The inconvenient truth about The Upside is that its misguided casting is based in a biased business decision, not creative expression.
As in Me Before You, Breathe, and He Won’t Get Far on Foot, The Upside failed to cast a wheelchair-using actor and instead chose Bryan Cranston, who does not have a visible disability. Admittedly, I hadn’t expected Cranston to have actually been “the one who knocks” in his own life when he played the role of a drug dealer. But I am critical of him deciding to take the role of a recently disabled man — and, more importantly, I’m critical of how systems protected him from having to face serious competition from wheelchair-using actors.
Cranston recently defended his choice, saying it was a “business decision.” Disabled actors make business decisions, too. But their’s are too often, “I gotta eat and pay rent so I’ve decided to give up on the business that won’t audition, much less hire, me – not even to play a disabled character.”
Cranston, and many others, scoff at disabled people’s criticism, saying that movies are a commercial venture and that, moreover, disability is just another fictional experience to portray. Actors act, after all…unless the actor has a visible disability, in which case their talent could never sway an audience — or a producer.
Muddling these arguments together is a mistake. The first is about business practices and the second is about creative expression. For actors, creative expression requires industry access — and that’s why casting norms need to change before debates about representation and creative expression can be anything but theoretical.
If the industry is going to limit nearly all physically disabled actors to roles defined by physical disability, non disabled actors shouldn’t be surprised when there’s anger at seeing those roles lost to actors who are not physically disabled. If only 2% of roles are disabled characters, to begin with, and 95% are played by actors without disabilities, that’s a systemic employment barrier.
Creative expression has different bases. Some of us experience disability as an event that affects our lives and some experience it as a component of our identity. Many of us experience both. Continue reading
Issue No. 3: The Ally Issue
or You Can Lead a Nondisabled Ally to The Google But You Can’t Make Them Use a 100% Familiar Search Engine to Find Available Access Tools Themselves
In which Mx. Crip-Manners points out how good manners make good allies
“We’re super-excited you’ll connect us with disabled women for our project! We don’t know how to clean out a conference room though so can you take that on?”
Yes, it really is that basic: Do you invite abled guests to muck out your space for your shared meeting or event? I’m guessing you don’t. You consider your space to be your responsibility. Just as I, a wheelchair user, don’t expect my walking guests to bring their own chairs. But you expect your disabled invitees to either resolve your access barriers or teach you granular how-tos. I know this from decades in grassroots women’s organizations and philanthropy.
That’s not okay.
My considered position is the result of 20-plus years of waxy bummer build-up that comes from, first, being invited to be a partner or guest — and then being tasked with “the early shift of ableism” to clean up inaccessible messes.
Expecting this is just plain bad manners from you, otherwise decently-funded organizations, including foundations. Isolated requests for help, particularly under clearly difficult circumstances, are not the issue.
Did You Know?
Disabled people are not magical access specialists. We learned stuff. By learning. We are always learning new stuff. By learning. As Crip-Yoda says, “Learn you must.” #CripTips
He strides into the cafe we’ve agreed to meet at. Leggy, silver-tressed, with creamy skin lightly dusted with freckles, Harper’s president and publisher Rick MacArthur is a knock-out at 62 even in the rumpled khakis that glide over his still-boyish hips. When he collapses into a chair, he lays a Trapper Keeper on the table, murmuring that it’s ten times better than that [bleeped] phone nonsense.
Announcing that this is his cheat day — “I learned recently this referred to food!” — he peruses the menu — “This menu’s paper quality is fantastic, isn’t it?” — before ordering a green juice, bananas Foster, and a double Scotch. He asks me when the guy who’s doing the interview is going to show. He is adorable. He asks again, using the words, “Chop chop.” He’s everything this interview said he’d be.
I’m still mesmerized by how stunning Rick MacArthur is, in person. The Author’s Guild photos don’t do him justice. I ask who dressed him for our interview and he gazes at me with fathomless confusion before laying his fingertips lightly on his shirt-front and saying, “I should know this! He’s worked for our family since before I was born. He’s going to be so mad at me. Not that he’ll ever express it.”
As the long-awaited second installment of Tales From the Crip’s series, Imaginary Interviews With People Who We Wish Were Imaginary, our new FuckAbility™ Research Council‘s Crip Carpet Correspondent, Janky Wheelchair, follows up on TryHarder™ Magazine’s recent take-down of John Hockenberry’s
journaling essay, “Exile,” by devoting an entire episode of THE SIT-DOWN to publisher of the essay, Harper’s Rick MacArthur.
The vivacious magnate talks nonstop about why paraplegics can’t sexually harass anyone; why he, a Francophile, is launching a Moi Aussi men’s movement to counter Me Too’s “Soviet-style” excesses; why paper is the future of Harper’s; and how everyone forgets how great John Hockenberry was in the film Coming Home. Keep reading for the unedited transcript of Janky Wheelchair’s exclusive hard-hitting interview with lively minx Rick MacArthur.
Flambee your bananas and keep the Scotch flowing because Harper’s RICK MACARTHUR is gracing the cover of NotPeople magazine as the CLUELESSEST MAN ALIVE!
2018 2019 UPDATE: STILL ALIVE
STILL OPPOSED TO EUPHEMIZING DISABLED PEOPLE BY NORMALIZING OUR SUICIDES THROUGH LANGUAGE
I’m still disabled, still degenerating, and still filled with joie de crip, but even if I weren’t, I still wouldn’t be buying the double-speak that calls my suicide “a rational choice,” “death with dignity,” and “ending my life on my own terms,” while a (seemingly) nondisabled person’s suicide is “a public health problem.”
The terms we use in talking about an issue set the terms of the debate. Suicide is a public health problem. Distorting that through
sophistry marketing language feeds suicide contagion.
September 10 is World Suicide Prevention Day. But for a disabled person like me, it’s just not my day. Literally.
What would be a “threat of self-harm” for you, is a “personal choice” for me.
What calls for an intervention for you, calls for a pre-suicide party for me.
Your movie is It’s a Wonderful Life. My movie is It’s a Wonderful Death.
When it comes to people like me, suicide is rapidly becoming normalized. Or more exactly, suicide is being erased through re-branding. “It’s not ‘suicide’! It’s ‘ending your life on your own terms’!”