In late March of 2019, there were a spate of articles claiming that Emily Blunt was either “in talks to” or was definitely playing deaf and blind writer Rebecca Alexander in a movie adaptation of her memoir, “Not Fade Away.”
Rebecca Alexander, left, and Emily Blunt, right.
There were other outlets who said that this was a done deal, but they tended to be less credible, or have the “OMG pay attention to the actual article, headline writer!” issue. (For example, the first line in an MSN Entertainment article entitled “Emily Blunt to star in Not Fade Away,” is “Emily Blunt is in talks to star in ‘Not Fade Away’.”)
Rebecca Alexander has Usher Syndrome, and she has been losing her sight and hearing gradually. This movie would be a dramatization of her book, entitled “Not Fade Away: A Memoir of Senses Lost And Found“; her character would be the star of the movie, or the role that Emily Blunt may be taking on. Reaction to having a deaf and blind role played by a hearing, sighted actress was predictably mixed.
The Ruderman Foundation headed off the “but who could we possibly find to play this character, instead” approach by going ahead and highlighting a number of actors who could play the part and play it well:
Disability in entertainment journalist Kristin Lopez quickly pointed out some of the many issues, including:
What makes Blunt’s casting particularly egregious is in how stereotypical it seems to be. Hollywood only knows one disabled narrative and Not Fade Away checks all the boxes: based on a memoir so as both mitigate claims of inaccurate representation (“but it’s based on a true story”) as well as avoid actually having to properly research the illness or require additional consultants, situate it as an Oscar film with an awards-worthy performer, illustrate how it’s about overcoming some perceived adversity. Make no mistake, Rebecca Alexander has certainly triumphed over her condition and gone on to do great things, but that’s not how Hollywood sells these narratives. The goal of these movies is to present the deaf/blind/disabled as inspiration folk heroes, selling a lifestyle that will make able-bodied people appreciate themselves more.
Several commentators have made the point that it’s particularly disappointing that this is coming from Ms. Blunt and from her husband John Krasinksi, who is a producer of “Not Fade Away,” given all the things they did right with “A Quiet Place.” Many felt betrayed at this seeming reversal after believing Krasinksi an ally for authentic representation after he pushed hard to cast Millicent Simmonds in the role.
But after this quick flurry of attention in late March, the movie has faded from the news entirely. We haven’t been able to find any indication that this has proceeded past “talks,” and there doesn’t seem to be an article that doesn’t use an older one as its source material since March 24th.
Does anyone know more? Please contact us or tag us on Twitter (@DeafInMedia) if you do. Thank you!