ELTHAM HIGH SCHOOL ANTHOLOGY
Alejandra Timmer 2021
Persuasive Oral Presentation
Here’s a shocking fact for you, 95 percent of disabled characters are played by non-disabled actors. You may not know this, but it negatively affects the disabled community. My name is Alejandra Timmer, and I was diagnosed with Retinitis Pigmentosa when I was seven months old. The negative stereotypes portrayed by the media have caused people to doubt my disability. This is why I will talk about why disability needs a lot more positive representation in the media. Positive representation of disability in movies and TV shows would have disabled characters being played by disabled actors. In the media today, the amount of representation that disability receives is miniscule, and with almost all representation being negative, this means the amount of positive representation is virtually non-existent. The first film to have a character with a disability portrayed by a disabled actor was the horror film, Freaks, in 1932. Positively representing disability would help clear up misconceptions surrounding disability; it would open up job opportunities; and it would help reduce bullying. Because of this, I strongly believe that disability needs more positive representation in the media.
Firstly, disability needs more positive representation in media because most of the representation that already exists is inaccurate and harmful to those with a disability. Negative representation of disability in media comprises a disabled character fitting into one or more of the following categories. They can’t do anything for themselves and they are a tremendous burden on everyone around them; we consider them an inspiration for performing daily tasks everyone else does; or they are the complete stereotype of their disability. This negative representation affects the disabled community by portraying people with disabilities as either angels or a burden to society, which is so far from the truth. Having more positive representation would help reduce the amount of assumptions and stereotypes made about people with a disability, because it would show that people with a disability do not fit into a particular mould, just like able-bodied people.
Disability should receive more positive representation in media because it would open up acting jobs for those with disabilities. Some people believe that disabled actors are hard to find, meaning that it is okay for non-disabled actors to portray a disability. However, 5 percent of actors have a disability, meaning this logic is flawed. Many actors’ disability prevents them from getting acting jobs, and having non-disabled actors portray their own disability is insulting. In fact, we estimate that roughly 95% of disabled characters are played by able-bodied actors. Having a disabled actor play a disabled role would add to positive representation because these characters would be portrayed more authentically and accurately, and it would give disabled actors more roles.
Having more positive representation for disability in movies and TV shows which are targeted at younger audiences would help reduce bullying. Discrimination towards disability is largely because of stereotypes. When I was in primary school, I did not fit the stereotype of blindness, as I did not wear sunglasses all the time, my eyes looked the same as everyone else’s on the outside, and I didn’t have an incredible sense of hearing or smell. Because of these reasons, my classmates quickly came up with the idea that I was faking my disability, which then led to me being bullied. This wasn’t because they were bad people, but it was because I didn’t match their idea of blindness - however that didn’t make my disability any less real. We can see a good example of a positive representation of disability in the film ‘Finding Nemo’. Nemo has what he calls a lucky fin, which is a limb difference. This does not define Nemo’s entire character, teaching kids to look past Nemo’s disability. If more kid’s TV shows had a positive representation of blindness, then maybe my younger self wouldn’t have been accused of faking her disability. Adding positive representation to kid’s TV shows will prevent the next little girl from getting bullied by other kids who simply have a lack of education on disability because of the negative influence of the media.
In conclusion, the disabled community needs more positive representation in media because it will help diminish misconceptions and stereotypes. I hope to one day be able to pick a show on Netflix and see characters whose disability doesn’t define their personality because that is my reality. I hope this speech has taught you about the negative effects of the media on the disabled community and how your knowledge of disability could be inaccurate because of this.
Written from Mrs parker’s perspective (Harriet’s Mum)
I will never forget that moment. The moment I heard him say it. I remember the moon high in the sky helping the obsolete candle light illuminate the room. Earlier in the evening my husband rushed down to Mr McPhail’s on a notice that an accident had occurred involving Harriet. When I asked him about details over the accident, he responded with “She’ll be fine, knowing the girl she’s most likely just twisted her ankle”, to assure me. The almost unnoticeable tremble of his hands and the forced smile on his face failed to support his argument. A veil of turmoil seemed to descend over the cape. My mind walked circles around what could have happened down at Mr McPhail’s.
I would have liked to think that the girl’s friendship would mean they would not allow each other to get hurt. However, as both girls got older, my view of their closeness shifted. It always seemed like Kate dragged Harriet on an emotional journey daily. Harriet could wake up like a ray of sunshine warming whatever it was she touched. However, her personality for the rest of the day depended on how Kate acted towards her. As she got older, Kate’s views of society and her place in it clashed with the rest of the world.
Ultimately, I hoped that Kate’s ideas would not influence Harriet to an extended degree. I was relieved to see that, despite her growing up in such an isolated area, Harriet had still grown into somewhat of a lady with hopes of someday finding a good suiter. I admit, on some level, I pitied Mrs Gilbert for having to raise a child who didn’t seem to find her place in society. An unwelcome amount of questions wandered into my mind.
“Why were Harriet and Kate down at Mr McPhail’s? What were they doing there instead of having a picnic lunch as they had planned? What’s happened to Harriet?” These questions seemed to hound my mind.
Night had set in and, along with it, so did my worry. Even for those who knew it well, the cape could be dangerous at night. There was always the imminent risk that the cliff would crumble, or getting lost in the maze of wood that was the surrounding bush. The longer I thought about it, the more it felt as though my heart would sink so low it might reach my stomach. I tried to convince myself Harriet was all right.
“She’s twisted her ankle, she’s simply twisted her ankle,” I repeated. Hours passed and my best efforts accomplished little in stopping my heart from racing.
The roaring thunder of the wind shook the door. The night was heavy, with nothing but a beam of light projected by the moon to allow for some visibility. I bit my bottom lip, which felt a stinging pain. A gust of cold, sharp wind allowed into the house when the door opened interrupted my prude self-interrogation. The wind somehow brought a feeling of uneasiness with it.
“Oh, Harriet!” Relief washed over me as I turned to face the door.
Instead, to my displeasure, I turned to find my husband, accompanied by Mr. and Mrs. Gilbert. The three of them entered the house. Mrs Gilbert looked as though her head was heavy on her shoulders. Her eyes berley left the ground as she stood behind the two men. The look on Mr Gilbert’s face gave the impression that something was not right. My husband’s look and his body language further embedded the impression in my mind.
“You should sit down.” Those were the first words he said when he returned home that evening as he pulled a chair from beneath the dining table.
Mrs Gilbert walked towards me and tugged on my arm, leading me towards the chair. When I sat down, she returned to Mr Gilbert’s side, avoiding lifting her gaze at all costs. My husband pulled out the chair to my right and sat down. He stretched his arm forward to reach my hand and held it tight. I remember it shook as though an earthquake was emanating from his shoulder and was sending shock waves down to his hand. Time moved slowly, and what was minutes felt like an eternity and a half.
“I have to tell you something.” He glanced towards Mr and Mrs Gilbert.
The hesitation in his voice made it sound as if the earthquake began at his throat rather than his shoulder. He, too, avoided meeting my gaze as words started leaving his mouth.
“There is no easy way to say this. No way to make it easier and no way to change it.”
As he spoke, his voice fell ever more quiet, taking the light in the room with it.
“What is it..., you’re scaring me! What’s happened?” I asked while losing my composure because my nerves affected my judgement.
He continued speaking, struggling to force sound out from his throat. “It’s… It’s…. it’s Harriet”.
I felt my heart drop into my rib cage, landing further down into a space in my abdomen I didn’t know existed.
“There was an accident… It was an accident… They were simply playing,” he said.
I lost my patience. “What happened? What is going on?”
The room remained quiet for several moments until the words “Harriet is gone. Harriet… died.” cut the silence in the room.
The moments that followed were a complete blur. Shock consumed me. The room that was poorly lit became pitch black. My Body numbed, leaving behind the feeling of my husband’s trembling grip on my hand. Losing the feel of the cold air entering the house from the door that remained open. My ears cut off the sound of the wind interacting with the house. Shutting out the sound of my husband speaking. In one fell swoop, a string of sentences had crushed my entire world, my pride and joy, tipping it off the edge of a cliff. Drowning it in darkness and sorrow from which it would never return.
I wrote my passage from a first person perspective from Mrs walker’s point of view (Harriet’s Mum). The passage takes place at the Walker’s house and illustrates how Mrs Walker found out that her daughter, Harriet, died. The passage starts with “I will never forget that moment”. This was in order to resemble the way the author built suspense surrounding the events that transpire later on in the book. Similarly, Harriet’s death isn’t revealed to Mrs walker until near the end of the passage to build suspense and allow the audience to experience the anxiety that Mrs Walker had to have been feeling. In order to further accentuate the anxiety and worry that Mrs Walker felt over not knowing what had happened to Harriet down at McPhail’s hut, I personified questions entering Mrs walker’s mind. “My heart sunk…” or “My best efforts did little to stop my heart from racing” are both examples of quotes I used to describe how the anxiety of not knowing what had happened to Harriet was even having a physical impact on Mrs Walker.