‘A Quiet Place’ can help pave the way for people with disabilities in Hollywood

by Dana Tsuri-Etzioni, Opinion Editor

A Quiet Place was released into theaters with rave reviews. While the film is an excellent thriller and is not an overly-stereotypical alien movie, the reviews lacked the core concept that made this movie so great. The fact that a young girl with a hearing disability was cast to play a girl with the same disability — and she was the heroine of the movie.

While casting Millicent Simmonds, an actress who is deaf, to play a deaf character seems like the obvious choice, it unfortunately has not been the case in Hollywood’s history. In Stronger, Jake Gyllenhaal plays Jeff Bauman, a man who lost his legs in the Boston Marathon bombing. Rather than casting an actor who actually does not have both limbs, Hollywood opted to cast a well-known actor who does. Directors and producers would rather use CGI than to cast an actor who uses a wheelchair.

In Blind, Alec Baldwin plays a man blinded in a car crash. Baldwin is not blind in real life. Hollywood prefers to continuously cast famous actors than to give people with disabilities a chance to portray a character that has the same disability as them. Rather than let people with disabilities have a platform in Hollywood, and rather than let them live their dreams, Hollywood takes the easy route of using actors known to bring in an audience. With this cycle, people with disabilities will rarely get a chance to make it in the industry.

However, A Quiet Place could be revolutionary for people with disabilities. Casting Simmonds as a main character can open doors for her and other people with disabilities in the future. But, only if Hollywood follows in A Quiet Place’s footsteps and decides to do the same.

What made this movie even more remarkable than the casting choice, was that it made the daughter the hero of the movie. She was the fearless older sister and was the one that figured out the aliens’ weakness — something no one else on planet earth was able to do. She was the one that made her disability her superpower.

Hollywood needs to realize making the logical casting choices is the route they should take. But, while it’s been proven that these choices were successful in the past, the buzz quickly faded.

In 1986, Children of a Lesser God came out and generated a lot of positive feedback. In the movie, Marlee Matlin plays the role of Sarah Norman, a custodian who is deaf that works at a school for those that are deaf and hard-of-hearing. Matlin is an actress who is deaf, and is the first person with a hearing disability to win the Academy Award for Best Actress. Following the release of the movie, the reviews raved about the great choice of casting someone with a hearing disability. According to an article in The Washington Post released in 1986, “The choice of actors (and nonactors) who are actually deaf makes it more intimate, particularly the casting of Matlin.”

Unfortunately, after the buzz surrounding the movie faded, so did the conversation about casting people with disabilities. As an audience, it is our job to not let the conversation fade this time. With the era of social media, it should be easier to continue the discussion and make it apparent how important it is for the audience to see people with disabilities fairly represented in the media.