The Importance of Disability Representation in Everyday Life

Should Disabled Actors Always Play Disabled Characters?, Well, it Depends.

Scott Porter as Jason Street in Friday Night Lights

The debate about whether disabled actors should be playing disabled characters, I think, is more complex than just yes or no. I am more flexible about this concept than others because it depends on the story and the situation. 

In recent years, there has been an increasing awareness and advocacy for disability representation in media and entertainment industries. This includes the push for casting actors with disabilities in roles that portray characters with disabilities. That being said, I don’t believe all disabled parts should automatically be given to disabled actors. Sometimes the storyline doesn’t allow that, as is the case with Scott Porter’s portrayal of Jason Street in Friday Night Lights. Jason Street had to be a previously non-disabled athlete before becoming paralyzed, as that was the storyline from the pilot episode. Porter alludes to this in an Insider Article, stating, “My character’s a unique character, and the fact that you had to see him able-bodied as well as post-injury, they had to have an able-bodied actor to play the role.”

When an actor is disabled from the pilot episode, and there was no accident or previously shown abled-bodied character, disabled actors should be cast. Authentic representation is important because it allows for the portrayal of experiences and perspectives that are often overlooked or misrepresented in mainstream media. When actors with disabilities are cast in these roles, they can bring authenticity and depth to their performances that may be difficult for able-bodied actors to replicate.

Additionally, casting actors with disabilities in these roles can provide opportunities for greater visibility and inclusion for people with disabilities in the entertainment industry. By showcasing the talent and abilities of actors with disabilities, the industry can help break down stereotypes and stigmas associated with disability.

I am not naïve that this topic is one many disagree on. Yes, discussions surrounding diversity in television and media have become increasingly prevalent and important in recent years. There has been a growing awareness of the need for more representation and inclusivity in the media industry, both in front of and behind the camera. This includes the representation of diverse races, genders, sexual orientations, abilities, and cultures.

Many people argue that greater diversity in television and media is necessary for a number of reasons. Firstly, it allows for a more accurate reflection of society as a whole, rather than just a narrow portion of it. This can help to challenge stereotypes and promote understanding and empathy among different groups of people.

Additionally, greater diversity in television and media can also lead to increased opportunities and visibility for marginalized communities, both in terms of on-screen representation and job opportunities behind the scenes. This can help to break down barriers and promote equality in the industry.

However, there are also those who argue that diversity initiatives can be harmful if they are implemented in a way that is tokenistic or forced. It is important to ensure that efforts to increase diversity in the industry are authentic and sustainable, rather than just a performative gesture.

Overall, the discussion of diversity in television and media is complex and multifaceted. It is important to continue having open and honest conversations about these issues in order to promote greater representation and inclusivity in the industry.

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About Me

Hi, my name is Sabrina; I grew up in Mill Valley, California, and I love to visit when possible. I now live in Los Angeles, California.

Growing up using a wheelchair I knew my life would be very different. But I didn’t see people that looked like me until I started playing wheelchair basketball as a teenager. Then, in college, the visibility of disabilities grew (in my opinion and experience).

After graduation, I worked for the Jewish Los Angeles Special Needs Trust, which helps people with disabilities supplement their government benefits with affordable, professional special needs trust services.

After leaving that job, I eventually got my paralegal certificate and currently work in Family Law.

Throughout my life, I realized the importance of representation and of people who look like you and have a similar experience. My experience as a wheelchair user may be different than others, but it may prove helpful for someone else.