As the end of the year draws near, it’s important for us to take a step back and reflect on the past television season. It’s time to review what’s on our screens and begin to decide if we are truly happy with the current representation of minority groups.
Here at Reel Stories, we have discussed the many issues faced by people of colour and the LGBTQI community. But this content has only grazed the surface of a much larger problem. A minority group we haven’t discussed is the disabled community and representation for this group shouldn’t be denied.
Our screens are not representing our reality, and as a result, we are limiting our audience and their viewing experience. Representation of disability is not just important for the under-represented, but, it can also help to deconstruct public misconceptions and let viewers start to see a person rather than their disability.
Now, we are in no way suggesting that there is no representation, recent television series such as The Wrong Girl have proven that not to be the case. However, much like the characters with disabilities in Hollywood films (The Theory Of Everything, 2015; Me Before You, 2016; Still Alice, 2015), the actors portraying these characters tend to be able-bodied.
In an industry that is so cutthroat for roles and opportunities, it is important that the right roles go to the right actors. 1 in 5 people have a disability, yet only 1 out of 20 roles are actually being played by a disabled actor(Steve Way, 2016).
Not to mention, the majority of roles available often reduce these characters to stereotypes. Reducing them to a few damaging traits such as; bitter , angry or suicidal. This pathway perpetuates the stigma and disallows disabled audiences to experience positive representation in film.
So while the diversity of roles has vastly improved it’s time for us to extend these roles to disabled actors and offer them the narratives and opportunities they deserve!