Jordan Peele's Us has been widely celebrated since its record-breaking release last weekend, and it’s pretty hard to find any criticism about the acclaimed film. However, there is one group that isn’t really feeling the blockbuster horror, and they're claiming that Lupita Nyong'o insensitively mocked its members.
According to Indie Wire, the National Spasmodic Dysphonia Association (NSDA) and the non-profit group RespectAbility, which the site says "fights stigmas and advances opportunities for people with disabilities," have both criticized the horror film specifically over Nyong'o's deliberate use of spasmodic dysphonia as inspiration behind the unforgettable voice of her on-screen doppelgänger role, Red.
Prior to the film's nationwide release, the Oscar-winning actress told the New York Times that she drew from Robert F. Kennedy Jr.'s speaking voice when piecing together Red's verbal articulation. Kennedy Jr. suffers from spasmodic dysphonia, which is described as a "neurological disorder that causes involuntary spasms of the larynx."
Nyong'o, to show that her adoption of the speech impediment was not malicious, shared in the same profile that the voice she used in Us was an "amplification" of the disorder.
Nevertheless, Jennifer Laszlo Mizrahi, president of RespectAbility, released a statement criticizing the movie's leading star for using spasmodic dysphonia as such a defining element in developing the film's antagonist.
"Connecting disabilities to characters who are evil further marginalizes people with disabilities who also have significant abilities and want to contribute to their communities just like anyone else," Mizrahi said.
The NSDA also issued a statement of their own, further condemning Nyong'o's decision.
"One of the toughest parts of having a disability is that people make assumptions based on the way you walk, talk or act, sometimes with little understanding of what is causing it," their statement reads. "We understand that hearing the unique sound caused by symptoms of spasmodic dysphonia was the spark of inspiration for the voice of this character. What is difficult for us, and for the thousands of people living with spasmodic dysphonia, is this association to their voice with what might be considered haunting."
While Nyong'o further explained her reasoning for using the voice to Variety, saying her character was struggling with trauma, the NSDA, in response, claimed it is invalid as, while "people were told that [the disorder is] psychological — it's not. It's neurological."
Sounds like the group is not gonna let this one slide.