So the trailer for the Wonder movie came out. What to say?
Yay craniofacial conditions in the mainstream movies. Boo to the continued history of faking disabilities in the media. I get it – the pool of actors who actually have craniofacial conditions who they could have used is minuscule… but what kind of message does that send?
To the young people with disabilities, does it invalidate them being actually part of the story? Is it yet another message that they aren’t good enough? Is it yet another marginalization?
I’m hoping the media blitz associated with this movie is inclusive of the craniofacial community at least, but I’m worried about tokenism and overly-saccharine emo pieces.
The tag line of the book and movie is #ChooseKind. Is taking actual disabled people out of the story kind to them, and to us as a community? Will it actually promote kindness, or will it further the othering of that-which-cannot-be-shown-onscreen? We shall see.
It’s no secret that I have a seriously conflicted relationship with the upcoming Wonder movie: Yay, movie about craniofacial differences! Boo, you couldn’t find an actor with TCS to do it? Yay, so many of my favorite actors (Daveed Diggs!)…
And a big boo to their marketing campaign. The existence of someone with a craniofacial condition (and hell, in this case it’s a fake craniofacial condition) doesn’t exist to make you feel all warm and fuzzy. A mother and son interacting when the son happens to have a fake!craniofacial condition shouldn’t be impressive.
This thinking comes from the thinking that disability is this awful thing that must be avoided, overcome and conquered…instead of something that just is.
I actually thought the book did a pretty good job of walking this line…but I guess we can’t expect that much for Hollywood. It’s too bad because this is a really good opportunity to raise awareness of craniofacial conditions that’s potentially being wasted in sentimentality and mushiness.
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.