And Now a Word From the FuckAbility™ Research Council on the Film The Favourite

If You Don’t Care for Satire, Beware of This Greek Director Filming Rabbits

The Verdict: The Favourite is full of shitty people, shitty behavior, and shit. It is a magnificent film about that most favored form of disability: crippling whilst posh. It centers a disabled woman fucking and then fucks with your head about disabled women fucking. So. It’s complex. It portrays a disabled woman being sexual and a jackhole. Also: I laughed. A lot.

(The 18th Century; The Court of Queen Anne But Not Really) If you took Tony Richardson’s Tom Jones, and Kubrick’s Dr. Strangelove, shoved them into Watership Down with any of John Waters’s pre-Hairspray films, the surviving film that hopped out might be Yorgos Lanthimos’ The Favourite.


Christ on a cracker, the FuckAbility™ Research Council hates being serious but needs must on the issue of casting and representation. Olivia Colman has a disability history that is, in fact, relevant to her role in The Favourite. Ruling that she’s not disabled enough, or has the wrong disabilities to qualify her for the role, reduces us to our diagnoses — something we have long fought against.

Bawdy without any ameliorating jolliness, The Favourite has an essential meatiness that’s mostly missing from the lives of bodies on the mainstream screen, including physically disabled, ill, or aging bodies. It got to me. The night after I watched it, I had a dream that I went to use the toilet and found I had shit smeared all under my clothes. When I woke up I knew it was because the reeking sensibility of The Favourite had made a powerful impression on me.

I suspect that Olivia Colman’s performance as Queen Anne is unsettling because it’s not comic or dramatic, and is frequently both at the same moment. With its grotesquerie of grotesque wealth and a capricious disabled person at its center, The Favourite reminded me of the HBO series Succession, in general, and Brian Cox’s performance, in particular. Like Cox, Colman’s facial movements alone are fast-moving weather and the focus on their respective reaction shots make clear that, however subtly they react, it will drive the action around them. Because Colman’s Anne has  unpredictable reactions, the entire world feels ungrounded.

People are judgmental (as evidenced by the constant reassurance of “No judgment” I hear) and movie-makers typically want women characters to be judged as relatable. Anne is a satirical character set in an age lacking pain relievers and psychological counseling; she occupies a position that reinforces her selfish impulses and lashing out; her primary duty is producing an heir, a duty that her time period judges her to be a failure at fulfilling after 17 losses.


Visibly disabled actors deserve significantly better casting access so that their professional clout accrues. That involves changing industry business practices. That is a separate issue from discussions of whether an actor’s invisible disabilities constitute a “transferable ticket” to portraying other disabilities.

Colman’s character is no way relatable to contemporary audiences but her performance is: She performs the frustration, anger, pain, physical unattractiveness, isolation, and convoluted power dynamics of illness, grief, and disability. She performs disability that is not hot.

These qualities are part of living with a disability and, when, their depiction is done well — as I believe they are in The Favourite — they are authentic disability representation, not empty mimicry. Representation, I would argue, does not require realism or naturalism, or a positive or uplifting message. I also argue that the fun I had in watching it is important. As Lawrence Carter Long recently wrote about disability in film, “Sadly, perhaps predictably, a quest for respectability and an impulse toward earnestness have dampened the fun ever since.”


Expecting a positive, sensitive message about its humanity — including its disabled contingent — to come out of The Favourite is like expecting The Upside to not rely on a piece of durable medical equipment to portray disability.

Christ on a cracker, the FuckAbility™ Research Council hates being serious but needs must on the issue of casting and representation. Olivia Colman has a disability history that is, in fact, relevant to her role in The Favourite. Ruling that she’s not disabled enough, or has the wrong disabilities to qualify her for the role, reduces us to our diagnoses — something we have long fought against. Visibly disabled actors deserve significantly better casting access so that their professional clout accrues. That involves changing industry business practices. That is a separate issue from discussions of whether an actor’s invisible disabilities constitute a “transferable ticket” to portraying other disabilities.

The context for this depiction of disability matters: The entirety of its people, its world, is grotesque. It is the entirety of the narrative’s point of view. The use of the wide-angle lens is a statement that you’re looking at a world, not just one or two characters. The fishbowl lens trumpets: This is a intentionally distorted view. If disability had been carved out as off-limits — that I would have objected to. Expecting a positive, sensitive message about its humanity — including its disabled contingent –to come out of The Favourite is like expecting The Upside to not rely on a piece of durable medical equipment to portray disability.

Fuck that.


FUCKABILITY™ RESEARCH COUNCIL (FARC) IS A PIECE OF LETTERHEAD HOUSED ON THE TALES FROM THE CRIP WEBSITE. FARC’S MISSION IS TO RAISE AWARENESS OF HOLLYWOOD’S LACK OF AWARENESS THAT MANY DISABLED ADULTS FUCK IN GROUPS OF ONE OR MORE. ALL VIEWS EXPRESSED ARE SUBJECT TO CHANGE AND DENIAL.

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