Thursday, February 4, 2016

It's Not Okay

There'a a big hub bub in Hollywood right now about the apparent exclusion of black actors in Oscar nominated roles. There are boycotts and hashtags and dialogue about the subject.

Dialogue is good. Silence is bad.

My disclosure: I am totally able-bodied.

My issue: The complete and utter lack of roles for people with disabilities in film and television.

I became utterly aware of this while doing research for my new novel, Live For This. The hero of my novel is this great guy, Michael Salinger. In addition to being smart, funny, and good-looking, he also happens to be a paraplegic. The story is not about him being paralyzed. Sure, there's a lot of that in there, as it colors how he navigates through life. His character was inspired by my next door neighbor growing up. He too had a spinal cord injury. His journey through rehabilitation is what made me want to be a physical therapist. You can read more about him here.

I'm a pretty visual thinker, and I use Pinterest to give me pictures of my characters, their clothing, settings, etc. so that I can describe them. I make Pinterest boards for my research and refer to it throughout the writing process. So, when I started Live For This, I needed to know what Michael Salinger looked like. So I started researching actors/models/athletes who have had spinal cord injuries. Do you know how FEW there are? Yeah, in terms of actors, about three. And no offense to those lovely men, they didn't fit my demographic (two were too old and the other had a different level of injury for what I needed). I was able to find an Irish actor, Peter Mitchell, who fit the bill, and Michael is based upon him (physically speaking, at least).

Not that Live For This is ever going to be made into a movie, but I felt VERY strongly that if I'm writing a character who is paralyzed, then the actor who should play him should also be paralyzed.

I'm guessing that there are more than three men out there who are in wheelchairs who consider themselves actors.

So, this brings me to my current rant. The movie trailer for Me Before You, based on the novel by JoJo Moyes was released yesterday. While I've been in my writing cave for the past two years, while I've certainly heard of the book, I've never read it. It was only about 2 weeks ago, seeing something about the movie, that I even realized it also featured a man with a spinal cord injury.

I just watched the movie trailer. Please watch also.

The tears are already flowing, right?

Except I'm pissed. The actor who plays the main male character is able-bodied. There is nothing accurate about his posture or wheelchair. It's Hollywood, coping out again.

When bodies are disabled, they are no longer perfect. When you are paralyzed, you lose muscle tone. Even if you are a good weight, your belly will seem to sag and pooch out because the inherent muscle tone that keeps your intestines in is gone. Limbs are skinny and scrawny as muscle tissue wastes away. Spines no longer able to stay upright curve to the side. If he can't lift his arms to feed himself, his wheelchair would have a large head rest. If he can't lift his arms, chances are his wheelchair would be driven by a tube that he sips and puffs to steer.

I did a lot of research beyond what my clinical experience has taught me. If I'm discussing what it's like to live with a spinal cord injury, I want it to be accurate, to do justice for people living with SCI. I can't say if JoJo Moyes did that in her novel because I haven't read it. I would guess she did. I only know that Hollywood has not done their homework. Not at all.

Sure Sam Claflin is easy on the eyes, but this is not right. Hollywood doesn't see it that way. This is as right as painting a white man's face black.

In other words, IT'S NOT OKAY.

1 comment:

  1. I love your point of view and I could not agree more!To picture disability such is quadriplegia is not an easy one, but in this case it is totally unrealistic, body posture, wheelchair equipment,...Im so glad Im not the only one to notice these kind of things and Im so looking forward to your book, because there is also only few books which dicribed disability realistic...Thank you very much for your work :)