Tis the season for the cheesy holiday rom-com movies we hate to love. You know those movies where the boy meets girl and thanks to a Christmas miracle they fall madly in love. These movies historically have lacked diversity in their characters and storylines.
It seems that this may be changing with Lifetime as the leader in showcasing a diverse cast within their Christmas movies this year. I have seen commercials for movies surrounding black people as leads, storylines around same sex couples, and last but definitely not least, a person with a disability as a lead.
This past weekend, “Christmas Ever After” starring Tony Award winner Ali Stroker premiered on Lifetime. Ali is well known for her Broadway play, “Oklahoma!”, which led her to becoming the first person in a wheelchair to win a Tony Award.
In “Christmas Ever After,” Ali Stroker plays Izzi, a romance novelist who travels to her favorite cabin for the holidays. While she is seeking inspiration for her new book, she discovers that the new owner of the cabin, Matt, looks just like her main character in her books. You know the rest. Through a series of events, Izzi and Matt fall in love and because they lack communication skills, Izzi leaves thinking she and Matt are not meant to be. Yet, by the magic of Christmas, they end up together and all is right in the world.
It is not the storyline that makes “Christmas Ever After” a monumental moment for the disability community, but rather Ali Stroker’s role within the movie is history in the making. For Ali Stroker to star on mainstream television as a person with a disability is a big thing. What is even greater is that her disability is not even acknowledged in the film, it’s just seen as normal. Throughout the film, we see Izzi working at her job, drive her car with hand controls, interact with friends and family and her struggle to complete a project. Most importantly, we see her fall in love. And guess what? Her disability is not mentioned once.
We need to see more of this! we need to see more disabled people cast in roles that are for anyone and not just for a disabled character. People should be cast as characters who just happen to have a disability and not solely because they are disabled.
We are seeing more people with disabilities represented in the media but usually, these media representations are focused on the disability itself. We need to see more disabled people living and being represented in the media.
We are driven to know what a person’s disability is, but why? Why does a diagnosis have to be the focus? Storylines should not be formed around a diagnosis but rather a moment in time. The more we see people with disabilities just living their lives in the media, the more normal it becomes for people to just live their daily life, regardless of their diagnosis.
About Isabella Bullock: Isabella, or Izzy for short, is an employment specialist for the Center of Independent Living. She is an iced coffee enthusiast who enjoys getting lost in a good book. Click here to learn more about Isabella.