by Tamar Davis, CEO
With summer being such a popular movie season, I asked my colleagues for recommendations on what to stream that has any kind of disability theme. I haven’t watched every single one yet (there are many!), and they aren’t all from this year, but I invite you to join me in watching these four that I’ve viewed this summer. If you’re looking for even more things to watch, I also appreciated perusing the list of films that received the Ruderman Seal of Approval, which recognizes movies and shows that feature actors with disabilities in roles with at least five lines of dialogue and that are in or are on the verge of general release. There are no spoilers below, so feel free to read on even if you haven’t seen any of these yet!
Atypical (2017-2021) This four-season show on Netflix about an 18-year-old, Sam, on the spectrum, received criticism in its first season for lack of autistic actors and inaccuracies in how autism is described. However, the last three seasons improved and received higher marks on autism representation. I particularly enjoyed the incredibly realistic portrayal of Sam’s younger sister who, while perpetually annoyed with her brother, is the first person to stand up if anyone tries to bully him.
As We See It (2022) Released this year by Amazon Prime Video, this show also focuses on three autistic young adults, who are played by actors on the spectrum. It was incredibly powerful — at times hilarious; at others, deeply emotional — to follow these characters who have the same desires for friendship, love, and fulfillment that we all have in our own lives. I was especially moved by a moment when one character screams with the deepest yearning of her desire to live a “normal” life, forcing us to examine what “normal” really means in our society. (Fun fact, this show was based on the Israeli series “On The Spectrum” by Dana Idisis and Yuval Shafferman.)
CODA (2021) I of course watched CODA (on Apple TV+) after the leading actor, Troy Kotsur, became the first Deaf man to win an Oscar for his performance in this film. While my own disability is hearing loss, I do not sign, and I was especially fascinated by the portrayal of the hearing daughter (CODA is a real term that stands for Child of Deaf Adults), who is caught between wanting to pursue her own dreams and her family’s dependence on her to communicate with the hearing world.
Sound of Metal (2019) This film (also on Amazon Prime Video), about a metal drummer named Ruben who experiences rapid and irreversible onset of hearing loss, realistically depicts the alternation between how Ruben hears and how people without hearing loss hear. Though I was born with hearing loss and didn’t lose mine in adulthood like Ruben, this was the film I personally identified with most. I was moved to follow this exploration into how we each operate within the world with the senses we have and how we interact with others — and how others interact with us, too.
As I receive more recommendations and continue this journey through disability representation in the movie and TV industry, I will continue to share my own observations and hope you will share your own with me as well.
Wishing everyone an enjoyable last few weeks of summer — Shabbat shalom,
Tamar Davis, Chief Executive Officer