones, the character of Tyrion, a little person, won actor Peter Dinklage an Emmy;
    Character Walter White Jr. on AMC’s Breaking Bad has cerebral palsy, as does actor RJ Mitte;
    ABC Family’s Secret Life of the American Teenager features the character Tom Bowman, played by Luke Zimmerman, an actor with Down syndrome, and Tom’s girlfriend Tammy, played by Michelle Marks, an actress with a developmental disability;
    The character Thor Lundgren on Showtime’s Nurse Jackie has diabetes and a prosthetic eye, a storyline inspired by Stephen Wallem, who plays Thor;
    ABC Family’s Switched at Birth features three characters with disabilities: Emmett, played by Sean Berdy, and Melody, played by Marlee Matlin, who are both deaf, and Daphne, played by Katie Leclerc, an actress with Ménière's disease.

    Problematically, all of the above characters are white as are the characters listed in the GLAAD survey. Race and ethnicity is another big area of underrepresentation and discrimination in casting.

    In the end this is a serious problem and it is not just about who is portraying the character. We simply need PWD to be shown accurately on TV and in the movies, period. We are practically invisible! When we are not given representation commensurate to our numbers, it feeds into the idea that we do not exist and do not deserve rights or attention. Increased visibility can lead to change across the board in so many ways, but change starts in casting when people let down the barriers and decide that actors with disabilities can do the job.
    In our world constituted of differences of all kinds, it is not the disabled, but society at large that needs special education...to become a genuine society for all. -Frederic Major, Former UNESCO Director General

  9. #19
    Senior Member ~Lin's Avatar
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    One of the regulars on Glee has downs syndrome, and there have been a few other actors with downs in various episodes. And the actress Ali Stroker from the Glee Project was in an episode, it was left somewhat open ended to where we may see her again.

    Not in the US, but actress Cherylee Houston in the UK has EDS like me and was the first disabled actress to be a regular character on the long running soap Coronation St. I believe she got the part completely outside anything to do with her or the characters disability, but she does use a chair full time and its been briefly mentioned in episodes that the character suffers the same disability as Cherylee. I watched a bunch of episodes and was pleasantly surprised at how little to do with her disability or being in a chair was present.
    Board Member of Assistance Dog Advocacy Project working in Education. Feel free to ask me any service dog questions!

    I am not paralyzed. I have a genetic connective tissue disorder with neuro complications and a movement disorder.

  10. #20
    Quote Originally Posted by NikkiMaya View Post
    I actually agree with Scorpion re the blackface reference and I thought he/she made some really great points as well. I think the situation for actors with disabilities is really bad, and there should be way more access and job opportunities. Overall, I thought Stephen's post was excellent also. The blackface reference was the one place he lost me.
    When I first became aware of the story the notion of modern day blackface sprang to mind almost immediately. I referenced it in a comment on FB and I was concerned that someone might find the comparison off-putting. I was surprised later to find that the same comparison was occurring to many people independently. I take some reassurance that I wasn't completely off the map or off my rocker in using it. Google "Ironside" and "blackface" and you'll discover that a consensus of sorts finds agreement with this analogy. This may leave you no more persuaded that the reference was apt, but mine was a shared reflex.

    This thread was moribund until last night. I'm glad it got noticed and I have enjoyed and have been enlightened by everyone's comments. Thanks!

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