Friday, November 17, 2017

thinking about the movie WONDER & the portrayal of disability

I have not seen the movie adaptation of Wonder yet (release date is Friday 11/17), but I know that many many of our students will see this movie and talk about it. Reading the book continues to be a powerful experience for many kids (read here about our experience). I am looking forward to seeing the movie, but I want to think carefully about the way it portrays disability.

Here are a few resources you might be interested in reading:
The crux of the question that critics are raising is the choice surrounding the visual portrayal Auggie's disability, which author Palacio never specifically described in the book. What is the impact of the choices made? Does the portrayal accurately represent the experience of disabled people? Or does it soften the experience to make it more palatable for mainstream audiences?

In particular, critics are question the choice to use makeup to change actor Jacob Tremblay's appearance to represent Auggie's disability. Betsy Bird contrasts this with the decision made by the directors of Wonderstruck to cast Millicent Simmonds, a child actor who is deaf.

Does using makeup portray Auggie's disability as a costume that one can put on and take off? In my own viewing of the trailer, the movie does not match my imagination as I read the book; I had imagined Auggie's face as looking more impacted by his disability. But I'm not sure that matters.

Regardless, I truly believe these are important questions to ask our children as they watch and talk about the movie and the book.

An excellent resource to follow is Disability in Kid Lit. This blog "is dedicated to discussing the portrayal of disability in middle grade and young adult literature... from the disabled perspective." Their most recent review looks at the portrayal of autism in A Boy Called Bat, a book that many students throughout Berkeley are reading as part of our Mock Newbery Book Clubs.

©2017 Mary Ann Scheuer, Great Kid Books

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