Jessica Chang

Ability Over Disability

Jessica Chang
Jessica Chang

On March 31, I attended a screening of the feature film, My Feral Heart. The main character of the movie Luke, played by Steve Brandon, has downs syndrome, however, his character is not depicted in the same light Hollywood usually represents people with down’s syndrome and other disabilities.

The film emphasizes an individual’s “ability not disability,” and opens with Luke washing his face, combing his hair, and making breakfast for his mother who is ill with cancer. The scene sets the precedent as the film follows Luke while he undergoes adversity. Not only did the end of the film leave me in a stupor, but it was a transformative experience that changed my perspective on individuals with this disorder. Steve Brandon’s character was eye-opening and by the end of the film I felt as though I knew him.

I had the pleasure of meeting Steve Brandon after the screening of the film and could not express enough to him how much I enjoyed the film. Following a Q&A after the film, everyone at the screening ventured over to a local restaurant. There I talked to the screenwriter of the film, Duncan Paveling. A great deal of our conversation was spent discussing the necessity for more roles for people with disabilities. In every movie I have seen that includes an individual with down’s syndrome, the character is depicted in a negative light. They seem incapable of performing certain tasks and usually do not engage in much conversation. This stereotype of individuals with down’s must end. There should be more diverse roles for the impaired and disabled.

If people with these disabilities are never provided the opportunity to show the world they are capable of so much more than preconceived, how will they prove themselves? Screenwriters and casting directors should trust that these people are capable and that they do have the ability to provide audiences with great performances not just on screen, but on the stage too.

Steve serves as a prime example of an individual with disabilities provided with an opportunity who surpassed the expectations of those involved with My Feral Heart and the public. Once the blind, deaf, and mentally impaired are provided with more opportunities, the film industry will evolve immensely. There are little to no roles for the blind, deaf, and either mentally or physically impaired, however, through films such as My Feral Heart, I have been inspired to advocate for a deserving group of people with lacking representation in the film and TV industry. 

So often in the media, people with disabilities are depicted as a burden to the characters who are not disabled. However, a group of directors could make the transition to try and defeat this stereotype  by providing disabled actors with roles exhibiting their range of ability, not disability. Even if a handful of actors and actresses were given a similar opportunity such as the one Steve was given, the arts industry would see a major positive adjustment in public opinion. I urge you all to see My Feral Heart and join advocacy groups, as change happens from the collective. 

Kathryn Kearney
staff writer

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *