People With Disabilities Deserve Representation, Like Any Other Group Of People

People With Disabilities Deserve Representation, Like Any Other Group Of People

Having a disability is not completely uncommon, however, movies and television make it seem as if anytime someone with a disability appears, it's the first thing that needs to be noticed.

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The film and movie industry took a fresh and powerful step in the right direction when it came to representing racial and gender equality. With movies like "Black Panther" and "Crazy Rich Asians" theaters were quickly packed with audiences who were waiting to see more of themselves on screen. For women, the "Me Too" movement stands for an empowering cause that is still being passionately fought for. Though I very much enjoyed watching these movies (I went to see "Crazy Rich Asians" in theaters twice), I kept thinking when it would be time for the same movement to open its arms to those with disabilities.

Having a disability is not completely uncommon, however, movies and television make it seem as if anytime someone with a disability appears, it's the first thing that needs to be noticed. Usually, the actor isn't playing just a main or side role, but someone with a very "inspiring" or "touching" backstory and conflict which unfolds throughout the plot. Such stories prove to be very emotional and dramatic, reigning in many awards for stellar and career-making performances, but why can't a person with a disability just be a person? More often than not, the characters in question are also played by able-bodied actors.

Most recently, the film, "The Upside" sees Bryan Cranston playing a quadriplegic. Other examples include Eddie Redmayne in "The Theory of Everything" and Sam Claflin in "Me Before You." There is no shortage of actors with disabilities wanting roles and inclusion, so why aren't they given the chance? Cranston explains that it's completely due to business. As an actor, he states that he called upon to play all types of people, so why would having a disability change that? And to that I ask, would an actor with a disability ever be called to play an able-bodied character? The answer is simple, no they wouldn't. It might be hard to look for an actor with a similar caliber of talent to Cranston, but that can't be known for sure if the effort isn't put in. Furthermore, even if the hypothetical disabled actor would not be able to act as well as Cranston, they would still be able to bring something that Cranston can't, experience and more importantly, authenticity.

Some say famous and known actors need to play such roles so that people will actually come to watch the movie for it to gain recognition. However, disabled or not, all actors need to start somewhere. If roles for disabled characters continue to be given to able-bodied actors without an open audition, how is one even supposed to try?

Personally, I can count the number of actors with disabilities in current or well-known roles with only the five fingers of one of my hands. Most famously, Peter Dinklage in "Game of Thrones," Micah Fowler in "Speechless," Meredith Eaton in "MacGyver," Millicent Simmonds in "A Quiet Place," and David Bower in "Four Weddings and a Funeral." Dinklage and Eaton both have dwarfism, Fowler has cerebral palsy, and both Simmonds and Bower are deaf. Simmonds and Bower both have movie roles, whereas Fowler is the only one with a main role in a television show. That is unbelievable. Of the five roles, I have only watched three so I feel apt to only comment on those. Fowler having cerebral palsy is important to the show and provides insight into the struggles of someone like him within high school and his family.

Though "Speechless" is a comedy and maintains a lighthearted atmosphere, for the most part, it still brings to light how milestones change when one is placed in different circumstances. Having Simmonds play the deaf daughter of a family trying to hide from monsters with a heightened sense of hearing brought an added conflict and suspense to the film. In the end, it was she who actually ended up saving her family (well most of her family) from the creatures. Lastly, Bower played the brother of Hugh Grant's lover boy in the romantic comedy and he didn't need to be deaf. Yet, having the character of David to be deaf really highlighted the relationship and understanding between him and Charles (Grant) and their communication only added jokes to the much-loved classic. I think there is a misunderstanding, especially in films and television, that having a disability needs to take something away from a person, when in reality, it adds depth, different experiences, and new perspectives.

Representation, or lack thereof, is a crucial contributor to how people are perceived in the real world, as well as the stereotypes associated with them. To this day, as an almost 20-year-old, I still get stares and pointing from children, which is fine. It makes sense and it's completely understandable. The problem lies in what happens after. When parents find their children doing that, they just tell them to stop such behavior without taking a minute to explain to their child that "Yes, people are different and you will come across all different types of people in school and beyond, but in the end, we're all just the same." Having a disability shouldn't be taboo and having more people with disabilities on screen would help to change that. If a complete stranger were to start a conversation with me on a bus or grocery store and started to ask how I drive or do certain activities, I would be most happy to oblige. But because it's not something we see very often, people inherently choose to and shy away from talking about it.

Another point which I didn't think would need to be mentioned until recently is that people with disabilities do not all look the same. It's a fairly simple concept, but I felt that I had to address it after I noticed that people on campus were mistaking me with another girl with dwarfism. As I have stated before, there are more than 30,000 people on campus so that increases the chance of coming across more than one person with any said condition. Now, this girl and I don't look anything at all alike. Besides for height and body structure, everything else is different. We have different skin tones, different hair color, etc. Initially, I thought the situation to be quite funny, but later on, I realized how problematic it actually was. It's pretty much the equivalent to saying all Asians look the same because of the shape of their eyes.

I'm waiting for inclusion towards disabled actors and for diversity in their roles. I want to see someone in a wheelchair pursue a completely able-bodied person as their love interest in a romantic comedy. I want to see deaf and blind characters play the charming best friend. I want to see a character with autism playing the lead in a crime show while solving murder mysteries. There are so many opportunities for the disabled community to be highlighted onscreen, and by not doing so, the audience is missing out on a lot of new talent. It's 2019 and it's about time the movement for representation extends to those with disabilities as well. It's about time disabilities are normalized and talked about.

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A Letter To The Tomboy I Used To Be

To that girl with the baseball hat, board shorts, and grass stains, thank you.
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To the tomboy I used to be,

Thank you so much for making me the strong, beautiful, determined, and badass girl I am today. I am proud of who you've become. It is because of you that I can stand on my own two feet. It is because of you that I am not afraid to stand up for what I believe in. And for that, I am eternally grateful.

You were never easy to deal with. Mom and Dad had a lot to handle growing up. It was Dad who had to fight for you to be able to play boys' baseball. It was Mom who had to stand up to the boys that were mean to you for playing a boys' sport. It was both of them who had to cart you around to all of your games and practices, because playing one sport a season was just not enough. It was Mom who had to wash your clothes endless times, because the grass and dirt stains would never come out the first time. Don't ever forget who helped you become who you are.

Your attitude and thought process is very different from that of most girls. You grew up dealing with your problems through wrestling or fighting. Pettiness was not something you could deal with. Your anger came from losing a game, not drama with girls. You didn't understand why girls fought, or were so mean to each other, and to this day, you still don't understand it. You are different. You aren't like most girls by any means, which can be difficult for you, even now. You are so much tougher. You think differently. You are determined.

I love who you turned into. You are so strong; you handle everything with such passion and grit, that I can't help but thank you. Thank you for pushing yourself, and for not letting anything or anyone get in your way. The boys were mean sometimes, and the girls talked about you, but that never fazed you. That chip on your shoulder only made you strive even harder for greatness.

Thank you for making me unique. Thank you for making me extraordinary. Thank you for making me, me.


Love,

Amy

Cover Image Credit: tumblr

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If You're Against Abortion, Here's What You Should Do About It

There's more you can-- and should-- do than picket outside Planned Parenthood

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Upon the recent passing of a law that permits late-term abortions, I have seen many of my friends cry out uproariously that our country is fallen and has forsaken God. While you could probably argue this point with other examples, I don't think that this particular one serves as proof of our current state. Let me first explain to you what this law really is about and then encourage you to take other actions to lower the abortion rate.

Now in case you're not familiar, New York recently passed a law allowing abortions during the third trimester of pregnancy. What I think a lot of people have still yet to realize is that this is only allowed in the case that the fetus is not likely to live once outside the womb or the birth will be of danger to the mother. So one more time for those who still might be confused, abortion doctors are not just taking babies out of the womb and killing them a day before birth because the mother decided she didn't want it anymore. This is to save lives and prevent pain and suffering.

I know many think that aborting a terminal fetus before birth still counts as murder, but let me equate it, instead, to ending life support for a loved one who is brain-dead. In many cases, these children are experiencing pain inside the womb only to be followed by more pain shortly before death once born. Parents that are choosing to abort their pregnancies in the third trimester for these reasons are devastated and only trying to end a child's suffering, often at the expense of their own.

Hopefully, I have convinced you that not all abortions are just being used as a form of contraception and that there are many painful stories about the necessity of abortion for a mother. What can you do to lower these rates though? Well, I might add that making abortion legal probably isn't going to do the trick. While you might want to close your ears to this information, women who want an abortion are probably going to get one whether it's legal or not. Many anti-abortion individuals happen to be the same individuals that are anti-gun control with the argument that illegal guns will be procured no matter the laws. Might I turn your eye than to the case of abortion and the fact that people will probably always do what they want to do. Anyhow, let me get off of my soapbox and actually provide some information.

If you're really in it to lower abortion rates, walking outside of Planned Parenthood with a sign, shaming the women who enter probably isn't going to do the trick. First of all, Planned Parenthood does more than just provide abortions, so you may be scaring/shaming a woman who just wants access to healthcare for her pregnancy out of seeking help at all. What you can do, however, is push for your local schools to teach real sex education and not abstinence-only contraception. Yeah, scary pictures of STD's might do the trick for a while, but as we've previously discussed, people are probably going to do what they want to do regardless of what you tell them. We need to be teaching our young people how to have safe sex, and just be teaching them about sex in general. I know that the thought of your teenager having sex probably scares the crap out of you but, if they're going to do it anyway, don't you want them to be safe?

Another thing that you can do to lower the rate of abortion is to call for easier access to birth control for women. When they can easily and affordably access safe methods of contraception, there are bound to be less unwanted pregnancies. The United States needs to not only be educating its youth about all aspects of sex, but it needs to be making it as easy as possible for them to be SAFE about it. It may not be your first preference for young people to be having sex, but if they're going to do it anyway, we need to ensure that they feel comfortable taking the countermeasures to be safe about it.

The last point I'd like to make before I finish up is that even if you think that abortion is morally wrong, it's not your choice to make whether or not another individual decides to get one. Many times this decision is going to be a painful one for the mother, especially if she knows that her child will not survive outside the womb. There is no reason to make this process more painful for her, or even dangerous by illegalizing it. We need to be supporting mothers and not shaming them for whatever decision they decide to make.

If you're anti-abortion, that doesn't mean you have to be anti-choice. If you would choose not to get one, that's totally fine and I understand that, but it's important to look at the bigger picture and ensure both the physical and mental health of our women who are probably already going through a lot. Now is not the time to tear others down for their choices. Now is the time for the human race to stand together and support each other and make sure that our country is a safe one to live in regardless of your beliefs.

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