If a tree falls in the forest and nobody is there, does it make a sound?
If the stigma, physical & attitudinal barriers, discrimination, accepted standard practices in the entertainment biz consciously and/or unconsciously repress the voices, visions, and representation, and unfairly keeps those with a disAbility in a box and primarily only using able bodied majority to represent paraplegics and others with a noticeable disAbility AND nobody sees it or cares when it happens – does it matter?
“I have never seen anybody discriminated at work in Hollywood and therefore doubt it happens.”
Many in Hollywood do not see the how paraplegics are treated within their own industry – while they are at work – while some may see what is on the surface, as most in Hollywood will “say” the right things, and some will even make proper efforts when a paraplegic in a wheelchair comes though the doors – but the truth is there is a lot of this that never gets seen – and especially to those who are no longer struggling to make a career in this business! Everything from the “parking lot auditions” to just skipping the audition process altogether – even when the character is specifically written as a paraplegic, keeps us out of the business and out of Hollywood sight! Cannot see us being discriminated against when we are not allowed on the set!
One of the results, the impact that limited – very limited portrays of paraplegics and people with a disAbility in general (1% in American television) is exponentially worsened by the fact that the “industry” practices – the standard which is widely accepted – is to dismiss, ignore, discriminate, and stereotype PEOPLE with a disAbility and that is especially manifested in the Hollywood creative roles – the writers, directors, and actors of these very limited portrayals are nearly always represented by able bodied people who have no idea what it is like to be a paraplegic or person with a disAbility. I am not an actor but I could watch previous movies and television shows, read books, speak to actual people, consult with a person on the set, and prepare an in depth character study of an inner city racial minority, and then with the help of the make-up department I could portray a single black father trying to raise his kids up to overcome adversity, grow from challenges, and basically do the right things! And not in some comedic role for a comedic movie like “Tropic Thunder” or in reverse, as black men dressed and with make up become “White Chicks”, but for a serious, dramatic role. Nobody would have a problem with that, right? Sure, I would probably not get the endorsement of the NAACP but there is not much difference in “pretending”, “faking”, or “acting” as a person from a minority group that I do not belong to – Yes there are certain lines we do not cross in our Hollywoodland of make believe and I so desire that it would include the life and challenges of a people with paraplegia.
These very limited portrayals, that nearly always use able bodied to represent people with disAbilities, affects the entire community of 56+ million Americans with a disAbility – that is 20% of the American population to never have any significant authentic representation in our entertainment culture.
And of course it affects those people with a disAbility who have Hollywood dreams, hopes, passions, training, education for working in this industry – in the creative roles of this industry – as actors, writers, directors – and outside the little box that when Hollywood says it is okay to portray a person with a disAbility then they will in the acceptable roles of a documentary film about some inspirational person with a disAbility, in the background or some other supporting and token role – BUT instead, I propose something outside the box and in mainstream movies and television – AND in non-stereotypical characters and stories – and again I do more than talk about what “should be” and actual produce it, provide it such as in my screenplay and mainstream feature film project “London Time”. Yes this is a plug for my work as an authentic voice and vision, and is a PRIME EXAMPLE of having a mainstream movie with authentic representation.
- What would this mean to have our own voice, our own vision, our own performance, our own representation of a paraplegic character, a paraplegic leading man, a movie hero of our own that is not in some crazy fantasy world, but in the portrayal and story set in our own reality?
- What would this kind of authentic representation – and real inclusion – in a mainstream movie that gets the attention of more than just some small indie film with television advertisement only in the markets it will be shown in – the local art house in Los Angeles, New York, and maybe a couple of other large cities in America – what would that mean to the entire minority community of the 56+ million Americans with a disAbility?
- What would this kind of authentic representation and real inclusion mean to the entire community of people with a disAbility trying to work in this industry despite the past and even current Hollywood environment toward people with a disAbility?
- And to others now and in the future within the disAbled community to suddenly have real examples working in and obtaining their Hollywood dreams despite the opposition?
- And finally what impact do you think this kind of mainstream movie and television portrayals using authentic people with a disAbility in these creative roles of writers, directors, and actors actually representing the characters created with a disAbility – with the same weight and importance in the production budget and marketing support that other mainstream movies have – on our culture and on our society in general – how will they then view, treat, and interact with paraplegics and others with a disAbility – when we are included as part of the American scene in movies and television?
I know as I am a PARAPLEGIC with a passion for storytelling on film – to be a mainstream filmmaker – a movie maker who provides this authentic representation. I have been at it for the past 15 years and tried every route possible and in many of them, such as in the business proposals and business plans for my production company, Abilities United Productions (AbilitiesUnited.com) and film projects like “London Time”, “Glacial Breeze” and others, I have often touted that A-List Hollywood players and makers would be a key to helping us provide this type of authentic representation, because they know how difficult it is to make a career in this industry, the struggles of trying to make it – but especially when they were presented with the facts and reality that paraplegics and others with a disAbility have the same challenges of making it in this business PLUS the incredible barriers of attitude, prejudices, stigma, and discrimination against us just to SELF REPRESENT in movies and television.
But my many attempts at contacting and getting the help of the A-List Hollywood Players and Makers have not turned out the way I thought it would. Why? Are they too afraid of the “industry system” that portrays paraplegics and people with a disAbility in a set little box? Do they not think this is problem? Do they not care? I don’t know.
WHY CAN’T WE BE FRIENDS?
Just because we look different does not mean we feel different! We may not all have the gorgeous movie star looks of George Clooney, Sandra Bullock, Brad Pitt, or Scarlett Johansson, but many working and even those who are movie stars in Hollywood do not! There are many with a disAbility who are very attractive and some that even have the gorgeous movie star looks, but we are just as diverse as the Hollywood crowd and the American society in general.
Those of us with a disAbility have the same desires to be recognized and included in the group as our able bodied counterparts! And I really feel that the power of influence that movies and television has on our culture, which in turn influences the opinions and reactions of our society – as proven with other people, issues, politics, civil rights, human rights, minorities, should also include paraplegics and others with a disAbility.
So I am reaching out again to the many within the system – those that have some clout, some pull, some celebrity power to help make a change – and ask that they give the same commitment they give to help others who are repressed and unjustly treated in other industries, in other situations, and other locations around the world – to those of us looking for a fair and equal opportunity to be part of the group – and not be singled out because we are different. Not to only be included on paper – in the script – written, directed, and performed by able bodied people. Let us be – help us be – part of mainstream Hollywood entertainment! Who is with us?