There is a catchy term being dropped at all the best Hollywood parties these days — cripface. It’s not a new coinage but is now entering the zeitgeist and will soon be so overused as to become trite and boring. “Cripface” is the act of using nondisabled actors in film and TV shows to play characters who are disabled. Get it? It’s just like blackface back in the dark ages of show business when Al Jolson donned black paint and a black patois to sing “My Mammy.” Can you imagine that happening today? No, you can’t. Ted Danson, in a joke that went terribly, terribly wrong, showed up in blackface at a Friar’s Roast and nearly got tarred and feathered. He could have shown up in a wheelchair, faking the gestures of a C5 quad, and no one would have batted an eyelash. “Oh, that Ted,” they’d say, “Cute wheelchair bit. If only it had been funnier.”
“Cripface” is not just a goofy pun. Nondisabled actors playing disabled parts is a big problem in the entertainment business. See the advantages to producers? No close-in parking spots, no ramps or lifts to build, no double-wide porta-potties, no chairs being run over by heedless gaffers, triggering a costly law suit. Who needs the hassle?
The word is purposely impolite and borderline offensive. I’m sure some PC bore got all huffy and suggested “disability-face” or “mobility-challenged-face” and was asked to leave the room. “Crip” has zing. It’s punchy and memorable. In fact, I propose that crip-based words should become part of a new, specialized vocabulary, a grab bag of peppy euphemisms for all occasions, especially when someone out there bugs the hell out of you, which, in my own case, is often.
Stealing from current socio-political jargon, here’s a start:
CINO. Meaning, “Crip