Home Entertainment Woody Harrelson’s new film means well – but disabled people are more than mascots | Cathy Reay

Woody Harrelson’s new film means well – but disabled people are more than mascots | Cathy Reay

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Woody Harrelson’s new film means well – but disabled people are more than mascots | Cathy Reay

‘I wanna say the fitting factor but when I can’t name them the r-word, what can I name them?” Marcus (performed by Woody Harrelson) is a basketball coach in court docket for drunk-driving and aggressive behaviour, and that is what he asks the choose quite pathetically at first of his new film Champions. “I counsel you name them by their names,” she replies tersely, sentencing him to 90 days’ neighborhood service teaching the Associates, a basketball group with studying disabilities. Wow – what a punishment! My coronary heart bleeds.

That is Marcus’s probability to redeem himself and in the end, grow to be A Good ManTM. Inside 90 days, he should halt his drink drawback and cease resorting to violence when he doesn’t get his personal manner. Oh, and he’s a womaniser too – spending time with some disabled individuals will in all probability repair that as effectively, proper? Yuck.

Based mostly on the Spanish movie Campeones, Champions units out on a righteous path by casting studying disabled actors in studying disabled roles. Furthermore, these actors are humorous and actual and funky, not that we get to see a lot of them. “I’ve Down’s syndrome, I’m not deaf!” quips sassy standout star Madison Tevlin in response to a non-disabled one that is shouting at her.

However Champions instantly misplaced its avenue cred for me as soon as I understood that the disabled characters exist to a) facilitate Marcus’ transformation into A Good ManTM and b) act because the movie’s feelgood mascots. If correct display time was spent following their lives, we may have witnessed a lot extra disabled pleasure, companionship and the societal obstacles they face. As an alternative, that is deprioritised in favour of a drained inventory Hollywood romance story between Marcus and one of many Associates’ sizzling non-disabled sister. Harrelson’s character later realises the group are literally individuals in any case (and funky ones at that!) – however solely as a result of his on-off girlfriend provides him a speaking to.

Because the credit roll, the disabled actors all dance about having a good time, whereas the non-disabled solid members’ names seem on-screen. If, as a movie, you actually need to give worth and credit score to the underrepresented neighborhood you’re showcasing, why wouldn’t you prioritise telling us who they’re? All of it felt very superficial to me.

A small step in the right direction … Zack Gottsagen in The Peanut Butter Falcon.
A small step in the fitting course … Zack Gottsagen in The Peanut Butter Falcon. {Photograph}: Nigel Bluck/Signature/Kobal/REX/Shutterstock

I get why individuals may suppose that it’s effort. Whereas the variety of disabled actors enjoying disabled roles is drastically low, even fewer of these have studying disabilities. Hollywood alternatives for studying disabled actors are extraordinarily uncommon. Not solely that, these form of characters have traditionally been written so one-dimensionally, that dimension being (cue violin music) desperately unhappy and pathetic. (And have usually been performed by non-disabled actors – Dustin Hoffman, Sam Claflin, Tom Hanks, I’m you). So something is just about an enchancment, proper?

However I need higher for my neighborhood. I need to see display time dedicated to disabled characters performed by disabled actors. I need to see them falling in love, navigating the advantages system, incarcerated, going by adoption, divorce, profession adjustments, homelessness, teen angst. I don’t need to see disabled mascots. I need to see disabled life.

Certain, movies comparable to Champions and The Peanut Butter Falcon are a tiny step in the fitting course – however we want greater than steps, we want radical transformation. We’d like disabled individuals behind and in entrance of the display. And we want Hollywood to take extra dangers and cease falling again on cliched narratives whereas othering disabled identities and cashing in on disabled actors’ expertise.

As is true off-screen, disabled actors shouldn’t simply exist to make non-disabled individuals really feel good, they’re absolutely able to making us really feel an entire spectrum of feelings – if solely the movie trade would allow them to.

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