This past weekend, I saw the movie Wonder. I read the book a few years ago, and it is on my list of all-time favorites, so I was ecstatic when I found out they were making a movie out of it. Wonder is the story of a boy, August “Auggie” Pullman, who has Treacher Collins syndrome, which causes facial deformities. Auggie has been home-schooled for his whole life, but his mom decides to send him to school for the first time when he enters 5th grade. Inevitably, Auggie’s 5th-grade year turns out to be a wild adventure with many twists and turns for both him and the other members of his family. The movie was relatively true to the book, especially because the formats of both the book and the movie both involved perspective-switches. In the book, different chapters were told from different points of view, while the movie was split up into segments that each had a different narrator. Some of the characters in the book had a more minor role in the movie, and a few major characters in the movie were not nearly as integral to the plot of the book. Overall, the movie was a great adaptation of a fantastic novel.
My big beef with the movie was that the kid who played Auggie did not have Treacher Collins in real life. The people who made the movie decided to take a kid with a more conventional-looking face and put special-effects makeup on him to make him look like a kid with Treacher Collins. That infuriated me because it sends a message to people living with Treacher Collins loud and clear: Hollywood does not deem them worthy enough to tell their own stories. Another reason why I found the casting choice infuriating was because people didn’t seem all that upset about it. Even though there are still some dumbos that think that blackface and yellowface are okay, most people with brains in their heads know that blackface and yellowface are horribly offensive and racist. Why shouldn’t characters with disabilities be held to the same standard? Furthermore, even though the kid who played Auggie did a great job with what he was given, a kid who is actually living with Treacher Collins would have been able to bring a deeper level of emotion and authenticity to the role of Auggie than a kid with a typical-looking face. So, Hollywood, the next time you have an idea for a blockbuster film about someone with a disability, please cast someone who is actually living with that disability.
Left: A still from Wonder. Right: A kid who is actually living with Treacher Collins syndrome.
All in all, despite my major problems with it, Wonder is certainly worth seeing. While I was disappointed with the ableist casting of the movie, I enjoyed the rest of it. If Wonder interests you, I would definitely recommend seeing it.