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Hollywood shines spotlight on mental impairments once again

Hollywood has produced many movies highlighting inspiring characters with mental disabilities and is likely about to do so again with the sequel to "Finding Nemo," called "Finding Dory." As anyone who has watched the Nemo version knows, Dory is a little fish with short-term memory loss, a condition that many Americans suffer from.

In the past, Hollywood has introduced society to memorable characters with mental impairments in Rain Man, Forrest Gump and Radio. As you probably already know, Rain Man starred Tom Cruise and Dustin Hoffman, who plays an autistic savant. The movie helped to raise public awareness about autism, and the amazing skills people with autism can have.

Forrest Gump is another well-received movie about a mentally impaired man who makes incredible accomplishments in his life, forcing countless Americans to re-consider their preconceptions of people with mental impairments. Radio starred Cuba Gooding Jr. and was based on a true story of a man with intellectual disabilities who inspired an entire town with his love for football and life.

Next, it will be interesting to see how Hollywood portrays Dory's short-term memory loss in Finding Dory. On the one hand, the movie could demonstrate that Dory struggles to live alone because of her memory impairment. But at the same time, the movie could also highlight the character's zest for life and ability to live in the moment.

So far, Hollywood has done a good job at demonstrating both the challenges and positive traits that often go along with mental impairments. While the movies are sometimes criticized for stereotyping people with mental impairments, all of the movies mentioned helped to shed a positive light on extremely inspirational characters, both real and fictional, who were mentally disabled.

Source: Hollywood, "How 'Finding Dory' Can Work: More Mental Disability," Michael Arbeiter, April 5, 2013

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