Today is a rare day in Hollywood: We have two major stars, Dwayne Johnson
and Joaquin Phoenix
, releasing films in which they play disabled characters. In “Skyscraper
,” Johnson’s alter ego undergoes a below-knee amputation following an opening-scene explosion; “Don’t Worry, He Won’t Get Far on Foot” casts thrice Oscar-nominated Phoenix as John Callahan
, the late artist who became quadraplegic in a car accident.
On-screen representation of disabilities is so infrequent it can seem like a fluke. According to the last U.S. Census, 19 percent of Americans have a disability, but a 2017 study from USC Annenberg’s Media, Diversity, & Social Change Initiative found that just 2.7 percent of all 2016 speaking roles included a discernible disability. So two in one week is progress, right?
Some disability rights advocates say: Nope. “We are over continually having non-disabled people trusted to tell our stories more than actual disabled actors,” said Rebecca Cokley