Here with the 3,454th sign that the world has gone completely mad, actress Octavia Spencer is calling on Hollywood to stop letting able-bodied actors portray characters who have disabilities. Spencer, who portrayed a maid in “The Help” (despite not actually being a maid), recorded a video this week for the Ruderman Family Foundation, a group that advocates for the disabled. In the video, Spencer says that we need “authentic onscreen representation” for those who suffer from disabilities.
“Did you know that women weren’t allowed to perform in theaters until 1660?” Spencer asked. “All characters, whether male or female, were portrayed by men before then. It’s only been a few decades since white actors would portray black, Asian, and even Native American characters on the screen.
“All of these communities of people had to endure not only their stories being told inauthentically, but also seeing themselves portrayed inauthentically,” Spencer continued. “But nothing can replace lived experience and authentic representation. That’s why it’s imperative that we cast the appropriate actor for the appropriate role. And that means people with disabilities, as well.
“Casting able-bodied actors in roles for characters with disabilities is offensive, unjust, and deprives an entire community of people from opportunities,” Spencer continued. “There is no reason that we should continue to repeat the same mistakes of the past. Together, we should and can do better.”
This may be Spencer’s first foray into the idiotic idea that able-bodied actors should not portray those who are blind, deaf, paralyzed, etc., but it’s certainly not the first rodeo for the Ruderman Family Foundation. The Boston-based group loudly complained when Bryan Cranston portrayed a quadriplegic man in the 2018 movie, “The Upside.”
“While we don’t know the auditioning history of ‘The Upside,’ casting a non-disabled actor to play a character with a disability is highly problematic and deprives performers with disabilities the chance to work and gain exposure,” wrote foundation president Jay Ruderman at the time. “Non-disabled actors are routinely cast to play characters with disabilities, while actors with disabilities are rarely even auditioned for minor parts. This practice amounts to discrimination and we are working with Hollywood advocates to change that.”
So…how far do we take this logic? Can actors with 20/20 vision portray characters who need glasses? Can a well actor portray someone dying from lung cancer? Can an actor with perfectly-flawless bones play a character who broke their arm in a skiing accident?
If you want to advocate for disabled actors, we’re all for it. But this trend of “you can’t play any character that doesn’t perfectly match your own life experience” is completely absurd.