Does Hollywood exploit people with disabilities? This is a loaded question, pregnant with polyvalent responses. On the one hand, it is safe to assume the employers within the corporate cinema globally known as Hollywood adhere to all the liberal laws that are put in place to protect people with mental and physical disabilities. On the other hand, representation of people with mental and physical disabilities seems to be highly problematic, given the number of films that are produced, which either get entertainment value out of dramatizing the disability of the characters and/or exoticizing them to get an emotional rise out of the audiences. In short, what unites most Hollywood narratives that have the disabled either as central characters or minor players is its exploitation of people with disabilities, using them as a means to move the plot.
- Mental Disability
- Comic Book
- Disability Study
- Minor Player
- Film Series
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Check it out. Dustin Hoffman, “Rain Man,” look retarded, act retarded, not retarded. Counted toothpicks, cheated cards. Autistic, sho’. Not retarded. You know Tom Hanks, “Forrest Gump.” Slow, yes. Retarded, maybe. Braces on his legs. But he charmed the pants off Nixon and won a ping-pong competition. That ain’t retarded. Peter Sellers, “Being There.” Infantile, yes. Retarded, no. You went full retard, man. Never go full retard. You don’t buy that? Ask Sean Penn, 2001, “I Am Sam.” Remember? Went full retard, went home empty handed.
Kirk Lazarus (played by Robert Downey Jr.) in the film Tropic Thunder (2008)
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© 2010 Benjamin Frymer, Tony Kashani, Anthony J. Nocella II, and Rich Van Heertum
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Kashani, T., Nocella, A.J. (2010). Hollywood’s Cinema of Ableism: A Disability Studies Perspective on the Hollywood Industrial Complex. In: Frymer, B., Kashani, T., Nocella, A.J., Van Heertum, R. (eds) Hollywood’s Exploited. Education, Politics, and Public Life. Palgrave Macmillan, New York. https://doi.org/10.1057/9780230117426_7
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