According to the 2012 Census, about 19% of Americans are disabled. This classification includes people with dyslexia, ADHD, speech impediments, etc. So lets take a look at the percentage of Americans with severe disabilities: almost 13%.
Now lets take a look at American television. With the rise of reality TV, stars discovered on YouTube, and the changing environment where celebrities are able to open up about their disabilities… we should be able to find a good amount of characters/actors on TV today that have disabilities.
Lets give it a go. In no particular order
(Disclaimer: I am not a TV aficionado so, after doing some research, here’s the most thorough list I could come up with)
- Artie, Becky and Betty on Glee – Artie is played by an able bodied actor, but Ali Stroker (Betty, paraplegic) and Lauren Potter (Becky, Downs) share their characters’ disabilities.
- Jason Street on Friday Night Lights – this character was paralyzed in the pilot episode and is portrayed by able bodied Scott Porter
- Walter Jr on Breaking Bad – has cerebral palsy and is played by RJ” Mitte III, who has a much milder case of cerebral palsy than his character.
- Venom on The Guild (web series) – Played by Teal Shere, a real-life paraplegic.
- Tyrion Lannister on Game of Thrones – played by Peter Dinklage, a dwarf.
- Daphne & Emmett on Switched at Birth – Katie LeClerc and Sean Berdy are hard of hearing and deaf, respectively. (There are a few other deaf characters too)
- Joe Swanson on Family Guy – probably the most well known paraplegic on TV. He’s a cartoon, but you’ve gotta give him props for how he got injured – stopping the Grinch from stealing Christmas from an orphanage.
When I look at this list, I think Wow! We are doing a great job showing a variety of empowering disabled characters! Good job us! But then I’m reminded of that staggering statistic. 13% of the population.
The average American watches 34 hours of live television a week (an another 3-6 watching taped programs), according to this report. That’s almost 12,500 hours a year (plus another 1 to 2 thousand hours). So you tell me. Is 7 shows featuring a disabled character enough?
Let’s put it another way. 67% of pragramming watched, is reality TV. So lets think of disabled reality stars…
I can only think of a 2reality shows featuring disabled participants in this last year. In the last year (or 12,500+ hours of TV you’ve watched) there have only been TWO!!
- The Glee Project (Ali Stroker, paraplegic)
- American Idol (Lazaro Arbos, stutter)
To be fair, in recent history, 2 other shows have featured disabled contestants: Dancing with the stars (Marlee Matlin, deaf, & RJ Martinez, injured veteran) and America’s Next Top Model (Amanda Swafford, blind, & Heather Kuzmich, Asperger’s syndrome)
A couple months ago, I’d probably be proud of the fact that the US has so many disabled characters/celebrities on TV. Now I’m inclined to think it’s a gross under-representation, don’t you think?
Reminder: today is Controvery Humpday. Now’s the time to get opinionated and share those opinions!!! whether you agree with this post or not.
Let me just say, I’m not done with this topic. *wink, wink* So if you aren’t sold, I may convince you yet.