The Academy Award nominations came out recently and there’s been a lot of talk about the lack of diversity in the nominees. Actually “lack” of diversity isn’t really even a strong enough term for it. It’s a complete absence of diversity and it’s a completely valid argument. Hollywood really needs to do better. When was the last time you saw or even heard about an Asian American person being nominated?
Though I wholeheartedly agree with the feelings being expressed about the absence of nominees of different races besides white, I can’t help but feel disheartened by them myself for different reasons. The disabled community not only doesn’t have any nominees for Academy Awards, we have zero (and I repeat zero) actors, directors, singers, or musicians to represent us. An able bodied Eddie Redmayne told the story of someone with ALS last year. Artie, one of the characters on Glee, never needed the use of a wheelchair in his life. And you can completely forget seeing anyone who looks like me or others with these types of MD in TV or movies. We’ve had no one to look up to that’s like us. No one to admire getting a Golden Globe and dedicating it to all of us. No one to tell us that we can do anything we want to do or be anything we want to be…including an actor. And the worst part is, I don’t know if I see us being represented in the entertainment industry anytime soon (especially not if it’s still so far behind when it comes to race).
I grew up feeling totally isolated because of my disability. I felt like the only one. Even today, I often feel like an outsider because I don’t look like the standard definition of what a disabled person is. I’m left to only imagine what a huge difference it might have made if I had seen someone like me on my Friday night TV shows. If I had turned on a movie and there was a girl with struggles exactly like my own. Think of what a difference this could make for people with disabilities all over the world, to see someone that looks like them.
By not including us in something as far reaching as movies and television, society is effectively telling us that we don’t matter. That we aren’t important enough or worthy enough to be cast in the public eye. That we couldn’t possibly play an Academy Award winning part. We’re still being put on the fringes of society and not just in small ways, in huge ones like this.
We all deserve to be represented. Every little boy and girl deserves to look up on that big screen and see someone that looks like them. We all deserve to be given the message that we can be whatever we want to be, not just that we can only be certain things because there’s some areas we’ll never be accepted in to. Hollywood is a superficial industry, there’s no doubt about that. They claim no one wants to see someone who is “imperfect” even if that means someone who isn’t pleasing to look at on screen. Imperfect people won’t sell movies. And yes, there are many other people we in this community can look up to that aren’t actors or directors or whoever but that’s not enough for me. We deserve to have people we can look up to in every single facet of this world. In every role, in every job, in every political office. Period.