The Benefits of Having Disabled Characters on 'Glee'

Glee cast with character in wheelchair
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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 syndrome. This time, the character is played by Lauren Potter, an actress that actually has Down syndrome.

Individuals with Down syndrome have a particular look that cannot be easily replicated, even with makeup. The character is believable because the actress has charisma and Down 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 are not 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 proves that Hollywood and television producers aren’t afraid or uncomfortable with the disabled community.

Why Hollywood Should Follow Glee's Lead

Glee was one of those television shows that didn’t seem afraid or ashamed of showing the disabled.

The disabled characters weren’t relegated to subplots that offer teachable moments, rather they were main characters with real storylines, just like in real-life. While the show’s producers might not have always chosen a truly disabled individual to play a role, they at least tried to choose someone who could 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.