It was World Down Syndrome Day on 21 March and as part of the campaign to raise awareness Olivia Wilde featured in a PSA, along with 19-year-old AnnaRose Rubright who suffers from the genetic condition.
Although it was no doubt made with the best intentions by Wilde, it has created a bit of controversy. It features Wilde doing various activities that we all get up to, eating, dancing, running, sitting on the couch, while Rubright's voiceover narrates the scenes. The video is titled "How Do You See Me?"
The message being that she sees herself as no different to the rest of us, just getting on with her life like we are all trying to do, following her ambitions and facing the daily struggles that life throws at her.
But the video, produced by Saatchi & Saatchi for Italian charity CoorDown, has caused some people to question why a Hollywood celebrity has taken the place of someone with Down Syndrome, who we only get to see right at the end. The sense is that there's too much Wilde screen time and not enough Rubright.
#HowDoYouSeeMe is certainly delivering an important message but leaves you with an unfortunate taste in your mouth and a thought in your head that all you've really seen is Olivia Wilde. And little else.
Along with people voicing their opinions on social media there was a piece by Emily Ladau in The Daily Beast called "Olivia Wilde’s Down Syndrome PSA Gets It So Wrong." In it Ladau gives a counterpoint to some of the praise that accompanied Wilde's video.
Ladau, who suffers from a genetic disability known as Larsen syndrome and blogs about life in a wheelchair and also about disability rights, says the video "contradicts true inclusion."
From The Daily Beast:
Perhaps one of the biggest barriers to full inclusion for people with any type of disability is, quite simply, the fact that most people consider “disabled” to be a synonym for “different,” and “different” is considered bad. The appearances and the lives of disabled people generally don’t conform to narrow-minded social norms that dictate it is only acceptable to look like a model. As such, disabled people are almost always erased from the media, and almost never given the chance to fully represent ourselves. The “How Do You See Me?” ad perpetuates this exact barrier by erasing the woman with Down syndrome from her own story.
Instead, it becomes Olivia Wilde’s story—a “perfect” ideal that leaves disability unseen and eliminates images of true inclusion, which is what the world truly needs to see. My questions are: Why couldn’t AnnaRose portray her own life? Why couldn’t she be shown dancing, laughing, sitting on the couch with a loved one, walking on the beach with family? If she says that she sees herself doing these things, why isn’t she literally seen doing them?
Ladau goes on to say that the advert would have been so much more effective if it had shown Wilde and Rubright enjoying the activities together. It's hard to disagree.