No Country for disAbled Men….and Women

 


 The Oscars
were…interesting? Well there were a couple that were more interesting then
others and I have to say my favorite part was seeing Jennifer Garner. But that
is probably a given since I am a fan and well who would not like seeing
Jennifer Garner? There were a couple of funny bits and my favorite was John
Travolta’s 707 with its lights on (?) or was it just parked in the wrong spot?
I don’t remember but it was funny. John Stewart as a host was okay and maybe
because the writers just got back to work and didn’t have time to make anything
that spectacular – but to be fair, I’m not a fan of Stewart and there were a
lot more choices for a hosting job that have improvisational capabilities which
in this case would’ve helped a lot such as Billy Crystal, and the two that were
left out of the hosting montage, Steve Martin and Whoopi Goldberg and frankly I
like them better anyway!
 

Still I do want to congratulate all the nominees as I think
they were the winners in the 2007 year of movies! I think there were some that
got snubbed and should’ve been more recognized such as “3:10 to Yuma” and “Gone
Baby Gone” as I thought they were outstanding films and at the top of my list
of favorites for 2007. But for the pictures that were nominated for Best
Picture, I would’ve chosen either “Atonement” or “Juno” which the latter was a
surprise to me when I saw it at the theatres. I know everyone was going goo goo
for Ellen Page even before it was released but when I see that kind of falling
all over themselves praise – it often turns me off a picture (ie: “Borat”) and
I will then usually wait until DVD time – but this was an exception
because…Jennifer Garner was a co-star and in my opinion she makes every movie
she is in better. It was a good movie and did keep my interests. I did of
course identify most with Jason Bateman’s character and loved his portrayal and
that might have had something to do with my leaving the theatre rather
satisfied.
 

And speaking of Best Pictures – I did note
that during the 79 previous Best Picture winners montage that four of them did
have something that featured or co-starred a character with a disAbility. The
first being “The Best Years of Our Lives” and the clip they chose to show was
with the character – and if I remember correctly the actor – had the prosthetic
arm and hand raising that arm to salute. One of the first and only authentic
characters. That movie came out in the 1950’s and we had to go all the way to
the 80’s for the next one, “Rainman”! Not authentic but also one of the
exceptions I talk about when I speak about disAbilities and the ones that
cannot be acted by a person with the same or similar disAbility for obvious
reasons – and I make that distinction because of what I propose and the fact
that Hollywood
believes all disAbilities are unable to authentically portray themselves.
Ignorance, stereotypes and discrimination. Then I saw “Forest Gump” as the clip
merely showed him running – of course it is never out rightly said that the Forest character has a disAbility, I think in his speech
and thought patterns it is obvious he has some form of a mental disAbility. The
fact that it is never spoken right out loud is a perfect example of how those
in Hollywood
downplay or completely ignore the facts of a disAbility. But this movie also
had Lieutenant Dan who becomes an amputee and was  fantastically acted  by Gary Sinese. Technology was at this cutting
edge time of movie making made it look so real because the actor did not have
to sit on his leg to make it appear to be amputated. This is another prime
example of when a character with a disAbility can be portrayed by an actor with
a disAbility even when in part of the story the character is not disAbled. It
works both ways Hollywood!
And lastly was “Million Dollar Baby” but the clip they showed of course was
with Hillary punching the speed bag at the boxing gym.
 

4 out of 79 is a lot better ratio then the amount of films
produced each year and those that have a character with a disAbility in them!
But still only one of them featured a starring role with a disAbility –
“Rainman” unless you acknowledge “Forest Gump” as I do and therefore two of the
four. The other two it was a co-starring role in “Best Years of Our Lives” and
the lead in “Million Dollar Baby” became paralyzed only in the third act.
 

Another interesting note is that the two male actors winning
Oscar’s – Daniel Day Lewis for a Leading Role and Javier Bardem for Supporting
Role both portrayed severely disAbled characters in previous movies – “My Left
Foot” and “The Sea Inside” respectively. Daniel winning his first Oscar for
that role and Javier did get a lot of International awards for his role in the
film that won an Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film of 2005. And I do comment
further on the website about “The Sea Inside” and my take on it, if you care to
read more! I also want to mention more talk on the Oscar’s and disAbility on
Beth Haller’s blog at http://media-dis-n-dat.blogspot.com/2008/02/disability-moments-at-oscars.html

 

So what does all of this mean? It just goes
to show further evidence of what I have been talking about and what I hope to
help change. There really is “No Country
(especially in the World of movies) For disAbled Men and Women.”
And on the occasions that Hollywood wishes to allow and greenlight a movie about a person with a disAbility – it has to be written, directed and acted by someone who has never been disAbled. Although some might argue that some are partly handicapped!
 

Seriously, with little to no representation in the movies or
television, society as a whole continues to view us as these “very much less
than” members of the community, the nation, of society. Because we are not
given a fair and equal opportunity to represent ourselves and our voices are
repressed there is no validation that we equal human beings and unfortunately
that often even flows over into our self image which perpetuates an terrible
and endless cycle that includes some of the highest rates of drug and alcohol
abuse along with suicides of any minority subgroup in America. Bet you didn’t
know that. Of course not because we are represented by anyone but those who
have no idea what it is like to live with a disAbility and all of this could be
broken with our authentic voices and representation in the single most
influential element in our culture – movies and television.
 

But does Hollywood
care? Does ANYBODY in Hollywood
care?
I will keep looking as I am sure someone does care and care
enough to help us represent ourselves. Someone who will look beyond the wheelchair and also
see the incredibly difficulty those of us working – or should I more accurately
say barely working, wanting and trying to work, and dreaming of working in the
business – face daily and nearly everywhere we turn just for a hope of expressing
our talents as our able bodied counterparts do everyday!
 

Meanwhile I continue to debate with myself
on writing a screenplay – either a brand new one or an adapted or modified from
one of my short stories, that expresses the true experiences of a paraplegic in
today’s society. Showing the drug and alcohol abuse that is so prevalent among
paraplegics, along with the interactions with people in the workplace, in
social arenas and especially those of the opposite sex (or same sex depending
on your orientation). The discrimination and stereotypes, the way many treat
adults like children because our eye level from a wheelchair seems to be an
automated response. How it seems if I am not a Super Crip or an Inspirational
Gimp then I have no meaning and purpose or place in society according to some
whose only experiences with those with a disAbility have been through movies
and television. And I could write a screenplay that has many other
circumstances and basic challenges a person in a wheelchair has to deal with
every single day. A kind of “Crash” meets “The Waterdance” or “Coming Home.” It
would certainly have to include characters that are interacting with Hollywood where the
discrimination is the highest of all industries. Again for those who don’t know
this is not just my opinion or the way someone interprets what is going on, but
is from my personal experiences over the past 12+ years, as well as the
experiences that actors with a disAbility share with me regularly and is
documented in the only study of those with a disAbility in Hollywood and was
published by SAG 3 years ago this May.

 

Would that voice be more accepted by Hollywood? Would it only fuel the
stereotypes and contradict what my Mission Statement and desires to not focus
on the disAbility? The only story that comes creeping into my mind during these
inner debates is one that is semi-autobiographical. And although I am not
afraid to expose some of that – I am afraid that it will be categorized as
stereotypical or a one-hit wonder. But maybe that is a risk I have to take to
get Hollywood’s attention, to give authentic voice and representation and to
finally get back to directing – which is such a personal satisfaction and part
of me that maybe that is what I will have to do – and then I can at least say I
got to direct a feature film. What do you think?

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4 thoughts on “No Country for disAbled Men….and Women”

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