People with disabilities are one of the most underrepresented groups within media. We all know how important representation can be so that people feel visible and tangibly moulds how the public perceives people with disabilities. I decided to review ‘Wonder’, because I think it allows for that visibility to be shown in mainstream Hollywood and shows how disability can psychologically impact the individual and those close to that person.
‘Wonder’ explores living life with Treacher Collins Syndrome, a genetic disorder that is characterized by facial deformities including that of the jaw, ears, eyes and cheekbones. Breathing, swallowing, vision or hearing difficulties can sometimes accompany the syndrome.
Whilst the life expectancy and general health can be normal for people with TCS, and the deformity or accompanying symptoms may be mild, as it is very visible, it often provokes a reaction. This can range from a pitying glance that we try to quickly cover up to hurtful behaviour like bullying the person, all of which is experienced by Auggie, a school aged boy with Treacher Collins in the movie.
Starting middle school for the first time after being home-schooled his whole life, we see various responses to Auggie’s condition and how it not only impacts him, but those around him. We see how Auggie being prioritised side-lines his sister, how his parents are always fighting his corner, whether its yearning to protect him or wanting him to live as normal a life as possible. We see the power of friendship and how even one close friend by your side can make any situation more bearable.
Auggie’s bravery is also shown throughout the movie. He has undergone numerous surgeries, attends school despite his initial nerves and inspires others to look past the physical. Whilst the movie doesn’t go into every aspect of living with TCS, such as the accompanying economic difficulties of medical bills and fighting the ignorance some have of the craniofacial condition, it exudes empathy. Auggie leads by being kind and inspires empathy in those around him. He learns to take of his helmet and accept himself more. It teaches others to be more accepting of him as he is kind enough to show understanding to those who have been mean to him, which is a true wonder.