He uses a wheelchair, and so does this TV character. That matters more than you think.
'Julie's Greenroom' is a magical children's show with an inclusive message.
If you had to describe the target audience of Julie Andrews' latest TV show as a single person, it'd probably be someone who looks a lot like Luca, a 2-year-old boy from Virginia.
The show, a Netflix original called "Julie's Greenroom," has everything a curious-minded youngster could want: puppets, laughs, songs, and Mary Poppins herself. It's no wonder that Luca and his mom, Stephanie, have been enjoying the show since its March 17 premiere.
It's an adorable, delightful show about the wonders of the theater.
But there's one character in particular that Luca and Stephanie have have come to love: Hank, a piano-playing prodigy puppet who happens to use a wheelchair.
Like Hank, Luca also uses a wheelchair.
Luca was born with a condition called spina bifida, and while his wheelchair is just a part of his life, it's a part he doesn't often see in TV shows or movies.
"Julie's Greenroom" changed that for him in an important way.
One of the things Stephanie says she appreciated about "Julie's Greenroom" is that the show doesn't immediately call attention to the fact that Hank uses a wheelchair. Instead, the show "showed the character as just another child with the same abilities and interests," Stephanie explains over email as to why she sees the show as a victory for representation. "All too often it is the physical differences that are noticed before any similarities."
It's important for children to see themselves in the world, and it's just as important for them to be seen by others.
"I want Luca to know there are other people and even children that use wheelchairs," Stephanie writes. "I don't want a stigma to be associated with having a disability. It is nothing to be embarrassed or ashamed about — it is part of him and what makes our family a whole."
Disabled characters are often severely underrepresented in media, making "Julie's Greenroom" a huge step in the right direction.
A recent study found that only a tiny fraction of all speaking or named characters in TV and movies were shown with a disability. In the real world, nearly 1 in 5 people report having some form of disability. When it comes to inclusivity and representation, the media just isn't being realistic.
It matters that Luca is able to see himself in shows because it turns out that not seeing positive portrayals of others who look or act like you can result in low self-esteem. And it matters that kids without disabilities see others who aren't like them because seeing those unlike yourself is key to building empathy and social skills. In other words, diversity in the media is a win-win situation for all kids.
"I think the more we talk about differences, the more we will be accepting of others and look beyond their equipment," writes Stephanie.
And there's a lot to see "beyond their equipment." You can check out the adorable trailer for "Julie's Greenroom" below and learn more about how you can support children like Luca at the Spina Bifida Association website.