A Stargate Universe casting call has sparked the fires of internet rage for its description of quadriplegic character Eleanor Perry, who "possesses" Ming-Na's lesbian character Camile Wray, then turns her straight.
A casting call was leaked out via Spoiler TV for the new Syfy series Stargate Universe looking for an actress for the role of Doctor Elanor Perry. The description of the character use some pretty poor choice words to describe the quadriplegic character's body, including the term "useless," and hints that she's asexual because she's disabled:
[ELEANOR PERRY] (35-40) and quite attractive. A brilliant scientist who happens to be a quadriplegic. Affected since childhood, her disability has rendered her body physically useless. However, after being brought on board the Destiny as the only person who may be able to save the ship and her crew from certain annihilation, she is given temporary powers that enable her to walk again and to finally experience intimacy.sptv050769..Strong guest lead. NAMES PREFERRED. ACTRESS MUST BE PHYSICALLY THIN. (THINK CALISTA FLOCKHART).
Many fans were offended by the word choice alone, while others took issue with the fact that the casting call seemed to play into the stereotype the disabled citizens all can not have sex or other experience intimate relationships.
profoundly disturbed by what this casting call suggests about disabilities that a person's body is 'useless' unless fully abled, for example, that a disability is something that should be fixed, that people with disabilities do not have sex lives, and that a person with a disability is less than fully realized as a human being.)
Shefrotheerdon found just about everything in the casting call offensive, especially the stereotypical "genius" quadraplegic assumption, but seemed especially annoyed that getting laid was seemingly a cure-all for the character:
Oh dear god. The Forty-Year-Old Virgin, in space, written by Mallozzi et al. It's like the fandom trope of healing cock, reversed. First, healing; second, cock. Somehow it's apparently written in the laws of sci fi that the two must go together.
But none of these complaints hold a candle to the disappointment expressed by Sarah Warn at After Ellen. The casting slides from Eleanor's episode, titled "Sabotage," revealed what happens after Eleanor inhabits Camile's body. (In Stargate Universe, the people trapped on the far-off ship Destiny find a way to swap bodies with people back on Earth.) Once she's in Camile's body, Eleanor then decides to fulfill her own carnal desires, using Camile's curves. First she attempts a kiss with the geeky Eli Wallace, (David Blue), but he rejects her passes as his character knows that this is not what Camile would want. So Eleanor moves on to Robert Carlyle's scoundrel character, Nicholas Rush, who happily joins in on the fun.
Warn takes great issue with the fact that,
"not only will the lesbian character presumably not have any actual lesbian relationships with anyone on board the ship, she'll be shown kissing at least two men, and having sex with one of them. Wow. And this is from the network that, when they received a failing grade from GLAAD a few weeks ago, said "we need to work harder." If this is working harder, I'd hate to see what slacking off would look like."
We spoke with sources close to the SGU series, and they claimed that the call sheet and casting sides are being taken completely out of context. They encouraged fans to remember that the episode "Sabotage" takes place after a hefty 15 to 16 hours of previous SGU content. The moral issues with "inhabiting" the bodies of crew members are struggled with and addressed by everyone aboard the Destiny. Plus Camile's backstory and personal life on Earth will be explored at a much deeper level.
She won't be simply the lone lesbian on the crew, whose personal life is kept in the closet, they promise. They add that casting sides and call sheets are by no means the final script — they get rewritten, with key details edited out in case they leak, as this one did. They promise that there is more to Eleanor than what you see in the casting call, but it's too spoilery to reveal right now. All in all, they said that there's a bigger picture, and the show will be grappling with a variety of ethical issues.
Show creators Brad Wright and Robert Cooper also responded on Gateworld's message board addressing the topic:
Recently, a casting breakdown was released to agents for a upcoming character in our television show, Stargate Universe. The character, Doctor Eleanor Perry, is a brilliant scientist at the top of her field, who also happens to be a quadriplegic. As part of a science fiction conceit that is core to our series, Perry's consciousness is temporarily exchanged with one our series main characters, Camile Wray, who is a lesbian. In the course of the story, Perry has the experience of being able bodied for the first time since she was a child. At the same time, Wray, temporarily encumbered by Perry's physical disability, experiences the unconditional love of her life partner. The language of the breakdown was insensitive and inaccurate, and we sincerely apologize to those who may have been offended. The audition pages that have been under scrutiny were from an early draft and released out of context. It is our desire and intention to portray both characters with dignity and respect, while remaining mindful of the ethical issues we're raising.
Syfy also responded on twitter, via Craig Engler, the SVP & GM of Digital Media:
We're very sensitive to the issues raised by the description of the character Eleanor Perry. We're working with the Stargate producers to address this & ensure that this character is handled sympathetically and responsibly.
I'm glad that they all realize the casting call was worded very poorly. And I hope that this much-touted "darker" series does deliver the multi-layered premise it's promising, with complex characters and moral issues being delved into. Otherwise it could be just as all the some of the earlier fans feared. Me, I'm waiting until I see the first episode before judging it too harshly — after all casting call and casting slides are rarely handled by the top dogs on the series and can easily get turned into something completely different from the reality of the finished script. Plus, I think that there is a lot more to this series than simple stereotypes, just the fact that the internet is having an argument about one episode seems to prove that there is more to discuss.