Thursday, December 23, 2010

once disabled...always disabled.


Right now I am sitting in my den watching I am Sam on Starz. [Confession: I have seen this movie maybe 53 times, and I have purchased the soundtrack twice, but everytime it brings be to tears. To say I get a little involved in my shows/movies is like saying Hanibal Lecter was just kind of a serial killer.] I love this film. Sean Penn's performance is heartbreaking and spot on...so spot on that I can't imagine that he is not mentally disabled in his day to day life. In fact, in every movie he has starred in since, I get really confused because I will periodically think, "Wow, this guy with a mental disability is doing a great job in Mystic River." I wish I could say this was an isolated incident of my inability to separate an actor from their disabled role, but its not.

I know its wrong to assume that just because a person is disabled on screen that they really were born with a different number of chromosomes or with the inability to ambulate...but it happens to me regardless...ALL THE TIME  [Tangent: This would be more understandable if I was a dumb girl, but I'm not...so your guess is as good as mine why Dustin Hoffman is forever Rain Main despite having a prolific acting career.] It all started when I was little and going through the "Kimmie wants to be in show business" phase and was watching this rarely thought of or remembered Jason Priestley series, Sister Kate. [Tangent: The shows intro is the first one featured on the youtube clip below. It's slightly weird that someone took the time to make a reel of their favorite show intros from 1989...and that that person wasn't ME... but I digress.]




The show was about a sassy nun who presided over a ragtag group group of misfits at an orphanage. As shown in the clip, in the spirit of appeasing all minority groups, one of the orphan girls is in a wheelchair. As an annoying youth- I thought, "WOW! That girl's in a chair and is on tv...I wanna go to there."

However, a few episodes into the series, after a dream sequence where the character was walking, I realized that the actress was only faking her sedentary status. My dreams of child stardom [minus the drug problem and middle aged comeback] were dashed. A non-disabled actress is much more marketable that a disabled one, and they generally get rewarded with Academy Awards for their brave performances - whereas I would have just gotten a blank stare from a casting director.  I am glad that the actress didn't go on to do great things, because in every consecutive role, I would be stricken with this inability to grasp her as an able bodied person.

I think the worst example of this pigeonholing is rap superstar, Drake. Unbeknownst to many of his fans, Drake didn't exactly come from a hardcore inner city thug life kinda environment, unless you  consider starring in a Canadian teen melodrama gangsta. Drake (or as I know him, Aubrey Graham) starred as Jimmy Brooks, Degrassi Community School's biggest basketball star who was paralyzed due to a school shooting at the hands of troubled teen, Rick, on The Teen Nick series, Degrassi: The Next Generation.
sooooo thugtastic.



[Tangent: I wish I could say that I found all that info on a fan site or the show's IMDB page, but that would be a falsity. I have watched religiously a show aimed at 14-year-olds for the last several years. What can I say? I love a teen drama. Blame for  my Degrassi obsession can be directed at sister, who teaches 7th grade and gets many pop culture tips from her students. Degrassi's tagline is "it goes there" and it totally does. When was the last time you saw Two and a Half Men or The Good Wife deal with the tough topics, like throat Gonorrhea or BJ bracelets. These are things that Degrassi brings to the forefront.] Drake is now up for a Grammy award and sings songs about making girl's nether regions whistle "like the Andy Griffith theme song." [Not joking.] Meanwhile, I just sit perplexed and giggling because wheelchair kid, Jimmy Brooks, is walking again all the while dropping the P word like a greased turnip.

1 comment:

  1. I love that your post is dedicated to compelling roles and lesser known, interesting facts, while my first suggestion to you on this topic was "the hot guy from Avatar", and of course, Artie would have to get a shout out.

    I am not necessarily 'against' an able-bodied actor playing a differently-abled person. But I do wish that there were more opportunities for people who have disabilities that want to be actors and entertainers.

    I also am never quite sure how I feel about the "walkie" dream sequences that EVERY SINGLE character in a wheelchair has. . .

    I have considered writing on this topic many times, but have never been able to figure out how to approach it. You gave it a great start. So if you see similar discussion in the recent future on my posts, remember: plagiarism is the most sincere form of flattery. . .

    ReplyDelete

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