Friday, 26 September 2014
The last acceptable prejudice in the media.
Now, I love me some Captain Jean Luc Picard, and I can't help but feel happy when I see Patrick Stewart speaking about Domestic violence and abuse. But as much as I love him as an actor and think he does do some great things, there's no denying he can be incredibly problematic in another way.
What way is that? Well there's no real term for it, and we really need one, but his performances as professor X is a symptom of a fairly large issue in Hollywood that goes unremarked upon. If Patrick Stewart agreed to paint himself brown and play a person of color in a film, people would understandably point out that it was blackface and so not cool. But him being another abled actor portraying a disabled person almost always passes without comment including within social justice spaces.
Obviously, he isn't solely responsible for this issue, he's just a very good example of the issue, where even progressive individuals don't see an issue with Hollywood and indeed all media continually casting abled actors to play disabled characters. No-one would ever consider rewriting an abled character so a disabled actor could be cast, but we're routinely treated to the notion that abled actors playing disabled characters is perfectly acceptable.
Hollywood and the media in general has mostly left behind it's habit of having male actors play women and white people don blackface to play people of color even if it still does have an issue with the scope of roles it will let both groups play, but it is still routinely sending the message that disabled people do not get to be represented by actual disabled people in the media.
Worse, often playing disabled characters leads to a near automatic award for the abled actor doing so. Could you imagine some white guy putting on blackface and getting an Oscar for it without outcry? I can't, yet that's what routinely happens within the media.
Of course disabled actors are limited to only disabled roles, but then those disabled roles are largely awarded to abled actors, so where do disabled actors get to tread the boards? The answer is nowhere.