That, according to a study that I AM PWD drew attention to yesterday, is the number of characters with disabilities appearing on broadcast television today.
Specifically, there are only six disabled characters on network TV – that’s six disabled characters out of a total of 587.
I AM PWD is the short name of the Tri-Union Inclusion in the Arts & Media of People With Disabilities Campaign of Actors’ Equity Association, the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists and Screen Actors Guild. Otherwise known as the actors who ain’t getting work because a) there aren’t enough characters for them to play, and, b) when there are characters with disabilities, Hollywood almost without exception gives those roles to nondisabled actors.
Don’t worry, I’m not going to go on a Glee tangent here. The last two weeks, I’ve loved how Glee’s handled Artie’s character, it’s been entertaining and completely in keeping with the show’s general skewing of stereotypes.
The study also counts what races and genders these characters are (disproportionately white and male, which just seems so 20th century), and differentiates between recurring characters as well as cast members. The number of disabled characters rises slightly when you take in recurring characterss.
Keep in mind that most demographic stats show that around 12 percent of Americans have some type of disability. More women, over all, are disabled than men, but men are portrayed more often than women. Also, blacks and Hispanics have higher rates of disability, yet receive hardly any depictions at all.
There is a glimmer of hope in the report. Cable does better than broadcast television. Well, we already knew that, based on the quality of shows cable offers. But they do better on this issue, too.
There are at least four disabled characters on cable that are actually played by real disabled people. This number includes Breaking Bad’s Walt Jr., played by RJ Mitte, of course. So although the overall number of parts for disabled people isn’t much better, at least some of us are being tapped to play us.
Many thanks to the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation, who took the time to count our characters as part of its annual Where We Are On TV report.
Great post Josie! This is a very important topic because media in general and specifically televised media not only reflects--but actually creates public perception! The "Walt Jr." character on Breaking Bad is a great example of how things should be done!
My other vote goes out for the, in your face *over the top* caricatures in South Park like "Timmah!!".
Josie, it's not just PWDs; *all* minorities are underrepresented on broadcast TV relative to actual numbers:
•Caucasian -- 72.5% (actual 65)
•African American -- 13.3& (actual 12.9)
•Latino -- 6.4% (actual 15.8)
•Asian -- 3.8% (actual 5)
•Native American -- .3 (actual ???)
The ratio of female to male roles is something like ~2/3.
Well anyway who ever said TV had anything to do with reality anyway.