The Ruderman Foundation, which promotes the inclusion of people with disabilities in all areas, presented the Morton E. Ruderman Award in inclusion to directing duo Peter and Bobby Farrelly Tuesday night at a star-packed presentation in Beverly Hills, CA.
The Farrelly Brothers were given the award “in recognition of their advocacy for the inclusive and authentic representation of people with disabilities in the entertainment industry.” The pair have regularly included actual disabled performers in their feature films, such as their 1998 comedy “There’s Something About Mary” and the 2001 film “Shallow Hal.” Peter Farrelly won two Academy Awards in 2019 as producer and co-screenwriter of “Green Book.”
Disability remains one of the more ignored elements of representation in media, this in spite the Ruderman Foundation’s research announcing that over 20 percent of the top characters in television with disabilities are actually played by disabled performers, an increase from 5 percent in 2016. And at this year’s Academy Awards “Peanut Butter Falcon” star Zack Gottsagen was the first actor with Down syndrome to present an award, though, neither him nor his feature were nominated.
During a moderated, all able-bodied Q&A after receiving the award, Peter Farrelly emphasized his position and voice in the coversation. “We’re not experts on the disability community,” he said. “Whatever we do for the disabled community, I’d say they’ve given a lot more back.”
The hope is that, according to Farrelly, “This is not a victory lap. This is the beginning of something.”
The Farrelly Brothers are certainly onto something. Though 15 percent of the world’s population has some form of disability, they aren’t much of a factor in entertainment. Despite increases in the television world, films only have 1.6 percent of their characters identify as disabled and are often performed by able-bodied actors.
While Peter Farrelly, in particular, received criticism last year for the content within “Green Book,” he and his brother have regularly peppered their frames with disabled actors and the hope is that more directors will follow suit. “Peanut Butter Falcon” is a huge victory in this regard, especially when one looks at the struggles that movie had to get made with a disabled, non-A-list star in the lead.