Rhonda's Movie Discussion

Discussion about movies that have characters with disabilities.

Friday, February 24, 2006


I've been examining how characters with disabilities are portrayed in feature films.

Here's by big question -- do these portrayals REALLY influence public opinion - and if so how much? For example, does average Joe Public conceptualize autism according to Raymond in Rain Man?

And here's another question -- was the movie really about Raymond - or about his brother?

And was Raymond really better off back at the institution?


At February 24, 2006 2:28 PM, Blogger dab613 said...

It is a pity that they used Hoffman to portray an autistic individual.

At February 25, 2006 2:39 PM, Blogger RSB said...

That's an interesting point. It would be nice if Hollywood would use actors with disabilities. On the other hand, if you want a movie to be seen -- you need big name stars. So, is there a problem with big name actors getting Academy awards because they are portraying someone so different from themselves? I'm just not sure about this one. I'd love to hear the ideas of others.

At October 20, 2006 3:44 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I do not understand why it was a pity - I thought Hoffman did an excellent job of acting and protraying behaviors common to autism (although the "autism spectrum disorder" spread of who is now diagnosed with autism has weakened any "tight" stereotype of the condition). It's what actors do. "Enlightened" people generally don't like sterotypes, but stereotypes exist because the behaviors are ones that are common enough to be recognized as representative of a certain group. It isn't that the stereotype, itself, is not a true representation of a set of characteristics associated with a particular group (otherwise it wouldn't gain the staus of "stereotype"), it is that the stereotype is applied whether it is true of an individual or not. So is the objection to Hoffman that the actor was perpetuating a stereotype? If the "real" rainman were to have made the film, would it have changed the stereotype any? I feel the same way about Matt Damon in "What's Eating Gilbert Grape?" I think his acting abilities were superb - Why would it have been better to use someone who actually had a cognitive disability? I don't think the issue of how individuals with disabilities are portrayed in the media has to do with who does the acting as much as it does with who wrote the content of the script and how the movie was directed. Movies that have employed little people (or dumb blondes for that matter)get lambasted when their portrayal has anything to do with a sterotypic notion aobut them - so again, it is how the story is presented, not the actor, that is offensive. Lambasting the actor is like "killing the messenger". Of course, I know there are those who disagree - so here is an opportunity for a dialogue.


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