Over the past few years, the issue of the representation of people with disabilities and the inclusion of more disabled talent in the film and television industry has been in the spotlight, and rightly so.
Yet, insufficient attention has been paid to greater inclusion of disability in more specialized and stratified segments of the media and entertainment industry – music videos being a prime example.
This is truly a shame, as music videos offer a very unique and special opportunity to enhance the portrayal of disability on screen that is unmatched by any other medium.
First, while dedicated old-school music channels on TV may lack the glitz and novelty that accompanied their launch in the 1980s, they have now been somewhat usurped by online streaming and mainstream media. social.
Music videos are now more readily available than ever and make up 95% of the most popular YouTube videos. Their short length makes them endlessly shareable and require far less membership for today’s casual, attention-limited surfer of Facebook or TikTok looking for an eye-catching, sizeable entertainment snippet. with a bite.
Likewise, the non-verbal nature of the genre, where musicians take responsibility for sound and voice, opens up the medium to so many previously unseen segments of the disability community to uniquely convey their presence and physicality. with the potential to quickly go viral and capture the imagination of millions.
Different approach – same result
In recent months, two videos showcasing the talents of the disability community have particularly stood out but have taken very different approaches to tackling the same issue.
The first one, The spaces published in November 2021 is a tribute to the spinal muscular atrophy community.
ADM is a genetic disease causing mobility and sometimes breathing difficulties. It affects more than 25,000 Americans and is the leading genetic cause of death in infants.
Sponsored by San Francisco-based biotech company Genentech, the song is performed by James Ian, a 39-year-old musician with SMA and was led from his bed by Lionsgate and Netflix disability consultant Dominick Evans, with the same diagnosis.
The catchy tune is an uplifting anthem and unashamed shoutout to the global SMA community and the video showcases those living with the condition of all ages.
The song’s lyrics and imagery line up perfectly as a call to action for the viewer to sit up and pay attention to a band that is all too often overlooked and underappreciated.
“I am not invisible. I am an original. I am so much more than what you see and what you bargained for,” Ian sings about the many spaces community members imprint with their love, talent, humanity and self-worth.
Debuting at SXSW last month and directed by Michael Parks Randa (The best summer ever), the song and video tell a timeless and classic love story of a couple who have broken up over the years but rekindle their love as they move past the pain of remembering what’s most important.
The lyrics and story have nothing to do with disability per se, except that the protagonists played by Zack Gottsagen (The Peanut Butter Falcon) and Jamie Brewer (american horror story), both have Down syndrome.
Gottsagen and Brewer have since been nominated for best performer at the Berlin Music Video Awards which will take place in June.
Commenting on his experience filming the video for What is done is doneGottsagen says, “It was my first music video. I love learning. For me, it’s different not having lines and making movies takes a lot more time and you have to be very patient. I love making part of something special. It was totally inspiring.
“For me, being in a love affair with Jamie was so much fun. We had a great time and we really love being together.”
By possessing a unique model for the portrayal of an incidental disability, Randa Parks had a huge leg up on other directors with his work on The best summer ever.
The 2020 feature film production alongside Zeno Mountain Farm relays a musical high schoolstyle love story where one person in the couple is disabled and the other is not disabled. The film is jam-packed with disabled characters at every turn that blend seamlessly with able-bodied performers to evoke a diverse and bubbling melting pot of unquestioned universality.
For the single slated for release on World Down Syndrome Day, Delta Spirit was inspired by watching The best summer ever and Parks Randa admits he wanted to create the same vibe of unreserved inclusiveness.
“It’s a steep hill to climb when you’re making a 90-minute feature film and having busy people watch it, but with The best summer everthis is such an important message.
“I was wondering if I could condense this into a three minute music video with the same message and a more concise narrative. The opportunity to share this is so vast that I felt like it could have an impact,” Parks Randa says.
Parks-Randa, who grew up in Massachusetts with her parents who ran a day program for people with disabilities, said, “I wanted people to see an authentic relationship on screen that you never see and I wanted it. normalize through a truly beautiful universal love story relationship.
One of the video’s producers, Amanda Booth, whose seven-year-old son Micah has both autism and Down’s syndrome, draws attention to the fact that intellectual and communication disabilities represent a new dimension of representation disability on screen.
“The idea that we’re talking about romantic relationships within this specific neurodivergent part of the disability community has really never been done before,” Booth says.
“I hope people who see this video will have their eyes opened and that seeing the beauty of this kind of love for the first time will become part of their subconscious.”
Sometimes it is easy to see the media as a vehicle for dribbling disability representation into society at large, helping those who have no lived experience and little contact with people with disabilities to appreciate new prospects.
Apart from that, getting the right kind of messages out into the disability community itself is also important.
As a brewer, What is done is done The female co-star explains, “This video shows people with disabilities that we can have the same things, the same dreams, the same goals as everyone else.”
A catchy track can stick in your head for a long time, but luckily, with remarkable and innovative music videos, so can the feelings and ideals it conveys.