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Archive for the ‘entertainment’ Category

Study: Lack of characters with disabilities on TV

Friday, October 8th, 2010

From The Hollywood Reporter, IAMPWD.org:

A new report on minority representation on broadcast television finds that scripted characters with identifiable disabilities will represent only one percent of all scripted series regular characters  on the five broadcast networks this fall. That’s just six characters out of 587. Of those six, only one is played by an actor who actually has a disability.

The report issued by the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD) examined all series regular characters expected to appear on the 84 announced scripted series airing during the 2010/11 broadcast network television season. Called “Where We Are On TV,” the annual report in the past has noted characters’ gender, sexual orientation, race and ethnicity. For the first time this year, a disability category was included.

“Among people with disabilities, where we are on TV has always been a mystery, and as this report clearly shows, mostly invisible,” said Anita Hollander, chair of the Tri-Union Inclusion in the Arts & Media of People With Disabilities (I AM PWD) Campaign of Actors’ Equity Association, the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (AFTRA) and Screen Actors Guild.

The six series regular characters with disabilities listed by the report were: The title character on House (Fox), who uses a cane; Dr. Remy “Thirteen” Hadley on House (Fox) who has Huntington’s Disease; Artie Abrams on Glee (Fox), who uses a wheelchair; Saul on Brothers & Sisters (ABC), who is living with HIV; young Max Braverman on Parenthood (NBC), who has Asperger’s syndrome; and Dr. Albert Robbins on CSI: Crime Scene Investigation (CBS), who has a prosthetic leg.

Of the six, only one is played by an actor with an identified disability: Robert David Hall, who portrays Dr. Robbins on CSI: Crime Scene Investigation.

The survey found more participation by actors with disabilities in continuing network guest roles, including two women with Down syndrome who appear on Fox’s Glee.

“Compared to series regulars, there is definitely more gender variety and more authenticity in casting recurring characters,” said Hollander. “This suggests that producers and writers are showing a guarded interest in being inclusive of characters with disabilities being portrayed by actors with disabilities.”

Earlier posts here.

‘Pennhurst Asylum’ attraction opens in former Pa. institution

Saturday, September 25th, 2010

From the Philadelphia Inquirer, Delaware County [Pa.] Daily Times, AP, with historic photos from Philly.com:

Pennsylvania’s historic Pennhurst Center, once the focus of landmark litigation that sparked nationwide changes in treatment for people with intellectual disabilities, opened last night as a Halloween-themed haunted house attraction over the protests of disability rights advocates.

Advocates had unsuccessfully sought an injunction to prevent the opening of the “Pennhurst Asylum” show on the grounds of the property, once known as Eastern State Institution for the Feeble-Minded and Epileptic.

Even before the injunction was denied on Friday afternoon advocates called for a boycott of the attraction, which references historic abuse and neglect of the institution’s patients and features a “registration nurse” who tells visitors what the asylum’s “doctor” has planned for them. (See video here.)

The crumbling facility was closed in 1987 in the wake of a federal lawsuit alleging years of abuse and neglect. The suit, which spawned years of appeals and three U.S. Supreme Court rulings, alleged that residents had been beaten by nurses, strapped to beds, left naked or alone and drugged into stupors. At the time, the closure of the 600-acre facility was hailed as a civil rights victory.

Pennhurst property owner Richard Chakejian said said he and his crew are “just trying to pull off a fun, orderly event and we’re excited about that.”

‘Temple Grandin’ a big Emmy winner

Monday, August 30th, 2010

From Yahoo.com (with video), Los Angeles Times, The Atlantic, Entertainment Weekly:

The HBO biopic ‘Temple Grandin’ was among the big winners in this year’s Emmy awards contest, sweeping 7 awards including best actress for Claire Danes, best directing for Mick Jackson, and best made-for-television movie or miniseries. The project portrayed the early life of the agricultural scientist and best-selling author who, with the help of her mother, struggled to live a satisfying life with autism before the condition was widely recognized or understood.

Wearing the rodeo gear that has become her uniform, Grandin was seen onscreen frequently during the Sunday Emmy ceremony and at one point rose from her seat in the audience to excitedly swing an imaginary lasso.

From the LA Times:

And while standing on stage after the movie had won its top award, she warmly embraced a sobbing executive producer Emily Gerson Saines, who said she found inspiration in Grandin’s life story as her own child had been diagnosed with autism.

“I hope this movie is going to educate a lot of people about autism because there’s a lot of people who don’t understand it,” Grandin said backstage. “Somebody [with autism] might be a Silicon Valley genius, and somebody might be handicapped and non-verbal.”

In addition to the five awards announced Sunday evening, ‘Temple Grandin’ captured Emmys for picture editing and musical composition that were announced at a ceremony last week.

Earlier posts here.

Emmy exec: ‘Down Syndrome Girl’ will not air on awards shows

Tuesday, August 24th, 2010

Press release from the National Down Syndrome Congress:

John Shaffner, chairman and CEO of the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences, has pledged that the Emmy-nominated song “Down Syndrome Girl” will not be aired on the primetime Emmy telecast or the broadcast of the Emmy’s Creative Arts awards.

Shaffner’s promise came in response to a letter of protest from the NDSC’s Self Advocate Council, which characterized the musical number as “hateful” and said its recognition by the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences carried the unjust message that “those of us who have Down syndrome are less valuable than others and deserve ridicule and abuse because of our disability.”

Shaffner thanked the group for sharing its concerns about the song. “The Television Academy is always sensitive to these types of issues and had already planned not to air this song,” Shaffner wrote.

The musical number, which appeared this spring on Fox Television’s “Family Guy,” describes a character with Down syndrome as a “little whore” who is “poorly grooming,” “as-of-Monday-shoelace-tying,” “just a little crooked walking” and “a special person’s wettest dream.” The lyrics also include a reference to the “shorty bus.”

It was nominated in the category “Outstanding Original Music and Lyrics” but lost out to Randy Newman’s music and lyrics for “When I’m Gone” from the finale of USA Network’s “Monk.”

Jennifer Aniston draws fire for saying ‘retard’ on TV

Friday, August 20th, 2010

From the Los Angeles Times ‘Ministry of Gossip’ blog, US Magazine, press release from the National Down Syndrome Society:

Actress Jennifer Aniston used the word “retard” during a television interview Thursday, drawing criticism from disability advocacy groups.

Appearing on Live with Regis and Kelly (video here), Aniston was discussing a recent Harper’s Bazaar photo shoot in which she wore costumes in the style of Barbra Streisand.

“You’re playing dress-up!” Regis told her. She replied, “Yes, I play dress-up! I do it for a living, like a retard!” The remark drew laughter from the studio audience and guest cohost Kristin Cruz.

“Frankly, someone in her position ought to know better,” Peter Berns, chief exec of The Arc (a nonprofit advocate for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities), told Us Weekly. “She is using language that is offensive to a large segment of the population in this country … …Every time folks hear that word, it kind of reminds them of all the discrimination and oppression they’ve experienced in their lives. Even if it wasn’t intended to insult them, that is the effect of it.”

… “Sadly, people use the word pervasively even if they don’t realize it,” said Kirsten Seckler, spokeswoman for the Special Olympics. “People with intellectual disabilities have fought their whole lives for understanding and recognition. When people continue to use the R word, it’s hurtful.”

Sarah Schleider, communications VP of the National Down Syndrome Society, released a letter inviting Aniston to work on behalf of people with intellectual disabilities. An excerpt:

This statement is indicative of the inaccurate and ignorant stereotypes that are all too common in our culture. People with Down syndrome are capable of intelligent thought, understanding and behavior and should not be referenced as a way of commenting on one’s own intellect or life choices, in either a humorous or serious manner.

At the National Down Syndrome Society, we understand that this type of comment is often the result of a lack of information and/or a lack of exposure to people with cognitive disabilities. We hope that you take this opportunity to educate yourself about cognitive disabilities and gain a better understanding.

Advocacy group protests Emmy nod for ‘Down Syndrome Girl’

Thursday, August 19th, 2010

Family Guy musical number was nominated in “Outstanding Original Music and Lyrics” category

Source: Letter from the National Down Syndrome Congress

Members of the Self Advocate Council of the National Down Syndrome Congress this week sent a letter protesting the Emmy award nomination given recently to “Down Syndrome Girl,” a musical number that appeared this spring on Fox Television’s “Family Guy.”

The number, which was honored in the category “Outstanding Original Music and Lyrics,” describes a character with Down syndrome as a “little whore” who is “poorly grooming,” “as-of-Monday-shoelace-tying,” “just a little crooked walking” and “a special person’s wettest dream.” The lyrics also include a reference to the “shorty bus.”

The Council, composed of people who have Down syndrome, characterized the song as “hateful” and said its recognition by the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences carries the unjust message that “those of us who have Down syndrome are less valuable than others and deserve ridicule and abuse because of our disability.”

The letter, which was directed to Academy chairman John Shaffner, asked that the song not be aired on the upcoming Aug. 29 Emmy Award broadcast. An excerpt:

When the organization you head honors this kind of prejudicial materials, particularly on an award show that is meant to celebrate the best of television programming, it means that those of us with developmental disabilities will have to fight even greater discrimination. What you promote impacts us very personally. We will be taunted more and treated less humanely, we will struggle to be included at school and in our communities. We will have to fight even harder for jobs.

… We implore you as the Chief Executive Officer of the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences, and someone who has brought satisfaction to millions through your exceptional production design talents, to promote positive portrayals of those of us with Down syndrome on television.

We beseech you and the Academy to balance this discriminatory song with the truth about us … We are real people with real feelings trying our best to live productive lives in our communities.

The lyrics of the musical number “Down Syndrome Girl” are here, and a video clip can be seen here. Earlier posts are here.

Los Angeles theater group showcases abilities

Thursday, August 19th, 2010

Los Angeles Daily News columnist Dennis McCarthy highlights an upcoming performance by the Born To Act Players, a 32-member troupe of actors with and without disabilities that will be performing this month in a professional theater for the first time.

An excerpt:

Before they walk on stage, the Born to Act Players close their eyes and take a few deep breaths to relax.

“Every day, in every way, I am getting better and better,” chant these fine actors and actresses with Down syndrome, autism and other disabilities. “I am talented. I am creative. I am beautiful.”

Then they take the stage and knock the socks off the audience. They are that good.

… If you’ve already attended one of their shows over the years, you know how inspirational and enlightening they are – tearing down stereotypes and misconceptions about the disabled community.

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More than 50 million people in the United States have disabilities, a number that is growing rapidly as the population ages. Experts say disability will soon affect the lives of most Americans. This website attempts to aggregate news and commentary about disability, and to document the efforts of people who are seeking new ways to address familiar challenges.

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