On Wonder & Representation

So apparently the news that the film adaptation of RJ Palacio’s Wonder is gong to feature a young actor who doesn’t actually have a facial difference is old(er) news, but adding Julia Roberts to the mix made it “new” news today.

I’ll admit: my first reaction was something akin to whaaat? How are you going to make this work? Why in the world couldn’t they find an awesome young kid with TCS? I’m sure he’s out there.

My practical side knows why: he’s arguably the best young actor in the right age range, this is a plum part, the logistics of casting such a specific thing… but this raises so many questions about the portrayal and inclusion of disabilities in the arts and especially in film.

To choose non-disabled actors to portray people with disabilities, the industry negates the presence of actors with disabilities (and discourages people from trying). It also suggests that the reality of a person with a disability on screen or stage is not welcome – that the mediated experience of disability through the lense of an actor is preferrable.

And I’m also asking about the real logistics of this: are we dealing with prosthetics? How will they do it and have it look realistic? Or are they going to go really meta on us and do something else?

A line in Wonder says 

and it’s like the culture has taken this too far – by removing the imagination completely by actually removing disability from the discussion in the actual, physical realm.

So we shall see how this turns out. I’m happy this book is out there and raising consciousness and awareness of craniofacial conditions with children…just wish the movie had gone further and cast an actor with a craniofacial condition.

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