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Disabled Characters on 'Glee'


Updated February 17, 2012

There are many disabled actors who have regular gigs on television shows, however, the 2009 role of “Artie” on Fox's Glee wasn’t one of them. Did that make the role any less believable? To most viewers, the role of “Artie” was a convincing one. According to the show’s executive producer, Brad Falchuk, the use of a non-disabled actor was due to the need of finding a charismatic actor that could also sing and perform in a wheelchair. Despite many wheelchair-bound individuals auditioning for the “Artie” role, it was decided that the best actor for the part was Kevin McHale.

2010-2011 Glee Season

Fast forward to the 2010 season of Glee. Becky Jackson, another character on the show, has Down’s Syndrome. This time the character is played by Lauren Potter, an actress that actually has Down’s Syndrome. Individual’s with Down’s Syndrome have a particular look that can’t be easily replicated, even with makeup. The character is believable because the actress has charisma and Down’s Syndrome.

What the Disabled Community Wants

The disabled community wants to see more characters on television and in the movies who are both strong and disabled. In addition, they would like to see more characters played by actors and actresses who are actually disabled. Those who aren’t disabled may not realize the importance of this. A disabled person is inspired by actors and actresses who are really disabled. It gives hope because it shows that disabled people really can do anything they feel they are capable of, including being successful actors and actresses. In addition, showing a real disabled person in the movies and television shows that Hollywood and television producers aren’t afraid or uncomfortable with the disabled community.

Glee remains one of those television shows that doesn’t seem afraid or ashamed of showing the disabled. The disabled characters aren’t relegated to subplots that offer teachable moments, rather they’re main characters with real story lines, like in real-life. While the show’s producers may not always choose a truly disabled individual to play a role, they’re at least trying to choose someone who can give an honest portrayal of them.

Audience members realize that there are disabled people interacting with them in their everyday lives. It is time for Hollywood and television studios to take note of this and start providing more shows that everyone can relate to, including providing interesting, multi-dimensional disabled characters for all audience members to watch.

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