Today's article was hugely inspired by this website, suggested to me by my lovely friend. After reading this insightful interview with producer and director, Jenni Gold, - known for CinemAbility (2013) - I couldn't help but write about it!
"I think if the opportunities were there– if Casting Directors and Producers would open their doors a little wider... and the disabled community saw that this effort was being made, more people with disabilities would choose this profession and the talent pool would grow larger." Gold's powerful statement has won me over already!
So if you haven't already guessed, this article is kind of the next chapter from my previous 'I'm not a Princess' post. I strongly suggest you read the interview that I linked at the start, it will just make this whole post a lot clearer. Here it is again.
There are a number of Gold's points that really shocked me, the first being what she said about 'Me Before You.' A film that, as Gold puts quite plain and correctly, "romanticizes suicide as a better choice than living with a disability." When I first saw this film, I was swept up in the Hollywood portrayal of what it's supposedly like to live with a severe disability. Quite frankly, this portrayal has been "romanticized" and has, like all Hollywood story structures, a love story followed by a bittersweet death - or self inflicted suicide, in this case. Now don't get me wrong, I live with - in the grand scheme of things - a very mild disability, my experiences haven't been too mild, but I'm not restricted to a wheelchair or hard of breathing, which I'm very grateful of. But this idea of Hollywood "romanticizing" a man's experience of living with a disability has really made me think about the way in which the public receive, and are forced to believe lies. Like I said, I was fully swept up in this love story, and ignored the fact that ultimately, a man's disability was being portrayed in an incredibly negative light; even when the very charming Lou, played by the very charming Emilia Clarke, begged him to stay alive, love wasn't quite enough for the miserable chap in a wheelchair - what a way to celebrate disability, good one Hollywood!
Actress, Teal Sherer says, “After my accident, I did not know how great my life could be because you don’t see that in the movies.” This just highlights the fact that the general public are being manipulated, and like I was, swept up in the manipulated portrayal of what living with a disability is really like. Before I go on, I want to remind myself and whoever is reading this that living with a disability isn't always sunshines and lollypops, sometimes it is damn scary and downright annoying! But who says Hollywood has a right to shine a spotlight on all the negative things, and even romanticize the idea of death being the only option!
There are a few movies however, two being 'Forrest Gump' and 'Finding Nemo', where being disabled is celebrated! Forrest really does run, and Nemo definitely gets lost, both due to their courage! I can relate to these guys, and my Mum will agree when I tell you that I can sometimes be a little bit too courageous when it comes to having an adventure (I'm riding my penny board whilst recovering from bone reconstruction...) but I'd rather live life to the fullest rather than hide away in the back row worrying about the 'what if's', and that is exactly what these characters portray: courage! This reinforces Gold's statement, "if Casting Directors and Producers would open their doors a little wider... the talent pool would grow larger." For decades now, film and television story structure has followed the same pattern, we see the same perfect characters repeatedly going through the same old shit; I think it's time for a fresh outlook!
Another massively influential statement Gold made was this, "My hope for the entertainment industry is that we move from a place of saying we want to do the right thing, to just doing the right thing." And I couldn't agree more, it's all well and good raising awareness through this little blog, but like I said in my previous article, I am planning this year on making a bigger impact, creating something that is going to challenge the average perception; I want to challenge Hollywood's cheap portrayal of disability, I want them to know that we are able! I'd like to finally mention, Jenni Gold is a disabled director and producer, she has started to make an impact with her eye opening documentary CinemAbility; but I really hope that soon this industry will open it's doors, and accept a wider range of people to create a diverse, honest industry.