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Disabled people are one of the most underrepresented groups in films and on television that it is nearly impossible to find a tv show that accurately represents the disabled community. Most movies have the same storyline which is disabled people are depressed and commit suicide or are cured of their disability. You may think that these are good storylines but I am here to tell you they’re not and are very inaccurate because for some reason filmmakers think that it’s a good idea to hire abled people for disabled parts when they should be hiring acutal disabled people. Society has a very negative view of how disabled people live their lives because storylines are so wrong and people think we are depressed. It so simple to change this and spread awareness to different disabilities and all filmmakers would have to do hire disabled actors and writers so there is at least some truth to movies about disabilties. Abled people technically can sit in wheelchair and act disabled but what they can’t do is make it look natural because they are not used to it which is why abled people are not qualifed for these roles. There is so much to be improved in movies about disabled characters so in this post I am going to talk about some common storylines in movies that are always used but not necessarily accurate.
Every disability needs a cure- Conditions like cancer need a cure because so many people die from it every year at a very young age. A disability, on the other hand, doesn’t always need a cure and as a matter of fact, some people may not want one. Spina Bifida is not going to have a cure anytime soon but if by some miracle there was one it would probably be crazy expensive and I would be on board with having some things fixed like my migraines but I don’t need a cure and if I never walked I can live with that! My disability makes me who I am and I have learned how to do everything differently because I had to. If I decided to get a cure I would have relearn how to do everything that it would be like teaching a baby how to walk and I don’t know if I would be okay with years of extensive therapy. There is nothing wrong with wanting the cure but for many people it’s unrealistic because researchers are nowhere near close to finding one but if it did become available we shouldn’t make disabled people think they need one to be normal because there is nothing wrong with you and it’s okay to not want it.
Disabled people are depressed- A vast majority of the movies I see about disabled people that makes me lose my mind is disabled people are depressed and commit suicide. Some disabled people are depressed and you should probably worry about them committing suicide but a vast majority of them are happy with their lives and do not want to commit suicide. Disabled people don’t get any more depressed than abled people do and we shouldn’t be making movies that makes everyone think all disabled people are depressed and want to die because it puts a very negative view on disability and not true at all. I have days when I feel depressed because pain is high but for the most part, I wouldn’t say I am a depressed person and am very happy with my life and the same goes for many other disabled people. Some disabled are depressed and it’s important we spread awareness for those with depression but when you don’t put it out there that we have this horrible depressing life because it scares people and what you want to do is hightlight the positives of living with a disability. There are some negative depressing things about a disability but there are also a lot of positives like the realtionships you build that you can’t ignore or you will think disabled people are depressed!
Disabled children are a burden to their parents – If I was going to be totally honest taking care of a child who is severely disabled and has a lot of challenges is not easy but not for the reasons you may think. Getting extra help to take care of your disabled children or getting necessary medical supplies can be an act of of congress and every parent’s worst nightmare but it really shouldn’t be. Parents often struggle to get their disabled children the things they need because the resources they need aren’t always accessible to them and they have to fight to get it but if it was maybe parents wouldn’t struggle so much. One of the things I hate is when movies show disabled kids as being a burden, to their parents but the burden comes from not your child but an unaccepting society and inaccessibility and if those things would change parents would have a much easier time with raising a disabled child.
Disabled people have no fun- Right now many disabled people are worried about getting sick because of the pandemic so many of them are staying home but if it wasn’t for that we would be out and doing other things because having a disability doesn’t mean you live at your doctor’s. Some disabled people may need to go to the doctor more than others but for the most part we go for checkups like most abled people and when we aren’t feeling well. Disabled people do fun things just like abled people do and we just may do things a little bit differently to accommodate our disabilities. I love shopping and although sometimes it can get a little frustrating when stores don’t even bother to try to be accessible I still can have fun just like abled people.
Doctors have all the answers- I hate it when tv shows make it seem like doctors have all the answers and if they don’t know they will do whatever it takes to figure out what is wrong with you because this is so far from reality. Test results sometimes come back normal leaving doctors scratching their head and saying I am sorry there is nothing I can do for you and you’re going to have to deal with your pain. People get misdiagnosed all the time and although doctors will do their best to help figure out what’s is wrong with you they don’t always know and sometimes they think it’s one thing and it turns out to be something totally different. There is still so much doctors have to learn about different conditions and although there are many excellent doctors that will do their best to help you but sometimes they just don’t know what’s wrong with you which leaves many people frustrated searching for answers.
The language is not always accurate– When I am watching a movie about a disabled person I almost always know if that person is acutal disabled by the language they use without even looking it up. A lot of language used in movies about disabled characters acutal disabled people would never use because it would be considered offensive towards the disabled community. Terms like crippled or wheelchair bound when referring to a disabled person some people may not mind but others will cringe when they hear it so just to be safe disabled people don’t use most of these terms. Movies should really do their research and use the correct terms when making a moving about disabled people or not make one at all because it’s not helping the disabled community when you are using a bunch of offensive terms.
Some movies with disabled characters are very educational and pretty fantastic so I would reccomend them but not all of them are.. When you portray disabled people as depressed it has a very negative effect on the disabled community and scares a lot of people so we need to be hiring disabled actors so we can show society not all disabled people are depressed but our lives are just different. Abled actors are good at a lot of things but acting disabled is not one of them and usually, abled actors struggle with simple things like pushing a wheelchair that disabled people are used to and wouldn’t struggle with. If filmmakers hired actual disabled people for these roles they could make a lot of things look natural because most of these things every day and have had lots of practice whereas as an abled person would be just be reading a script and be new to it. I get excited when I see a movie about a disabled person so I do still watch them but I mostly only watch ones where disabled people are playing disabled parts. I know what is accurate and what it is over-exaggerated so I can’t enjoy these movies as much as an abled person can because I see what most people do not. This is just my perspective as a disabled woman of what I think could change in movies but does not reflect all disabled people. I can’t give that much insight on illness because I am not ill so some people may have different opinions of this post and that is okay. Do you like to watch movies with disabled characters? How do you think filmmakers can improve them?
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I think so many filmmakers see disability as a dreadful burden instead of a fact of life. My young adult sister has Down syndrome. We don’t cry over it every day. We have fun, chat, (sometimes) get mad at each other, and live ordinary lives. I love her just the way she is, because how could anyone not?
I wish more movies showed the reality of that!
Gemma - Wheelescapades
Great post. It’s important for disability to be portrayed more accurately for the world to view us as equals and not feel awkward or different.