Cripping Up and Why It’s Ableist

Content/trigger warning: reclaimed slur, mention of racist appropriation, euthanasia mention, cursing

Cripping up. Disabled mimicry. Cripface (please don’t ever use this; it’s an appropriation of “blackface,” and while I’m not qualified to discuss why that’s wrong and fucked up, the very talented Dominick Evans is, and he wrote about that here: https://www.dominickevans.com/2017/07/please-stop-comparing-cripping-up-to-blackface/). All of these are words for the phenomenon of abled actors playing Disabled people. Here’s the problem: in the words of Isabelle Atkins, it’s not acting. It’s appropriation.

If you’re thinking that I’m only cribbing from other, more eloquent people in this entry so far, you’re right. I’m exhausted and out of fuel and only writing this because it’s already the 30th, and I don’t have any particularly groundbreaking thoughts on cripping up. In fact, here are two other sources I used for this entry:

https://theboar.org/2019/03/disabled-access-arts/

https://amp.cnn.com/cnn/2018/03/01/opinions/hollywood-disability-new-normal-opinion-novic/index.html

If you’re still here, I guess I’ll keep going and try to say something worthwhile. I’ll try to break down why cripping up is fucked up by listing the problems with it and giving examples when possible.

  1. It implies that disability is something that abled people can understand by imitating it. You know how people will break an ankle and be on crutches for a few months and think that means they understand ableism and what it’s like to live life as a Disabled person? It’s kind of like that except worse.
  2. They get shit wrong. See: Sally Hawkins’ fuckawful ASL in The Shape of Water. They could have just cast a non-speaking actress who was fluent in ASL. They could have. But they didn’t. And not only did ASL speakers have to sit through that performance, now a shitload of abled people think that signing looks like whatever the fuck Sally Hawkins was doing with her hands in that movie.
  3. The fucking adulation heaped on these abled actors for cripping up. The fact that these abled people are appropriating Disabledness isn’t only condoned, it’s celebrated. I mean, the aforementioned Sally Hawkins and her mangled ASL got a best actress nomination for her performance in The Shape of Water. As Isabelle Atkins points out, this is particularly fucked up because abled actors are being praised for the same thing Disabled people are condemned, mocked, or even killed for. (This is what makes cripping up appropriation; something is appropriative when you get praise for it and the people you stole it from get shit for it.)
  4. They take potential jobs away from Disabled actors. I hear some people saying, “But there are so few Disabled actors!” Well, how the fuck would we know, considering how few opportunities Disabled actors are given? (Well, and the film industry is disgustingly inaccessible. There’s that too. That also needs to change.) I mean, look at R.J. Mitte, the actor with cerebral palsy who played Walter White’s son Walter “Flynn” White on Breaking Bad. He specifically auditioned for his role in Breaking Bad because he wanted to play roles in which he could educate viewers on disability, and how the fuck is he supposed to do that if Hollywood keeps casting abled actors as characters with CP?
  5. They play roles in ableist stories because they don’t know any better. I’m especially thinking about roles in inspiration porn stories, such as when abled actor Bradley Cooper played Joseph Merrick in The Elephant Man; the character of Merrick only existed to ~inspire the abled characters (and audience). I’m also thinking about the fucking travesty that was Me Before You, a pro-euthanasia-of-Disabled people clusterfuck that took the idea of Disabled people being a burden to a horrifying extreme, in which the abled actor Sam Claflin played the paraplegic Will Traynor.
  6. REPRESENTATION FUCKING MATTERS. It’s important that young Disabled people (and, fuck, older Disabled people) see themselves properly represented on screen. We need to know that our lives aren’t just something that can be poorly mimicked by abled people; we need to know that we are the ultimate experts on our lives and experiences.

I think that’s all I have for now. Sorry this entry is sort of below par, but it’s been a hard month.Speaking of which, I’m trying to move to a cheaper place so I have money to pay for my ESA’s vet care (she has kidney disease, a diaphragmatic hernia, and also had a cancerous mammary mass removed this year). I need to catch up on rent and pay to break my lease first, though, so…please help if you can https://www.gofundme.com/f/help-b039elanna-beat-lung-cancer

I’m not sure what my next TIfYC entry will be about, but some of you will! That’s right, next month I will allow $5 Patreon supporters to suggest one blog entry topic (within reason) for both this blog and This Is for You, Carrie each month. Also starting in September, $1 supporters will be allowed to participate in producer polls that will help me decide what to write about. Speaking of which, thanks to my Patreon supporters: Ace, Hannah, Emily, Karina, Mackenzie, and Rose!

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