This week someone recommended that I write a post on The Sessions, a film about a man in an iron lung who goes to a sex surrogate to lose his virginity. A day later another person suggested the French film which is now being remade in English (because, let’s face it, most of us English speakers refuse to read subtitles) The Intouchables. And then someone else brought up that I still haven’t managed to do a post on My Left Foot.
All portray disability, all positioned very well in mainstream media, all use able bodied actors to play disabled characters.
I used to see the issue of casting abled bodied people in disabled roles as a complex one, saying that insisting on using actors with disabilities only to play disabled characters wouldn’t result in more disabled actors out there, it would result in less productions of Richard III and The Glass Menagerie. As I’ve mentioned before, I want to play characters where disability doesn’t matter. So it almost seems a step backwards to insist that we play every single disabled role out there exclusively.
Except for the fact that we aren’t getting either. We aren’t being cast as characters where disability is the central of the story or where it isn’t. We are just out of the game.
And in 2015, that is absurd. I understand there are some films that justify having an abled bodied actor. Watching Eddie Redmayne’s transformation is a performance feat which should not be missed in the name of political correctness. And it would be very hard to film The Fault in Our Stars with two teenagers going through cancer (although they certainly could have found a young actor who was an amputee). However, the near consistent refusal to use actors with disabilities to play disabled roles now represents an obstruction of progress in our world today.
Like so many injustices. it may ‘just happen’ that casting directors don’t have resources to find qualified actors with disabilities but fixing the problem won’t just happen. Once again, we need to start finding stories about amazing characters, realising that disability, real disability, not just actors playing at it, is part of the human experience.