CMU School of Drama

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Thursday, July 31, 2014

Disability Is Not Just a Metaphor

The Atlantic: “Freaks” are having a moment.
The Kennedy Center's acclaimed production of Side Show, about conjoined sisters at the circus, is rumored to be mulling a move to Broadway. The next season of American Horror Story will, similarly, be about a freak show. And in recent months there has been a proliferation of representations of disability on stage and screen.

1 comment:

Jess said...

We stare and we sympathize, we pretend to be okay, yet we aren’t. When people look around the room, their eyes naturally gravitate towards the person most out of place, often a disabled person. Whether their disability is physical or mental, both are just as noticable for different reasons. The fact is, many people feel uncomfortable around disabled people. They feel bad because they aren’t as “normal” as everyone else. They feel worse because they don’t know what to do or say that doesn’t involve the prospect of hurting their feelings. Disability is a touchy subject.

I think Hollywood chooses to hire able-bodied actors to portray disabled characters simply because it’s easier to manipulate the story that way. Audiences can establish it’s only a story instead of a reality. They can witness that actor walk or behave “normally.” They don’t witness the struggles portrayed on screen, off screen. That intimidates people.

For shows like American Horror Story, who includes a Down syndrome actress, while the reality is just as real, these people are actors too. They are not cast as themselves, they play a character who happens to have the same disability as them. If this can be established to audiences, maybe Hollywood will be more open to the idea of casting these actors.

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