Why Does Hollywood Like to Kill Us?Mar 30 03:44
Whether they create a disabled character that’s depressed or a character that’s suicidal, Hollywood seems to take glee in killing us off. If not glee, its ignorance, which is still no excuse. I mean what gives? They must just REALLY think our lives suck. Do they? Um no.
Just take a look at these two movies portraying high-level quads: The Sea Inside and Million Dollar Baby. Both focus on the issue of assisted-suicide and how the injured person would rather be dead than live in their body. The Brooke Ellison Story however, directed by the late Christopher Reeve, is the positive-spin exception, based on the true story of a young girl who gets hit by a car, becomes a vent-dependent quad, and grows into an amazing woman who runs for State Senate (lost in 2006. boo).
Today I was reading a news story (here) about a British guy, Simon Morris, a high-level quad, who wants to break this stereotype. A popular soap in England called Emmerdale recently had one of the main characters, Jackson Walsh, become spinal cord injured. The issue of assisted-suicide is already the focus of the character, and producers have leaked that the character will go through with it, rather being dead than live life as a wheelchair-user. It’s a shame. They could’ve used their show - a great platform for changing people’s minds - to send out a positive image of disability, not a living Hell we desperately need to escape.
Says Morris,“I wouldn’t want viewers to come away from Emmerdale thinking that having a spinal cord injury is depressing, “ he says. “Of course there dark moments. But you don’t have to be disabled to feel like that. It’s part of human nature. "
I simply can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard someone say they’d rather be dead than live as a high-quad, but guess what? Humans are hardwired to adapt. And we over in “sad land” still gobble-up happiness and find a reason to live despite our paralysis. Morris, like other quads and people with disabilities, work hard to live a decent life. It shouldn’t come as a surprise that SOME of us get offended if our lifestyle is portrayed as lonely and suicide-inducing. A constant pity train? I think not.
What’s your favorite movie with a disabled character that you feel was portrayed in an equitable light? Worst disability movie offenders? (No Lt. Dan hating allowed, as he is my movie bf)
Post a comment about this blog!
1. jimtroesh | Apr 06 02:41
As a member of "Hollywood," and a disabled guy, I challenge people with disabilities to create their own positive portrayals and put them up on YouTube. It works. I've gotten a lot of press, and had several doors in Hollywood opened to me because of the TV pilot I wrote, produced and starred in called "The Hollywood Quad." http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1541895/ I especially challenge those who say they don't know how to act or write, because at one point I didn't either. Don't hide your creative light in the shadows, share your ideas with the world. It's amazing what can happen.
2. Tiffiny | Apr 06 04:00
@jimtroesh - nice to meet you! And you're right, being more pro-active, ie writing, getting involved, is the only way this will change. What's your YouTube channel?
3. jefsha | Apr 07 09:48
Hi Tiff -- As Jim noted here (and long ago in one of my NM articles) the only way to counter this is to write a script so uniquely expressive from our perspective that SOMEONE would dare make a film about it. The prevailing attitudes remain a huge barrier, but at some point in the next decade we'll see a breakthrough when genuine talent overrides the resistance and ignorance that results in able-bodied Artie on "Glee." Even the Brooke movie was "good" but "bad" in that it was pro-disability but also sentimentally inspirational, so in the end was it really that good? Bottom line: EVERY decision in Hollywood comes down to money. So, you've got to ask: How can I convince them (executives) that my fantastic pro-disability script will appeal to the masses? That's a VERY tall order, as evident in the fact that nobody's done it yet.
4. Tiffiny | Apr 09 01:57
@jefshan - well said. To answer your question, "How can I convince them (executives) that my fantastic pro-disability script will appeal to the masses?," my answer (and the go-to to all Hollywood films looking to make a buck): Sex appeal and violence. Look at Rose McGowan's amputee character in Grindhouse; making disability hot and killing guys with her machine gun leg. That totally worked! Maybe write a script about a sexy guy in a wheelchair, make him in charge of a drug cartel (to draw in the curious yet bloodthitrsty masses), then write some poignant pro-disability scenes in there, hidden, so the people aren't even realizing they're getting schooled on how disability isn't imho suicide-inducing. I NEED TO WRITE THIS. :)
5. Mike717 | Jun 06 11:48
One of my favorite movies is "The Water Dance" with Eric Stoltz, Helen Hunt, Wesley Snipes and William Forsythe. The movie is about people with spinal cord injuries going thru rehab. As a T2-T3 Para, I felt this movie really did a good job of portraying the emotional aspects of such a major life change. Of course my favorite part is when they get PO'd and go after the hospital telephone staff.
Disability buzz, travel, fashion and dating — fun things to amp up everyday wheeling life.
Tiffiny Carlson is freelance writer and writes the “SCI Life” column for New Mobility. She's also a C6 quad from a diving accident that occurred when she was 14 years old. A lifelong resident of Minneapolis, Tiffiny has been a writer in the disability community for over 10 years and writes for several publications and blogs, as well as her personal blog BeautyAbility. Her work has also appeared in mainstream publications such as Nerve.com and Playgirl.