Over the last 2 years I have tried to contact James Cameron
and start a dialogue on how we can work together to bring authentic representation of paraplegics, of those with a disAbility, a reality in Hollywood. For the last 4 years, Mr. Cameron has been working and filming his new movie “Avatar” which features a paraplegic character in a science fiction story who uses a computer to operate a life like avatar of an able bodied alien. But all of my many, many attempts have been ignored or dismissed by not responding.
I am a paraplegic filmmaker and business man and I have to
know if I am giving 100% support for or in opposition to “Avatar” and its’ portrayal of paraplegics – and generally of all those with a disAbility. Regardless of which support I give, Mr. Cameron’s casting of Sam Worthington is done in the Hollywood tradition of portraying but misrepresenting those with a disAbility. So how can I support it? I cannot change the casting – but I can provide and do provide film projects, like “London Time” that does provide the authentic voice, vision, and performance of a paraplegic – of those with a disAbility, and I have proposed to Mr. Cameron that if he would simply admit that at the time he cast the relatively unknown
actor, Sam Worthington in the role of a paraplegic character, that he did not realize how significant a disAbility is to the identity of those living with a disAbility BUT now that he is aware of it, he supports the authentic portrayal and representation of paraplegics – of all those with a disAbility who can represent themselves. And in a show of his support he is supporting Abilities United Productions, and more specifically, my feature film, “London Time” that will finally give the authenticity to a featured character and story about a paraplegic and those with a disAbility in a featured film.
Either way – with my support of “Avatar” that includes James
Cameron’s new awareness and support of authentic representation of paraplegics, or in opposition because of the lack of Mr. Cameron’s support, this will put the spotlight on the issue of representing ourselves and how my company and films provide a solution – a complete solution in every aspect, from the social, critical, and commercial factors of a wide release motion picture that features the authentic voice and vision from the writer and director, yours truly and the authentic performance of a paraplegic actor, yet to be cast, all of which provides 100% authentic representation – instead of the long history of Hollywood’s stereotypical portrayal and misrepresenting of paraplegics and
those with a disAbility in general. The time is NOW!
What’s the BIG deal, Larry?
If the character in any movie was specifically written as a black man, would you cast a white actor?
What? It’s not the same thing?
Why – because you can immediately see the difference between
a black man and a white man? Can you not immediately see the difference between a paraplegic man using a wheelchair and a standing able bodied man?
It is a lot more than that!
Yeah, it surely is! And so I ask – is the life of a
paraplegic not as difficult to live as a man of color?
Every aspect of my life is directly affected by my disAbility. In every social situation, at a party, in a business meeting, on a date, trying to get a date! And with the many economic challenges, of getting a job, making enough money to support my disAbility, going into a bank to try and get a loan. I am faced with stereotypes and discrimination everywhere I go and that is on top of the huge physical challenges I go through on a daily basis, the obstacles, the barriers, the physical and emotional pain, the way people
look at me, and a ton of other issues that make my life – and that is exactly what it is – my life!
Hollywood Stole My Identity
And all of these challenges that I face in dealing with my disAbility as a paraplegic, make my disAbility a HUGE factor in my identity.
Not just in the fact that my identity is nearly always described right up front and is labeled right away since most do not call me a man – they call me a handicapped man, disAbled man, a man in a wheelchair, a gimp, a lame man, a man with a disAbility, a paraplegic man! By them not recognizing this, by not portraying it, by misrepresenting me, in movies and television is the same as
stealing my identity. That along with the images of stereotypes in movies, that society often basis their opinions from, of paraplegics and those with a disAbility on, is offensive!
Tell me, why is it offensive if a white actor plays a character who is specifically written as a black person but it is not offensive for a able bodied actor to represent a character specifically written as a paraplegic?
Is it because it is easier to fake? Just putting a person in a wheelchair makes them disAbled?
I can tell you, it is offensive to the nearly 6 million Americans who live with paralysis in some form that requires the use of a wheelchair. And believe me the other 50+ million Americans with a disAbility would also be offended because they can relate and understand how it is to be stereotyped and discriminated in movies and television. To think that any able bodied actor can understand what this life is like by reading a book, by talking or hanging out with a real paraplegic, to simply use a wheelchair for the few weeks before production begins, or even through the common practice in Hollywood of hiring a “paraplegic consultant” to be behind the camera and advising the actor on how to “act” paralyzed is incredibly moronic. And it is even more offensive because this disAbility is one that can be easily represented by actors who are paraplegics – and there are plenty to chose from.
Contact the Screen Actors’ Guild and their Performers with disAbilities (PWD) committee – not to mention the many more who do not belong to SAG because they cannot get a job acting in a movie that would give them the credentials to join!
I hear from both SAG and non-SAG actors with a disAbility all the time! And by the way – to answer the often used excuse by Hollywood and more recently on Broadway by the producer of the new production of “The Helen Keller Story” who say that they need a name recognized actor to draw in audiences – and that there were none available that had a disAbility. My answer is there never will be because you continue not to hire any – so how will anybody ever get to know their names? You will not cultivate and help make a star out of an actor with a disAbility. The results are their continued use of this excuse, of perpetuating the misrepresenting of those with a disAbility. And also there are co-starring roles that a name recognized actor can portray and draw in the audiences. This is part of my business model and my screenplays as I am writing my characters, I make sure I have strong and exciting characters, first and foremost for my audience, and then also to attract actors with the Hollywood Star Power factor to play opposite my actor with a disAbility! I know that Detective London, my 21st century “Ironside” type character would not be nearly as exciting without his professional and personal relationship with Marci Waters or his homicide partner, Detective Richmond, in “London Time”!
But nobody will know this if Hollywood continues its practice of
discrimination, of stereotypical portrayals, and misrepresentation all stemming from their repressing the authentic voices, visions, and performances of paraplegics and those with a disAbility that CAN REPRESENT themselves!
I have an answer to every question or objection to using a paraplegic screenwriter, a paraplegic director, and a paraplegic actor. And based on experience, vast research, and basic common sense, I have created a business model, a company, and several screenplays that erase any and all objections to authentic representation of paraplegics – of those with a disAbility, and would end the perpetual cycle of Hollywood practices of stereotypes and discrimination that will be socially responsible,
critically praiseworthy, and commercially successful. And just for a small example, go to the website – AbilitiesUnited.com and surf around looking at the Feature Films, the “London Time” page that is entertaining and authentic in both portraying and representing! And the newly created “Authentic Representation in Hollywood”
On your Mark. Get Set. GO!
Which brings us to the end – or as the saying goes the beginning, because the end is where we start! I am waiting until the Tuesday,
December 1, 2009 to begin the marketing campaign that will raise the awareness of this issue, this cause of authentic representation in Hollywood. It will include the viral marketing of a YouTube video (there may be more than one – but currently I am making one that is awesome!) and a complete internet campaign that will target
every website, forum, and board, that mentions any movie that features a character who is a paraplegic or has a disAbility and is not authentically represented in voice, vision, and/or performance of an actual person who is a paraplegic or lives with a disAbility. I will provide links to each one where all you from this blog, my website, my Facebook, MySpace, and Twitter page followers, can go and add your comments about their portrayals and misrepresentation of paraplegics and those with a disAbility in general! Yes, this will heavily weigh in on the December 18th world wide release of “Avatar”! And this includes the aforementioned, all out internet protest (through mine and your commenting) and a physical demonstration of hundreds of people (location in Los Angeles pending! Watch our website and this blog for more information – and then watch your mobile devices such as iPhone for Google maps and detailed information.)
Personally, this is not what I want – not only is this difficult because as a filmmaker I admire and respect James Cameron as a masterful storyteller on film, but it also costs a lot in time, effort, and expense that I would much rather spend wholly on the promoting of “London Time” – on providing the answers to the authentic representation and portrayals of paraplegics and those with a disAbility. Not on having to demonize the stereotypical and discriminating practices that Hollywood perpetuates on those with a disAbility and using “Avatar” for what it is – a prime example.
Left or Right? Up or Down? High or Low?
But if I hear from Mr. Cameron and he does wish to work together in the positive nature of authentic representation of paraplegics and those with a disAbility in movies and television – this “prime example” spot light on “Avatar” will switch to support and we will use that forum to make the change in Hollywood that will end the offensive dismissal that being a paraplegic, that having to live with a disAbility is not a big deal and that Hollywood will finally give those with a disAbility – who can – who have the Ability to represent themselves – the same fair and equal opportunity that give all other minorities!
The change is coming – we are at fork on the road where James Cameron is at the center of and it is up to him on which road we will take. And no response is a response – the high road or the low road? Either one will get us to the destination of change in Hollywood!
Join me right now. Go to the website, AbilitiesUnited.com and click on the link to the “Authentic Representation in Hollywood” to add your comments and thoughts about this change coming to Hollywood! And if you wish, also join my brand new eNewsletter and you will get all the latest updates and information about “London Time”, Abilities United, The Authentic Representation in
Hollywood campaign, and on which route “Avatar” will play in our march on Hollywood!