The film tells the story of a novelist who is left blind and widowed after a car accident. A socialite (Demi Moore) must read to him as part of a plea bargain, and the pair begins a love affair. Casting able-bodied Baldwin in the lead role has led The Ruderman Family Foundation, a leading advocate for the disabled, to dub the casting as “crip-face”, a term in line with the much-criticized blackface from the early 20th century.
“Alec Baldwin in Blind is just the latest example of treating disability as a costume”, Jay Ruderman, the foundation’s president, said in a statement. “We no longer find it acceptable for white actors to portray black characters. Disability as a costume needs to also become universally unacceptable.”
The organization previously called out the 2016 film Me Before You, about a paralyzed man seeking assisted suicide. They criticized the narrative for spreading a “deeply troubling message about people with disabilities” and for casting able-bodied Sam Claflin (Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides).
Last year, the foundation released the Ruderman White Paper on Employment of Actors With Disabilities in Television. It found that, despite 20% of the population having a disability, 95% of disabled characters on television are played by able-bodied performers.
Deaf actress Marlee Matlin (The One I Love) spoke at the foundation’s first Studio-Wide Roundtable on Disability-Inclusion in November. She won an Oscar in 1986 for her performance in Children of a Lesser God and is perhaps the most acclaimed and recognized disabled actress. Matlin asked Hollywood to give disabled actors a chance and include the group when speaking about diversity on screen.
“Diversity is a beautiful, absolutely wonderful thing”, she told the LA Times. “But I don’t think they consider people with disabilities and deaf and hard of hearing people as part of the diversity mandate.”
We’re not sure exactly what mandate she’s referring to, but it couldn’t hurt for casting directors to start their searches in casting disabled characters among disabled talent.