The primetime ABC drama “The Good Doctor” follows the career and personal life of a young surgeon with autism. The title character, Dr. Shaun Murphy, is played by Freddie Highmore who does not have autism. However, Monday night’s episode (Nov 13th) was unique in that a guest role featuring a character with autism was played by Coby Bird, an experienced actor with autism. This article on The Mighty by Elizabeth Cassidy describes Bird’s work and perspective on his character.
Several recent films produced by Hollywood studios and starring celebrity actors are frustrating disability advocates for their lack of diversity and authenticity. Examples include Todd Haynes’s film Wonderstruck starring Julianne Moore as a deaf woman, David Gordon Green’s Stronger starring Jake Gyllenhaal as a double-amputee, and Andy Serkis’s Breathe starring Andrew Garfield as a polio patient who becomes a quadriplegic. A recent article in USA Today explains why disability advocates are raising awareness about the lack of casting diversity and how filmmakers are responding.
Article excerpt: So what can Hollywood do to give more visibility? Lauren Appelbaum, communications director for RespectAbility, a non-profit organization working to fight stigmas and create opportunities for people with disabilities, urges studios to look to TV, where actors such as Stranger Things‘ Gaten Matarazzo (who has cleidocranial dysplasia, a rare growth disorder) and NCIS: New Orleans‘ Daryl Mitchell (who is paralyzed from the chest down) play roles that don’t hinge on them being disabled.
“Actors with disabilities could easily play roles that neither hide nor emphasize their disability,” Appelbaum says. “For example: a doctor who uses a wheelchair or a scientist with cerebral palsy. By including characters with obvious and hidden disabilities in scripts and story lines, films can create more authenticity within entertainment.”
The children’s television show Sesame Street just introduced a new character, Julia, a muppet who has autism. The show’s creators hope to encourage inclusion in younger children. Read more
NCDJ advisory board member Beth Haller will host a webinar on the TV representation of people with disabilities on April 5. A disability and media scholar, Haller will talk about the rise of TV shows including ABC’s “Speechless.” Read more
Academy Award-winning actress Marlee Matlin told reporters, “There have been only a handful of people talking about the lack of inclusion of people with disabilities” in the film industry and Hollywood. Read more
An upcoming festival will highlight people with disabilities in the film and media industries. Read more
Melissa Blake examines the lack of female characters with disabilities on TV, writing, “Women with disabilities exist beyond mere props used to teach some worldly lesson.” Read More
The ABC television show ‘Speechless’ highlighted the concept of ‘inspiration porn’ on a recent episode. The term is used in opposition of stories that label people with disabilities as “inspirational” because of their disability. Read more
Perkins School for the Blind lists moments of representation in pop culture last year, dissecting different characters and prominent figures. Read more