Celebrate Disability Pride Month with these must-watch TV shows, movies

Mimi Calzada, Life & Arts Reporter

While many movies and TV shows portray characters with disabilities, few characters are played by actors who experience their fictional counterpart’s disability offscreen. Many characters from celebrated television series and movies are portrayed by able-bodied actors, despite representing disabilities on screen, thus taking roles away from actors with disabilities who could provide better representation for their communities. In celebration of Disability Pride Month this July, The Daily Texan compiled a list of shows and movies that feature accurate representations of disabilities across big and small screens alike. 

Special (2019-2021)

Adapted from actor Ryan O’Connell’s’ memoir “I’m Special: And Other Lies We Tell Ourselves,” Ryan Hayes (O’Connell) navigates the Los Angeles dating scene as a gay man with cerebral palsy in the Netflix produced show “Special.” In an effort to reinvent his past, Ryan tells his coworkers a tragic car accident left him paralyzed. All while living at home with his mother and navigating his budding independence, the show follows Ryan as he comes to terms with his identity. 

Sex Education (2019- )

Though Isaac Goodwin (George Robinson) did not join the Netflix series’ ensemble of ever-eccentric characters until its second season, he lit up the screen immediately and stole the hearts of everyone watching. Isaac, who uses a wheelchair after an accident in his youth, refuses to let this bar him from enjoying life’s pleasures and is accurately portrayed by Robinson, who uses a wheelchair himself. The show, which strives to destigmatize sex education in schools, portrays Isaac and the other characters navigating romantic feelings and relationships with each other. “Sex Education” does an exceptional job of showcasing the complex feelings and desires of a character with disabilities beyond solely discussing their disability.  

The Peanut Butter Falcon (2019)

Content Warning: Ableism and ableist slurs

Zak (Zack Gottsagen), a man with Down syndrome, wishes to break out of his care facility and pursue a career in professional wrestling. While attempting to escape, Zak befriends fisherman Tyler (Shia LaBeouf), and the pair travel across the country in search of Zak’s wrestling idol, the Salt Water Redneck (Thomas Haden Church). The pair runs from various adversaries, including Zak’s caretaker Eleanor (Dakota Johnson). “The Peanut Butter Falcon,” which can be streamed on Peacock, provides audiences with an emotional take on how able-bodied people treat and perceive people with disabilities. 

I Care a Lot (2020)

While most recognize Peter Dinklage, an actor with a common form of dwarfism called achondroplasia, from his role as Tyrion Lannister from Game of Thrones, “I Care a Lot” presents a different type of character for the actor — a Russian mobster and crime lord with a soft spot for his mother. One of three Netflix originals on this list that flew under the radar for most people, the film follows Marla Grayson (Rosamund Pike) as a court-appointed legal guardian to the elderly who scams her clients for their earnings.

MasterChef USA (Season 3) (2012) 

After graduating with a bachelor’s in business administration from UT and a master’s of fine arts from the University of Houston, Christine Hà was MasterChef’s first blind contestant in 2012 and ultimately emerged as season winner. Available for viewing on Hulu, watch Hà hone her incredible ability to make a stunning plate full of mouth-watering foods that are sure to leave audiences with their stomachs growling.