Inclusion on the Red Carpet

For this award season, inclusivity is at an all time high. Here are our top 5 disability-focused movies and TV shows. 

This award season the entertainment industry has made tremendous headwinds in terms of inclusion on the red carpet. The amount of content streaming giants like Netflix and Amazon are pumping makes it so that original stories and experiences land in front of our couch, and I believe this is just the tip of the iceberg.

Although I do not consider myself disabled, the work I do for the disability, disfigurement and chronic illness community has taught me the importance of “passing the mic,” of understanding the experience of the other. While our swimwear designs, matching bags and our blog are successful at showcasing some of these stories, the streaming industry has a much bigger reach than a small business like us. Hence, I am profoundly grateful because I know that the more that these stories are shared and depicted in big platforms, the more awareness, empathy and understanding we will have towards the disability, disfigurement and chronic illness community.

If you are like me, you have spent an embarrassing amount of time in front of the TV this past year. While pre-pandemic I would sometimes feel remorseful for spending my day this way, with the pandemic and wanting to prioritize safety, I can only be grateful to have found the deep, engaging, in some cases inspiring content I have found.

Below are some of the most thought-provoking content I have found on the disability experience:

Crip Camp:

If you don’t know much about how the Americans with Disabilities Act came to be, you need to watch this Netflix's documentary. I would say it is the gold standard for disability documentaries and produced by none other than the production company of the Obamas. 10/10 recommend.

Crip Camp courtesy of Netflix

Sound of Metal:

Although the main character is not played by an actor who is actually deaf, Riz Ahmed’s commitment to the role, to fully represent the experience of being deaf was truly breathtaking. He has been nominated for Best Actor this Sunday, alongside his co-star Paul Raci, who plays the role of deaf camp counselor and whose parents are deaf. Raci has been nominated for best supporting actor. My favorite part of this movie was the message that being deaf is not something that must be fixed. You can find it on Amazon.

Sex Education:

I am impatiently waiting on Netflix’s season 3 of Sex Education. The show is about an able-bodied boy, Otis, who takes his mother’s sex therapist occupation and makes it his own alongside his friend, Maeve, giving sex tips to his classmates. Maeve lives in a trailer park and that is where she meets her neighbor, Isaac who is portrayed by George Robinson, a wheelchair user. The scene that made it for me was when Maeve, Issac and Otis attend a party and Issac has trouble navigating the stairs. This scene brought up an important lesson about accessibility, without depicting Issac as the problem, but rather the world around us.

Big Mouth:

Netflix’s crude take on middle-school drama is funny and refreshing. They cover every single topic that gave us nightmares when we were 14 years old, from facial hair to periods. Big Mouth also has a character who is paraplegic, Lars. The scene I remember the most is when Andrew, one of the many able-bodied characters, is so jealous of Lars dating Missy that he questions whether Lars really needs his wheelchair or whether Lars is using it to get girls. This scene brings up Andrew’s preconceived notions of what people with disabilities can accomplish and also the sad truth that many living with disabilities, visible or invisible, are many times questioned their disability. The character DeVon also mentions that he has rheumatoid arthritis, a win for the chronic illness community.

 

via GIPHY

 

Them:

Amazon’s Them is polarizing as it is scary and violent. As a white-passing latina, it made me feel incredibly uncomfortable, upset and disappointed with 1950’s race relations. I thought it was very innovative in the sense of how it addresses PTSD and mental health problems, especially in the black community. Both parents have suffered traumatic events, Henry in the war and Lucky when a group of white people took her baby. Throughout the series, the line between what is in their heads and what is their reality gets mixed and the whole family struggles with believing each other. I did not like, however, how the show used disfigurement as a way to showcase evil. Epps, the spirit of the elder of an all-white community that haunts the whole family, has burn scars in his face. Although he died in a fire which would explain the scars, this is not explained until the end of the series and made me question the creative choice of Epps having such pronounced scars in his face as a fear-factor.

While this award season's disability representation is at an all time high, I am hopeful that in the years to come we will see a wider range of disabilities, chronic illnesses and disfigurements represented on the screens. I would also like to see stories that showcase disability as the main character, and not a supporting one. Got movie and TV recommendations for us? Drop it in the comments section.

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