Saturday, August 15, 2009

Quadriplegic Quandaries

A casting call for a character with quadriplegia in StarGate raises issues about disability, sexuality and respect for people with disabilities.

No surprise here- an able bodied actor will play the part. How can that be? Well, the convoluted plot includes a story about a character who is a quadriplegic from childhood but becomes temporarily able-bodied - no pun intended.

It involved assumptions about the ability to have sex or "experience intimacy"(not a surprise in light of the physically useless language below) . After an outcry, the producers issued comments, including an apology noting that the " language of the breakdown was insensitive and inaccurate, and we sincerely apologize to those who may have been offended. The audition pages that have been under scrutiny were from an early draft and released out of context. It is our desire and intention to portray both characters with dignity and respect, while remaining mindful of the ethical issues we’re raising."

Here is how the original casting breakdown read:

ELEANOR PERRY, (35-40) and quite attractive. A brilliant scientist who happens to be a quadriplegic. Affected since childhood, her disability has rendered her body physically useless. However, after being brought on board the Destiny as the only person who may be able to save the ship and her crew from certain annihilation, she is given temporary powers that enable her to walk again and to finally experience intimacy. Strong guest lead. NAMES PREFERRED. ACTRESS MUST BE PHYSICALLY THIN. (THINK CALISTA FLOCKHART).

Critics challenged what appears to be an insensitive description of a disabled person, such as calling her body “physically useless” and suggesting that she would have been unable to experience true intimacy throughout her life without the use of her arms and legs.


Amy said...

It gets worse - apparently the plot involves the character with disabilities jumping into the body of a lesbian character and using it to have straight sex without the body owner's permission.

FridaWrites said...

I was offended when I first read the description of the casting call. "Physically useless" is also terrible--the body is not physically useless and keeps doing a whole lot. The "just happens" construct is a bit weird since it sounds like the disability would be depicted incidentally, but it's made central.

Wheelie Catholic said...

Interesting points. (I'm just being quiet because I'd like to see what everyone else thinks of this.)