Inspirational Actors

Issue section: 

I have some sympathy with Cerrie Burnel's reservations regarding the use of able-bodied actors to portray characters with disabilities (Letters, November SR) but I do not totally agree with her.

I had been a socialist involved in the day to day class struggle in my workplace, in my union and the SWP for nearly 20 years before I was diagnosed with a disease that slurred my speech, destroyed my balance, has lately put me in a wheelchair most of the time and hasn't finished yet. My politics was essential to my being able to cope with my disease and relatively easily too.

Among all the inspirational people I've met and events I've been part of, one standout piece of inspiration was a film I saw called My Left Foot. I saw it years before I got ill and I'm very glad I did. It really helped to make concrete the attitude 'if he or she can do it, so can I' that has been so essential, especially to my recent life.

The actor portraying the central character in that film wasn't a disabled person either but I would argue that it didn't matter. It certainly wasn't just progressive as a piece of cinema and not as part of the real struggle. If all it did was inspire just one person to continue to play however small a part in the class struggle it's part of that real struggle.

I wouldn't for a moment wish to decry or denigrate the very real achievements made by disabled people. I'm only one of the people who are materially benefiting from their struggles. Similarly I wouldn't want to deny the very real discrimination that disabled people suffer on a daily basis, and not only in getting work.

I may have a different perspective on being a disabled person from someone who was born with a disability or who got it earlier in their life, and I agree that all discrimination feels as bad to the sufferer.

Much as I agree that disabled actors should get priority for, if not automatic selection for disabled parts, it would be a tragedy if powerful films like Inside I'm Dancing and My Left Foot were derided by the left because they didn't have disabled actors playing disabled parts.

Colin Yates