Disaboom.com: Is Fox’s “Glee” Truly a Very Special Disability Comedy?

March 7, 2011 at 6:42 pm 1 comment

What do YOU think about this?  Post your comment!

by Catherine Mabe

disability character on gleeGlee, a comedy from the Fox network, is geared to appeal to “the aspiring underdog in all of us.” According to the website dedicated to the show, “The series follows an optimistic teacher who—against all odds and a malicious cheerleading coach—attempts to save McKinley High’s Glee Club from obscurity, while helping a group of aspiring underdogs realize their true star potential.”

Actor Kevin McHale, who does not live with a disability, plays Artie, a guitar-playing paraplegic and supporting character on Glee. One of the show’s most publicized plotlines features the Glee Club’s having every club member spend three hours a day for one week in wheelchairs. Of course no episode is complete without a few songs, and Artie gets the chance to sing ‘Dancing With Myself.’  The episode leads up to the entire group performing on wheels to the tune of “Proud Mary.” It’s meant to be a joyful showing of solidarity toward and support for Artie, their fellow performer and the only one who will continue to use a wheelchair even when the music stops.

The highly-publicized episode, titled Wheels, did include an ironic twist: a few of the subplots dealt with characters pretending to have disabilities. One character admits that she’s been faking her stutter, a confession Artie responds to by telling her how much it hurts him to find that they don’t have this important thing in common after all, and she can just leave her disability behind. “I’m sorry that now you get to be normal, and I’m going to be stuck in this chair the rest of my life. And that’s not something I can fake,” Artie tells her.

The scene, in a show which regularly celebrates diversity, was clearly meant to be uplifting—many fans of Glee have praised the show’s sensitivity to the millions of people who share Artie’s experiences. Critics, however, are questioning why Artie’s character went to an able-bodied actor. Some of those in the entertainment industry with disabilities and disability rights advocates call McHale’s casting another blown chance to hire a performer who truly embodies a role.

“I think there’s a fear of litigation, that a person with disabilities might slow a production down, fear that viewers might be uncomfortable,” said Robert David Hall, longtime cast member of CBS’ “CSI: Crime Scene Investigation.” All of that is nonsense, said Hall: “I’ve made my living as an actor for 30 years and I walk on two artificial legs.”

Those who believe McHale’s the right person for the role argue that the acting is the crux of the issue and that optimal Hollywood protocol dictates hiring the best actor regardless of his abilities or disabilities. McHale himself has responded to critics, according to PopEater, by saying that Glee’s casting directors simply wanted the most engaging actor possible for the part. “The point wasn’t to get somebody who was in a wheelchair,” McHale said. “It was the actor. It’s the part that you’re playing. It’s not about whatever else goes on.” And of the other actors who auditioned, McHale says he rose to the physical challenge: “It was just kind of, whoever fit the part best was gonna play it.”

Brad Falchuk, Glee’s exec producer, agreed with McHale’s sentiments saying that he found the energy needed for the part of Artie in McHale. “We brought in anyone: white, black, Asian, in a wheelchair … It was very hard to find people who could really sing, really act, and have that charisma you need on TV,” Falchuk said.

Even to critics, the episode, and the show, has redeeming qualities in terms of publicizing life with disabilities. The consideration of the need for ramps in a big high school is highlighted, and the audience is given the view from Artie’s wheelchair, which makes it easy to see, and on some level experience, his struggle to get around without getting blocked or bumped.

Credit to disaboom.com


Entry filed under: Other. Tags: , .

Old Myths of Lip-reading FCC Proposes to Update Rules Allowing Accessibility to Advanced Communications to 54 Million Consumers with Disabilities

1 Comment Add your own

  • 1. Sheri  |  March 8, 2011 at 6:38 pm

    interesting commentary. I still wish they would have hired a disabled actor. But, I must admit, I don’t watch the show.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

Subscribe to the comments via RSS Feed

Recent Posts

Follow ECNV’s Twitter

%d bloggers like this: