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    My latest blog - Ironbutt

    Ablebodied actors playing disabled characters. Grrr!!

    http://pushliving.com/index.php/life...om/25-ironside
    stephen@bike-on.com

    #2
    yea yea... but who else but Martin Short can be Uncle Jack!

    http://vimeo.com/2462812




    **Jim, Steven, or anyone with powers - can vimeo be added or enabled for embedding video?If it already exists, for example, [vimeo]xxx[/vimeo] or [vv]2462812[/vv] doesn't work.

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      #3
      Oh, oh...can I play Della Street? Aw, right actor, wrong TV show. But I really want to play Della Street .

      Comment


        #4
        Originally posted by chick View Post
        yea yea... but who else but Martin Short can be Uncle Jack!

        http://vimeo.com/2462812
        Marty does it all.
        stephen@bike-on.com

        Comment


          #5
          Nice writeup Stevie lad. Wordsmithing runs in the family I see.
          Please donate a dollar a day at http://justadollarplease.org.
          Copy and paste this message to the bottom of your signature.

          Thanks!

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            #6
            I read an article a week ago that disabled actors were upset that an able-body actor was playing this role. I didn't know there were so many disabled actors, but I'm sure any one of them could have played this role. Good piece Stephen.
            A dolla makes me holla, honey boo boo! - borrowed from Honey boo boo child

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              #7
              Stephen, I had a chance to read your blog, and while I can see where you're coming from, I don't completely agree. I'm all for more actors with disabilities being cast in Hollywood, both in disabled roles and roles that weren't written as disabled but could be played by someone in a wheelchair.

              But I don't think an absolutist approach is warranted or practical, as I think there are many reasons an able-bodied person would be cast as disabled. In the case of "Ironside", there are scenes where he's not paralyzed, so an actual para couldn't play those scenes without some CGI that wouldn't be cheap, nor would it necessarily work visually. 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.

              Then there's the question, if you only want disabled actors portraying disabled characters, then can a para play a quad by those rules? Can a high quad play a guy with ALS? Should 'The Walking Dead' have recast Hershel with a real-life amputee after the character's leg was hacked off to save his life? Should Joe on "Family Guy" be voiced by an actual paraplegic who's a cop? Should "House" have had a guy with a real limp from the same medical issue (I forget the name of the issue that caused his limp and pain) as the character portray Gregory House, MD? Should Professor X be portrayed by a real para in the X-Men movies, even though he's been both able-bodied and disabled at various points in the film franchise (and comics)?

              Acting is pretending, so I don't mind able-bodied actors portraying disabled characters, even though I do think Hollywood needs some education and enlightenment with regards to people with disabilities. I think a better motivator for change would be giving kudos when Hollywood gets it right: Daryl Chill Mitchell's portrayal of Eli Goggins on the show "Ed" a decade ago, his role in the short-lived "Brothers" sitcom (Mitchell has acted pre and post SCI), RJ Mitte's portrayal of Walter White, Jr on "Breaking Bad" (born with Cerebral Palsy), etcetera.

              Lastly, I think comparing able-bodied actors portraying disabled characters to blackface is hyperbolic and actually diminishes the insidious portrayal of racism and denigration that blackface was all about. I recently saw a fellow comicbook professional and geek call the TV show "The Big Bang Theory" as "blackface for nerds", and while that is funny as a joke, and I totally see what he means, I don't think we should make the comparison seriously, with nerds or with crips... or with crip-nerds like me.

              Comment


                #8
                Rus, Thanks for the thorough read and thoughtful reaction.

                Some links to related articles and blogs on the Ironside debate.

                I will respond with a quick note to say that I did not make the comparison to blackface blithely. While prejudice directed toward PWDs is nowhere near as overt, it's no less insidious and pervades every culture around the globe.

                Hollywood's Disabled Actors Protest NBC's 'Ironside' Casting - When Is It Their Turn?


                Disability's starring role in Hollywood


                Don't Shoot Ironside
                I've invited Larry Sapp, the creator of this FB page to offer his insights on this topic.
                Last edited by stephen212; 27 May 2013, 11:12 PM.
                stephen@bike-on.com

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                  #9
                  Thanks, Stephen, I'll check those out.

                  And remind me to post my cartoon sometime with a black guy in a wheelchair, looking at a door with an old sign on it. The old sign is painted over, marking out "Colored" and replacing it with "Crippled" and the rest left as-is: "Use Entrance in Rear".

                  So, I don't disagree about discrimination and prejudice against the disabled, just the particular blackface comparison.

                  Comment


                    #10
                    By the way, I'm really looking forward to Michael J. Fox's new TV show...



                    Fox also portrayed a womanizing, pill-popping, drinking, asshole of a paraplegic in "Rescue Me" on FX, funny and biting.

                    Comment


                      #11
                      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.
                      stephen@bike-on.com

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                        #12
                        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; 27 May 2013, 11:52 PM.

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                          #13
                          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...

                          Comment


                            #14
                            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.

                            Comment


                              #15
                              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.

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