Monday, July 19, 2010

"Glee": Why Does Everyone Want Kevin McHale to be Disabled?

This year on television, the biggest explosion of a new show into super-stardom was "Glee". The appeal of the show comes from an incredibly talented group of kids, an upbeat feeling, a sense of almost mocking the ridiculous nature of highschool drama, with a touch of seriousness and a huge heart to encase it all in. Yeah yeah, maybe sometimes it gets a bit campy, but there is so much exuberance in the show that it covers that all up.

All the stars of the show have also gained huge fan-bases, including one Kevin McHale, who plays the wheelchair-bound Artie on the show. He has become a bit of a sticking point with some fans however, especially in Facebook circles when they see photos from red carpet events, etc, and notice that Kevin McHale is NOT in fact paralyzed in the leg region. (Why they are surprised, I'm not sure... He IS an actor after all).

Some claim that in place of Kevin, a disabled actor should have been chosen for the role, and are almost angry with the fact that he is playing this part... but WHY?

It seems a little odd that some people are up-in-arms about him playing a part such as this. Hasn't playing a disabled character almost become "Oscar Bait" by some actors in the past? For instance, take a look at:
- Daniel-Day Lewis, playing a character with cerebral palsy in My Left Foot
- Al Pacino playing a blind character in the Scent of a Woman
- Tom Hanks in Forrest Gump
- Sean Penn in I Am Sam
- Russel Crowe playing an autistic character in A Beautiful Mind
- Dustin Hoffman playing an autistic character in Rain Mann
- Jamie Foxx playing the blind, musical icon Ray Charles in Ray
All of these men were nominated for Academy Awards for Best Actor, and in fact, many of them won. So why is our dear Kevin McHale considered different?
Shouldn't he also be praised for his emotional performance of an experience for foreign to him like all those other grade-A actors?

The argument from the other side is that "Glee" is a show about inclusion, so an actor that is actually wheelchair-bound would live up to one of the major messages of the show... I kind of understand where they are coming from, and of course there ARE actors out there in that
situation that I'm sure would be more than talented enough to play Artie. Heck, I love actors of all different shapes, sizes, looks, nationalities, sexual orientations, and everything else, so I'm not saying that there is anything wrong with that sort of casting!

The fact remains, however, that Kevin McHale auditioned for the role, and was suited for it. He looked the part that the casting directors wanted, and he has a beautiful "honey" singing voice that is a lovely addition to the ensemble of voices on the show. In addition, the boy can dance very very well --as FINALLY witnessed in the "Glee" number of "The Safety Dance" by Men Without Hats-- so really, the only shame in Kevin McHale playing a character with paralysis is the fact that he can't show off those dancing skills more often. I sincerely hope that he continues to do as well in this role, and that his fans continue to outnumber the "haters" as it were.