While Will Smith’s stuck-up arrogant attitude has overshadowed the 2022 Oscars, people need to realize that CODA, which won three awards, and should be an inspiration for people everywhere not just those who are deaf of hard of hearing and a call for change.
I was watching Tropic Thunder the other day. This movie came under controversy for the same practices it satires. Ben Stiller, who co-wrote and directed the movie, plays an action star, Tugg Speedman, on a downward spiral who decides to play a “serious role” in the ill-conceived Simple Jack, as a low intelligent country man. In the movie, it’s heavily criticized as one of the worst movies ever for Speedman’s vain attempt to win awards playing someone with developmental disabilities.
Instead, the real movie got slammed for a fake trailer that wasn’t shown in the movie but can be seen here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U-n_zk7e0ZU
The movie was met by criticism from those thinking it was mocking those with developmental disabilities, but it was actually criticizing Hollywood’s notion of actors thinking this is sure Oscar gold. Recent criticism over Maddie Ziegler’s performance in Music is a sign that people are not just getting tired of it, they it to stop altogether. And now, the word mentioned in Tropic Thunder that I’m not going to mention here is considered a slur, as it should.
But this started years before Tropic Thunder. Around the turn of the century, people were criticizing able-bodied people like Sean Penn and Juliette Lewis for portraying developmentally disabled people in I Am Sam and The Other Sister respectively. Even more critical was Penn got an Oscar nomination while the movie got mixed to bad reviews. In The Score, Edward Norton’s criminal character pretends to be developmentally disabled as part of his con jobs and schemes.
But back in the 20th Century, we were rewarding people like Tom Hanks and Leonardo DiCaprio for playing the same disabled people in Forrest Gump and What’s Eating Gilbert Grape. Now, moviegoers are demanding that Hollywood cast actors will real physical and developmental disabilities.
CODA stars Marlee Matlin, Troy Kutsur (who won an Oscar) and Daniel Durant, all who are deaf. What’s important to the movie’s plot is it doesn’t portray them as weak or needed some inspiration from someone who’s able-bodied. And that’s always been the problem that’s plagued “White Savior” movies. Oscar winners like Green Book, The Help and The Blind Side make the white people out to be the protagonists helping the downtrodden and persecuted black people.
And movies about people with disabilities almost always portray the able-bodied person as the ones at a disadvantage. While it’s nice to see Lady Gaga have patience with Liza Minelli, it should be the norm not the exception. In real life, too many people who suffer from disabilities or medical conditions find themselves victims of emotional, mental and physical abuse. A lot of movies, like Music, Mask and Mr. Holland’s Opus look at the “emotional pain” able-bodied people have with dealing with their children or family who have disabilities. But it’s nothing more than attempts at awards.
There’s always this “I don’t know how to deal with this” issue that affects the able-bodied people in these movies. Well, how do you think the disabled live with it? I’ve suffered from hearing loss from my teens, I can see the frustration on people’s face when I ask them to repeat things. At the same time, they’re agitated because “I don’t speak right” and need me to repeat things sometimes. Growing up in the South being told you don’t sound right should be a compliment.
But with my back and knee, every time I take a shower, I worry if this is going to be the ill-fated time I slip and fall. Worse, I have no one to help me. And I have taken care of my ex who had health issues for years and saw how people in her own family treated her. Let me tell you, it’s not Oscar worthy. Disney villains would be disgusted. Real problems like trying to make it to the bathroom in time shouldn’t be used for dramatic emphasis in movies.
CODA shows deaf fishermen who at first seem outsiders compared to the others in Gloucester, Mass., but eventually begin to hang out with them. And it comes so simple as joining them with a beer after work. That’s all we want – to be included. We’re not asking for special treatment. But sometimes we may need some assistance but never, never grab a blind person’s arm. If they need help, they will ask. That’s one thing Al Pacino got right in Scent of a Woman.
The best way to do it is to cast actors with disabilities but don’t address them in movies. Danny DeVito has been acting in movies and TV shows for almost 50 years. There’s hardly ever much discussion about his height. And now, Peter Dinklage is being cast in movies and roles in which the roles don’t call for the character to be a dwarf.
Let’s cast people who are deaf in movies that don’t deal with them being deaf pertinent to the plot.
Let’s cast people who have had to had a limb amputated in roles that aren’t action-oriented or horror movies where they are usually cast as some gory victim.
Let’s cast people who have developmental disabilities, speech impediments and other physical disabilities in roles that don’t have any pertinence to the movie.
We interact with people who have lost a leg to cancer or diabetes, struggling with stuttering, walk with canes or use wheelchairs and even developmental disabilities every day in this world.
If Hollywood and the entertainment industry really wants to be the beacon of inclusion and equal representation it demands every other business and industry to adhere to, then it should stop being so exclusive.
What do you think? Please comment.