I have noticed in films and series, an increasing number of disabled actors. Particularly wheelchair users. The trouble is, I have noticed something else, and as a full-time wheelchair user I feel I can say this, a number of them are very poor actors. It leads me to the conclusion that they are there to represent me; by me I mean disability generally. That is a big problem to me. As it is not working as it should.
I’ll give you a concrete example, the detective series Vera. It has a lady in a wheelchair, working in the office. She is the most wooden actor in the series. I cannot imagine they would have cast her in Vera unless she filled a need for a disabled actor. I can say that by comparing the calibre of the other actors they choose. I wouldn’t mind if she was a great ambassador for disabled people. But she always looks so dour and miserable. She doesn’t engage me, she’s not someone who you connect with. I am not blaming her; not everyone is a brilliant actor or good at connecting with people. She is just one of many average actors. She just happens to be disabled. That’s the problem, she is filling a role which I feel she is unsuitable for.
I am totally behind the idea of positive discrimination, where there is a lack of representation of any kind; gender, racial or disability. I understand that film makers will not want the hassle of employing disabled actors without a push. Adapting sets and facilities is costly and difficult; I know they require that push. What I am saying is that they need a better choice of actors. I can only assume this is where the problem lies.
What is needed is for a lot of disabled people to start training as actors. Ones with an aptitude for the vocation. Out of the way I’m coming through. No, I will spare you my thespian skills; or lack thereof. Acting it is like every other area in life, if the directors and producers have limited choice they will end up with a limited outcome.
I do want to be represented in films and television. That is a good thing, it’s great that the media is trying harder to represent people more equally from all areas of life. What you notice is that there are great actors from all walks of life, racial backgrounds and genders, but we have a long way to go in finding great disabled actors. There are a few; but too few.
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