Sunday, 16 January 2011

Dream Snatchers!

We all dream, we dream of things to come and things that could have been. Children are big on dreaming and ideal jobs are frequently thought of. From scientists to models, from policemen to nurses- anything is possible for anyone, unless someone stands in the way. Disabled children dream too, and they have the power to be whatever they want to be, so why are film and TV companies using fully able actors to play disabled characters whilst unemployed, disabled, actors stand in the wings?

In glee – the leading American musical teenage drama – a main character, paraplegic ‘Artie’, appears on TV singing and rapping, smiling away. Is this inspirational? The impressive performance on screen is the image of equality, but when the stage is folded away Artie walks the red carpet– literally. He is not a paraplegic, and he wasn’t cast as one either. Many talented disabled actors are unemployed through lack of jobs, especially if their mobility is impaired- and this job would have been a dream for any of them. There aren’t many disabled character parts to be cast anyway, but when they are scandalously given away to unworthy actors who could have any part at all – it’s a disgrace!

This happens more and more, the sad thing is disabled children might feel they can relate to Artie and the character might give them hope. But as he is nothing less than fiction, he has nothing in common with them at all. Disabled children need to know they can be whoever and whatever they want to be and that doesn’t change because of a disability. But they can look up too some real role models like Cherylee Houston who plays Coronation Street’s Izzy – a real wheel chair user. She is the first disabled character in Coronation Street to become a regular face. In the past Ali Briggs, a hearing impaired actress, stared as Rita’s Niece Freda. In fact the new trend of pretend disabled actors hasn’t been shown on Coronation Street because all their past disabled actors have been genuine. The show and Ali won Best Portrayal of the Lives and Viewpoints of Disabled People on Television, at the Royal Association for Disability and Rehabilitation (RADAR) People of the Year Awards in 2005.

So, though double lives are very Hollywood, they shouldn’t get in the way of disabled people’s childhood acting dreams, coming true.  Not only will the quality of acting be better, but it will be a real picture of equality that we should all frame and cherish.

 (Right) Kevin McHale as Artie.

(Left) Kevin McHale. 

Cherylee Houston as Izzy in Coronation Street.

Radar awarded Ali Briggs an award for her performance in Coronation Street, 

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