Disabled people are one of the most underrepresented groups in films and on television. Every once and while a movie with a disabled character comes along and it may seem accurate but in reality, it probably is not. There are a few reasons for this, such as not casting disabled actors and not consulting with people who have the same disability as the character.
Here are some common storylines that filmmakers get wrong all the time.
Every disability needs a cure- That is so untrue on so many levels. Some people may not want a cure because without their disability they would be a different person. There are things I wouldn’t miss if they were gone, like my seizures, but I don’t need a cure. All my friends have disabilities and if I didn’t have one I wouldn’t know them.
Some movies put out the message that you can be miraculously cured. In reality, most disabilities have no cure. That is life. There is no reason to get upset about it. Why make a movie like that? Instead of writing about a disabled child having a miracle, write about a disabled child happily living with their disability.
Disabled people are depressed- I can’t tell you how many times I have heard this. I had someone ask me one time “how are you so happy all the time?” Disabled people are not severely depressed just because they either have to be in a wheelchair or walk with crutches. They are not anymore suicidal than a regular person would be just because they are unable to walk. There is a small fraction of people who have depression that is disabled, but the same goes for nondisabled. Producers that put that message out really make me mad because it is so inaccurate.
Disabled children are a burden to their parents – It is tough to take care of someone who is severely disabled I’m not going to lie, but not for the reasons you may think. Parents often struggle to get the equipment and help they need when raising their child. If everyone had access to what they needed they wouldn’t have to struggle so much. Movies show disabled kids as a burden, but the burden comes from an unaccepting society and inaccessibility.
Disabled people have no fun- A lot of movies with disabled people are based on either a person going to school or having some sort of illness or maybe countless doctor visits. In reality, disabled people have fun like everyone else. There are just some things that an abled person can do that a disabled person cannot. For example, I love to go to the beach but when I go in the water I don’t go as deep as other people. I am a strong swimmer, but if I go in too deep and the current is too strong, I have a hard time getting back up after I fall over.
So yes, filmmakers get it wrong pretty much all the time. I still watch them, but they aren’t as enjoyable because I know what is accurate and what is not. You can watch them and be entertained, but you have to understand they aren’t educational. If you are disabled and get upset by poor representation in movies you have two options: don’t watch them, or use your experiences to show people why they are inaccurate.
If you have any questions about disabled representation and how movies get it wrong most of the time, leave them in the comments below!