In the first half of this blog, I talk about how disability representation in Hollywood, in both television and films. Unfortunately, we have a long way to go.
My husband is considering a few writing projects and has enlisted me as a sounding board. The topic of disability representation played a big part in some of the planning for the short stories he is working on. He pointed out many characters that have disabilities and some movies with great disabled actors/actresses. Some of my favorites are:
Characters with Disabilities
Dr. Charles Xavier- leader and founder of the Uncanny X-Men (my husband said I had to write it this way
Geordi La Forge– Played by Lavar Burton of Reading Rainbow fame. Geordi La Forge was the chief engineer of the Starship Enterprise on Star Trek: The Next Generation. Mr. La Forge was blind. My husband points to this character as being ahead of his time because, in his words, “Geordi’s visor made him superhuman.” Although he was completely blind, his visor allowed him to see things regular people could not, such as fields of energy, waves of electromagnetism. My husband thinks this is boss. He also explained that on the show, people with disabilities were treated much better than in our current society. They were equal to anyone without one, which made this character unique.
Films that Depict People with Disabilities
Silver Bullet– The 1985 Stephen King film starring Corey Haim as a paraplegic teen in a town where a werewolf is on the loose. His alcoholic uncle Red (played by Gary Busey) fabricates him a souped-up wheelchair/motorcycle dubbed “The Silver Bullet” to assist him with getting around in the dangerous town. It’s horror, it’s Sci-Fi and the good guy and main character is a person with disabilities!
Ray– The biographical movie of the life, struggles and times of the late, great Ray Charles. Jamie Foxx does a wonderful job of bringing this character to life in triumph and pain. It’s funny that most people, when they think of Ray Charles, his blindness is secondary to his legendary musical abilities. I just love this movie and watching it again since I have become disabled brought a whole new perspective.
A Quiet Place– although this movie has one deaf supporting character, a daughter named Regan, the movie has several themes involving disabilities. The aliens are blind but are hypersensitive to sound. The family has learned ASL to communicate and include Regan in the family dynamic. This helps them to survive and thrive. Plus, the hypersensitivity of the aliens causes a kind of self-imposed disability to humans because making noise(talking) could mean certain death. It’s a great scare but watching through the lens of a disabled person changes some of the themes.
Overall, the disabled community has a presence in digital media, movies, films, and literature. As time moves forward, hopefully our influence will as well. We are as much a part of the fabric of this world as any other group. Many people know it. Now it’s time for everyone else to find out.
About Merlisha Henderson: Merlisha uses an Edge 3 Power Wheelchair for mobility and lives in Arizona with her family. As a wife, mother and disability advocate in her community, she stays active and independent, working toward bringing equality and access to all. Click here to learn more about Merlisha.
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