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Able Bodied Actors Need Not Apply

Able Bodied Actors Need Not Apply published on

Being forever in search of something to be offended by, some Guardian writer has decided to attack the custom of actors who aren’t disabled playing characters who are disabled and has even gone so far as to compare it to wearing blackface!

In a waste of pixels called, “We wouldn’t accept actors blacking up, so why applaud ‘cripping up’? Some escaped lunatic called Frances Ryan complains that…

“While “blacking up” is rightly now greeted with outrage, “cripping up” is still greeted with awards. Is there actually much difference between the two? In both cases, actors use prosthetics or props to alter their appearance in order to look like someone from a minority group. In both cases they often manipulate their voice or body to mimic them. They take a job from an actor who genuinely has that characteristic, and, in doing so, perpetuate that group’s under-representation in the industry. They do it for the entertainment of crowds who, by and large, are part of the majority group.”

Well, yes, the two are different, though one shouldn’t expect someone who writes for the Guardian to be able to makes such razor thin distinctions. First, blacks are not handicapped, which means they are capable of getting themselves to the studio and learning their lines, which is more than can be said for the kind of character Hoffman played in Rain Man! Where the fuck are you going to find someone that mentally disabled who can learn all those lines and hit all those marks while at the same time delivering an adequate performance? How about someone who can do all of the above while being so disabled that all he can control is his left foot? Come one, Little Ms PC, find me an actor who has both cerebral palsy and the talent of Daniel Day Lewis. You can’t.( Maybe in ten or fifteen years RJ Mitte, the kid from Breaking Bad, will be that good, but that remains to be seen.) Amazingly, the writer comes close to acknowledging her argument’s flaws but somehow manages to sail away into la-la land all over again…

“The explanations for “cripping up” are obvious…On a practical level too, perhaps hiring a non-disabled actor is easier. The ability to walk allows Redmayne to portray Hawking before being diagnosed with motor neurone disease. But I can’t get away from the fact that, if these arguments were made for white actors “playing black”, our outrage would be so great that the scenes would be left on the cutting room floor.”

Not only does this show a disconnect with reality, it is also deeply racist. This is the second time she has equated blackness, which does not confer any intrinsic disadvantage, with disability, which is something that by necessity must involve intrinsic disadvantage. That’s why it’s called disability, because it makes you less able! Is the writer, on some level, saying black people are less able than whites? I suspect so – after all, if you don’t think apples and pears have certain things in common why lump them both under the category of “fruit”?

Perhaps starting to slowly realize that she’s spouting crap, the writer then moves on to more rational, albeit still flawed ground…

“After all, disabled characters create powerful images and sentiments for audiences. They can symbolise the triumph of the human spirit over so-called “adversity”. They can represent what it is to be “different” in some way, an outsider or an underdog who ultimately becomes inspirational. These are universal feelings every audience member can identify with. And there is something a little comforting in knowing, as we watch the star jump around the red carpet, that none of it – the pain or negativity we still associate with disability – was real.”

Why is “adversity” in quotation marks? Is she saying that being disabled isn’t really something that involves adversity? Same thing for “different.” What, being disabled doesn’t actually make you different? I guess the disabled just seem different because of, you know, all the differences! It’s almost as if, in some quasi-psychotic way, she is trying to deny the very existence of disability while at the same time writing about it! The one area in which she may have somehow stumbled onto a half-truth is that it is comforting to know that at the end of the day’s shoot Daniel Day Lewis was able to walk to his car and drive to his hotel room without crashing into a crowd of pedestrians! But that theory, at best, explains only partly why the non-disabled are so often cast as the disabled. I have yet to hear of someone who stopped watching Breaking Bad because the guy who played Walt’s son couldn’t leave his illness at the studio gates when he went home at night! No, to a sensible person – a category of creatures that these days seems to exclude just about everyone who writes opinion pieces for The Guardian – the truth is as plain as Lena Dunham late on a Sunday morning. Disabled people are a smallish minority, and within the subsets of disability they are a tiny, tiny minority. Take cerebral palsy. The bloody thing is so rare that only one in 500 people actually have it! In the US, on the other hand, around one in seven people are black! That is why blacking up is not acceptable, because there are a shitload of black actors out there, and with so many of them on tap the chances are good that you can find someone to do a great job without having to resort to a masquerade. With rare conditions such as cerebral palsy and Stephen Hawking’s illness (Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, which apparently afflicts only 1 in 50 thousand people) your chances of finding someone who has the requisite ability combined with the, according to this writer, requisite disability are about as good as the chances of someone at The Guardian writing something sensible!

The whole article is a joke — the half-witted caperings of an idiot looking for an excuse to be offended, a clown looking for a reason to yell “oppression!” into the echo chambers of the internet. It is the kind of thing that the right points to when they want to convince Joe Mouthbreather that the left is full of loons — it is the kind of thing we really don’t need to be associated with.

Free material for Rush Limbaugh here.