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Disability Representation in the Screen Industry

Is it significantly harder for disabled actors to gain roles in films or television shows? How many disabled characters in film/TV are portrayed by disabled actors, and is their portrayal realistic/accurate? What do disabled people in the screen industry think needs to be done to improve disability representation/equality in the screen industry?

  • Hi Serena, There was a disabled actor named Quentin Kenihan who grew up in the city I currently live in, who was a local celebrity for his role in 2015's Mad Max Fury Road. Quentin had the bone disease osteogenesis imperfecta but often spoke on how he did not let it hold him back. He said in an interview that he is 'the only disabled person in an academy award-winning film'. I have linked a youtube video from Casey Neistat where he interviews Quentin about his acting career. Hopefully, this helps you. I found that Quentin's experience opened my eyes to how challenging it must be for people with disabilities to make it in the film industry. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=g3s0--LcgQw – EdwardMcCarroll 4 years ago
  • HOLY GUACAMOLE, THANK YOU FOR POSTING THIS TOPIC! Less than 10% of disabled characters are portrayed by disabled actors, and don't get me started on accurate portrayals. Someone needs to write this, and we have GOT to talk about it more, through writing and otherwise. – Stephanie M. 4 years ago
  • As someone who is on the autism spectrum, I’ve become aware of the fact that shows within the last decade have featured characters with autism played by non-autistic actors (The Good Doctor, Parenthood). I find it a little insulting that studios don’t cast people who actually have autism (part of the ongoing stigma). But the Freeform series Everything’s Gonna Be Okay gives me hope for actual representation. There’s a girl with autism, Matilda, who’s played by an actress who actually has autism, Kayla Cromer. So far it’s the most accurate depiction of ASD I’ve seen on any medium. – Tanner Ollo 4 years ago
  • I feel that based on what I have seen, it's not too much difficult for disabled people to get acting jobs. I feel that when it comes to hiring aspiring actors, it has to do with what they bring, so even if someone is disabled, they could still not be great actors. Still, I think this in an important topic to discuss. – Diani 4 years ago

The Disability Con

Explore the role of the "disability con" in films like The Usual Suspects, The Score, and The Ex. The disability con consists of a character feigning disability in order to appear harmless or pitiable. This is an example of what David Mitchell and Sharon Snyder call "narrative prosthesis." What is the effect of characters faking disabilities? How do these films alter the way we view disability? Are these portrayals harmful, helpful, or neutral?

  • Oh, interesting topic! I wonder, would "There's Something About Mary" fit into this trope, too? – cray0309 9 years ago
  • Yes, There's Something About Mary is another good example of the disability con, as is Arrested Development: Maggie Lizer first fakes blindness and then pregnancy to manipulate others. – JLaurenceCohen 9 years ago