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Disability Action Center NW

FILM NEEDS PEOPLE WITH DISABILITIES

The Annenberg Inclusion Initiative at the University of Southern California’s Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism looks at representation within the cast and behind the camera for the top 100 films each year between 2007 and 2022. In an analysis of the 100 top-grossing films last year, researchers found that 54 did not include a single speaking character with a disability. That’s more than in previous studies looking at movies released in 2021 and 2015. “The lack of progress in these areas suggests that executives and content creators are relying on practices that continue to marginalize and exclude talented voices from all backgrounds.” said Stacy L. Smith, director of the Annenberg Inclusion Initiative and an author of the report.

Greta Gerwig’s film Barbie did include an appearance of Wheelchair Barbie and a Barbie with a prosthetic arm who is an aide to the President. But these were not major roles. The ways in which individuals and groups are portrayed in popular media can have a profound effect on how they are viewed by society at large. Although the film industry has progressed when it comes to bringing disability issues onto the big screen, it is still far from an inclusive field that allows disabled characters to be represented by disabled actors. The media we consume has the power to create negative biases towards disabled individuals unintentionally. However, we also know that when thoughtfully portrayed, narrative stories have the power to dismantle biases and shift our culture to be a more inclusive society.

All in all, it’s time we start recognizing and celebrating people with disabilities as a valuable part of our society because disability impacts ALL of us. Disability is the only minority group anyone can join at any time.

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