Deaf Talent in Hollywood

Why has Hollywood been so exclusive when dealing with minority groups? Is it money? Time restraints? In a 2014 Atlantic article written by playwright, Christopher Shinn, who had a below-the-knee amputation at 38, he explains his theory on this topic. One aspect is that the financial reality of Hollywood is that casting stars for lead roles will push the film to the top of the box office. Sometimes, this means casting able-bodied actors for disabled roles. Another point is that it is reassuring for audiences to know that the able-bodied actor they see is not actually disabled in real life. “Society’s fear and loathing around disability, it seems, can be magically transcended,” he says. Shinn goes on to explain how with this comforting assurance, society is not witnessing the real pain and struggle of having a disability. “Able-bodied actors can listen to the disabled, can do research, can use imagination and empathy to create believable characters. But they can’t draw on their direct experience. That means that audiences will be able to ‘enjoy’ them without really confronting disability’s deepest implications for human life.” This led Shinn to speculate that society is more interested in disability as a metaphor for universal themes such as the triumph of the human spirit over adversity or feeling self-divided rather than something that actually happens to people.

Read the rest on the AAPD Blog.

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