Actor Bryan Cranston is facing a social media backlash for playing a disabled character in his latest movie because he is not actually disabled – a casting decision which some people have found highly problematic.
Cranston, best known for his role in Breaking Bad, plays a quadriplegic billionaire in his new movie ‘The Upside’ – a Hollywood remake of the 2011 French film ‘The Intouchables.’ The casting of Cranston as a disabled character has ignited passionate social media debate, however.
While some are claiming that choosing an able-bodied actor deprives actors who are really disabled of opportunities, others say that Cranston was chosen for his top-notch acting ability and was therefore the right person for the role.
On Twitter, some pointed out that the “only” roles disabled actors could be considered for those portraying disabled people and therefore they should be the ones getting those roles.
Bryan Cranston is trending for being cast as a quadriplegic man. I see lots of people defending him, saying it’s his job as an actor. As a disabled actor myself, let me point out that such roles are the ONLY roles disabled actors would be considered for… yet we still aren’t.
— Ally Craig (@mr_craig) January 8, 2019
There are disabled actors/people who can act disabilities right *and* well. Disabled folks, including actors, face high discrimination/unemployment. We pay so much more to survive, die more easily/sooner. Johnson, Cranston, other ableds don’t need the money/real awareness. We do.
— Emily Johnson (@emily_rj) January 12, 2019
Disabled actors aren’t cast in roles that center disability and also aren’t cast in roles that don’t center disability, yet somehow people don’t see this as evidence of discrimination or anything negative. Disabled actors just have to try harder to hone their chops! Like, GMAB.
— Malice Walker (@humblecore) January 8, 2019
Others argued that Cranston’s proven acting chops are likely the reason he was chosen – not to mention the fact that Hollywood producers want to cast high-profile, “bankable” actors.
Bryan Cranston having to defend himself for playing a disabled person is a prime example of the ridiculous culture we’ve created for ourselves. He’s an actor. For the love of Christ we all need to get a grip and stop the daily assault of outrage and nonsense.
— 🅾 (@studioexec1) January 8, 2019
I’d support this if you could find a disabled person with the acting chops of Bryan Cranston
— Ash Bandicoot (@LoLo8186) January 7, 2019
show me an actor with quadriplegia as capable as bryan cranston
— Nixon (@_Nixo_n) January 8, 2019
I wish people would just be honest about this…which is that no disabled actor is anywhere near as bankable as Cranston is pic.twitter.com/6aXJXYmnY6
— nuanced opinion guy (@charles_kinbote) January 8, 2019
Some on the anti-Cranston side shot back, however, saying the reason there are few disabled actors at Cranston’s level is because they are not given opportunities. Others though, said it would be too time consuming for a person who was genuinely quadriplegic to play the role.
you’re right! i couldn’t name one and u know why? because disabled actors are not given the opportunity to be “top actors” https://t.co/erlINjMVbM
— Grey Jarvis (@grey_jarvis) January 8, 2019
yall dont realize how hard it would be for an actual paralyzed person to film a movie jfkddkfjdjnx there is no time in the day for that to happen!!! it wouldnt get done!!!
(this is coming from me, a person who takes care of my quadriplegic father and we are excited to see this) https://t.co/oF36TowO95
— kristina ⭕️ (@bubblyphil) January 8, 2019
Cranston himself defended his decision to take the part, saying that an actor’s job is to portray other people. “If I, as a straight, older person, and I’m wealthy, I’m very fortunate, does that mean I can’t play a person who is not wealthy, does that mean I can’t play a homosexual?” he said.
Filmmaker Dominick Evans, who is also a disability inclusion advocate, told RT that casting non-disabled people in disabled roles causes a “considerable amount of harm” to disabled people.
“Most non-disabled people are afraid of becoming disabled and non-disabled people are primarily writing films about disability, so if you’re coming at it from a place of harm and fear to begin with, it’s probably not going to be an actual, accurate representation of what disability is and what disabled people’s lives are like,” Evans said.
Media commentator Gina Loudon told RT, however, that it doesn’t necessarily matter who plays what role, so long as the right issues get attention. Movies like ‘The Upside’ “bring awareness to the issue of disability” and “as long as [disabled people] are depicted in a realistic or positive light” then it’s a “good thing,” Loudon said.
Actors have faced backlash in recent years for playing characters who belong to minority groups to which they don’t belong. In 2018, Scarlett Johansson dropped out of a movie in which she was going to play a transgender person after considerable outrage, while Emma Stone faced criticism for playing the role of a character who was supposed to be part-Asian in the 2015 romantic comedy ‘Aloha.’
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