From the hilarious antics of Mike Myers and Dana Carvey saying “We’re not worthy!” in their “Wayne’s World” characters I have to ask the same! Only instead of it being in a kidding manner as their characters honestly feel when in the presence of Aerosmith or Alice Cooper, I am very serious. Am I not worthy of common decency
– basic human dignity to be considered just as important, as significant as the
average American, the average human citizen of the world because I am a
paraplegic, a person with a disAbility? You say yes, of course I am worthy to
be considered a member of the human race and yet don’t really care that someone
who has no idea what it is like to be a person with a disAbility to give voice
and representation in every aspect of today’s entertainment.
This is the 21st Century? 2008? And yet it is okay with
you that those with a disAbility can be brushed aside and treated as people who
have no rights to represent themselves and no dignity by the entire
entertainment industry. If it is important then why are so many not caring, not
saying anything about it – not commenting right here where I am bringing up these
issues? Admittedly there are not hundreds of visitors per day – but that is all the more important that those who do visit – add their voice.
Time for another all too common
example of this representing and it comes from an organization that campaign’s
for the TRUTH. Yet when a SAG actor with a disAbility, Robert explains he entered the
room for a callback audition for a role that is specifically written as a wheeler
for their next television commercial advertising, the truth was revealed. Still
with an empty wheelchair for the able bodied actors to audition in is sitting
in the auditioning room, he should still have a good chance to be evaluated
fairly based on his acting skills. No problem, right? Everyone gets a chance to
audition for any roles right? Fair and equal opportunity in employment is what
it is all about in this politically correct era we live in, right?
WRONG! First of all performers
with a disAbility are rarely considered
for any role unless it is for a
character that is specifically written as a person with a disAbility. And
if you need a reminder of this TRUTH –
read or re-read the 2005 SAG report on Performers with a disAbility. So when a
role that is written specifically as a character with a disAbility becomes
available then the performers with a disAbility surely will have the best
chance, right? After all this is just like a specifically written role for a
character of color, or gender, or age, right? No WRONG again! If I am lying or
even if I am just exaggerating the situation then PLEASE list me the roles that
performers with a disAbility are currently cast in. One, two, maybe three current film or
television roles but even those are token, background or so insignificant that
even a recurring bit is not enough for the performers name to be listed with
the cast in the opening credits. Did you read the whole SAG report? Hell, you
could just read the Summary of the report and yeah it detailed this too!
And it appears this “TRUTH IN SMOKING” organization(http://www.thetruth.com/) is no
different. They not only hired one but 6, that’s right –1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6 able bodied actors to
portray the 6 roles of people with a disAbility for their new campaign. New
campaign – here in the 21st Century, in 2008! And so they can say
they are sensitive, politically correct, inclusive, non-discriminating they
will include roles of people who use a wheelchair for their main mode of
mobility to help tell their story – their cause and hire only able bodied
actors to portray those insignificant people with a disAbility. Wow what a
gesture, huh? Still, I have to at least give credit that they allowed a
performer with a disAbility to audition for the part. How many performers with
a disAbility did they audition? Currently we have no idea, no statistics to
show how many performers with a disAbility are auditioned for any roles by any
directors, companies or even the studios. They can say they auditioned 100 performers with a disAbility and nobody can say they didn’t even if it were not the truth. Still when those powers that be in the
casting authority already have there mind set before the performer with a
disAbility hits the mark – that they are going to dismiss them as able to act,
then audtioning performers with a disAbility is an empty gesture. 6 roles and none are cast with a performer with a
I think it is time for the TRUTH about the TRUTH IN SMOKING
organization. For a link to their Polls section on their website homepage, they ask the question “Just because it is legal does that make it right?” Damn, good question, huh? I guess that the truth only applies to their “cause” – which is the case with other organizations too. Is partial truth still the truth? Is selective truth fair?
this is just another common practice in the entertainment industry. I am
waiting for the exception to the rule, the company or person within the
business to partner with me as I have everything in place. But I’m not just waiting – I am making the calls, sending the letters, faxes, emails whatever it takes to ask
members from Hollywood for that specific
production and distribution support that this Mission deserves.
Obviously my claim that those of
us with a disAbility are not even considered as significant as any other
minority subgroups in America
by Hollywood is
much more then just a claim. There is evidence of this everywhere and I want to
commend and thank, Robert who has the balls to openly relate his personal
experience in this but just one example that he goes through on a regular basis. And
he is but one of the more than 1,200 SAG performers with a disAbility. Can you
imagine how many non-union actors with a disAbility there are? Especially when
you consider what is required to be qualified to be a member of the SAG union.
Now you may have an idea why kids and even adults with a disAbility do not even dare to dream about being
an actor, a writer, a director in Hollywood.
Besides the incredible uphill battle, including the added discrimination – there are not very many examples of actors with a disAbility on screen because most of the performers with a disAbility who are working in the “biz” are
fighting for the 2% of the roles casting actual performers with a disAbility,
of which less than .5% of them, that is “point five” or less than a half of a percent
were speaking roles in American Cinema and Television programs according to the
SAG report. Because as mentioned above – most in Hollywood incorrectly believe that performers with a disAbility can only be hired for roles specifically written as characters with a disAbility. So you can easily see why when a role that is specifically written as a character with a disAbility comes along – just how significant that is for performers with a disAbility.
And with examples like the casting by “THE TRUTH” shows you that this is even more then discrimination – it is DOUBLE DISCRIMINATION.
And because of this hard reality I suppose I can understand to a degree why
some of these “working” performers with a disAbility to raise their voices in opposition to
this incredible injustice as they are afraid to risk even their token, background,
insignificant roles, that they fought so hard for & I am sure they experience the stereotypes and discrimination from many on the set when performing even these small roles – and risk their potential of a slightly better role that might
even have a speaking part in the future.
Still I have to respond to this
apparent fear that if you don’t then speak out there will not be any more or any
better roles for those with a disAbility. The future will be the same as the
history, the decades of this status quo, with no changes in Hollywood. The choice is yours as it seems that Hollywood may not change
unless there is some opposition to this degrading
practice in the production of films and television and representation of their audience with a disAbility. We will remain in the era that women were in
during Shakespearian days when there was no authentic voice or representation
as men did all the writing, directing and acting as women.
The only reason this has
continued in Hollywood is that there hasn’t been
anyone willing to risk taking on this discriminating practice by Hollywood. Or not anyone
who has mobilized others to take on this cause and to fight for our right to
represent ourselves – I am going to make the changes even if it takes my entire
life. Will you join me? Even with just a spoken word of your outrage of this
discrimination and stereotypes of those with a disAbility? Voice your outrage
of the unfair and unequal opportunity of those with a disAbility to
authentically represent ourselves. Will you join your voice with me? Then comment
here on the blog or use my new Guestbook that can be accessed on the Contact Us page. Unless your fear of speaking out is more significant then the injustice,
the pass Hollywood
continues to get in imposing these incredibly unfair practices on those with a disAbility.
6 roles that were specifically written as having a disAbility and all 6
were cast with able bodied actors.
With a history of this kind of
discrimination can you imagine the intimidation that a performer with a
disAbility feels when auditioning for a role? Your nerves are already on edge
to give the best you can and hopefully be cast in the role but add this history
of discrimination on top of that. I wonder how actors feel when I am the one
evaluating their auditioning performance for a role of a paraplegic?
Picture this: The actor enters the room where the empty wheelchair
sits. S/he sits down and attempts to get into character as soon as possible as
they have been practicing in their head what they will do over and over again.
I roll out from behind the table, look deeply into their eyes, hand them the
script, give some direction, an idea of a scene in my movie that I want them to
read from. Then when that scene calls for it I ask them to fall out of their
chair AND act how that feels – the
vulnerability, the incomprehensible helplessness, the embarrassment, the feel
of everyone who witnessed your fall is eyeing you with the social pity that is
perpetuated by Hollywood movies, and now get back into the chair – act as
paraplegic – act how that feels that if you’re one of the 400,000
spinal cord injured paraplegics, and not one of the very few that are athletic wheelchair basketball players
who can easily lift themselves back into their chair – when one in the crowd of
20-30 people that are staring at you, has the heart to come over and despite being only two-thirds your
weight asks if she can help you back into your chair – and feel what that is
like when it flashes in front of your mind – where you are reminded again that this will NEVER change – you
will not get a cast off your leg and be able bodied one day in the near – or
even distant future. You’re whole life will be like this. And this is but one piece of the reality those with a disAbility face everyday.
And go ahead and “act” like you understand what this reality is like right there in
front me a director who is a paraplegic, who knows this reality first hand through experience, of what all of this feels like and what it is like
when all of this is happening in a matter of just a few seconds and act all of
this as I am staring down on you! I can guarantee you that even the seasoned able
bodied actor will feel a very similar intimidation as the actors with a
disAbility feel when they audition for roles everyday and everywhere else…and throughout
their entire careers! And that is the smoking, hot TRUTH.
But I have a different reality, a brighter future –
and it is already here – just waiting for Hollywood
to respond to my many, many attempts at contacting them to pay attention and
offer to add their Abilities to this permanent solution that I have worked on everyday of my life for the
past 12 years by providing or helping me to be introduced to those that can provide the production and distribution support this cause, this mission, this permanent solution
Do you want to help? All abilities are
welcomed here. What abilities do you have? If you are someone within the
business – then you know what you could do and it would take such little effort. Regardless of who you are, or who you know, or what business you are in – ADD YOUR VOICE – show you care and you support the fair and equal treatment
proposed in the Abilities United Productions’ vision for the future of real
inclusion and real opportunity to represent ourselves with authentic voices and
representation of those with a
disAbility in American Cinema and Television. And on behalf of everyone with a disAbility, thanks!