Three Christmas Movies with Disabled Characters that I Can’t Get Enough Of


Christmas Prince

This Netflix holiday film, reminiscent of Hallmark classics, marked the streaming giant's early foray into festive feature-length productions, and it lived up to expectations. The storyline follows Amber, a young journalist from New York, who embarks on an assignment to cover the royal family's affairs in the fictional country of Aldovia. The focus is on the playboy prince set to ascend the throne, and naturally, a love story unfolds between Amber and the prince. However, what truly caught my attention was Princess Emily, the prince's younger sister, portrayed by Honor Kneasley. Princess Emily has spina bifida and uses a wheelchair, though Honor herself is not a wheelchair user in real life. While the portrayal of spina bifida is far from accurate, with a poorly fitted wheelchair and cringe-worthy lines about disability, it's so amusing that I can't help but enjoy it. One memorable scene involves Amber suggesting sledding to Princess Emily, who responds with, "What if I end up even more broken than I already am?" Much to my amusement, his line has become my go-to response whenever my husband requests that I do undesirable tasks (like the dishes). If you appreciate cheesy holiday movies and find humor in questionable disability representation, this film is a must-watch.

Christmas Ever After

"Christmas Ever After," a quintessential and delightfully cheesy romantic Christmas movie, made its debut on Lifetime in 2020. In a refreshing departure from the lackluster disability representation seen in "Christmas Prince," this film features Tony winner Ali Stroker, a real wheelchair user, in the lead role of Izzi Simmons. Izzi, a novelist struggling to write her next hit book, takes center stage as the first wheelchair user to headline a movie brimming with all the essential elements of a holiday romcom — a charming small-town setting, initial conflicts with a love interest, a nostalgic Christmas theme, and, of course, a heartwarming happy ending. While the storyline is endearing, wheelchair users will find joy in scrutinizing the intricate details often overlooked by able-bodied viewers. One can't help but ponder how Izzi manages to navigate a bed & breakfast with a prominent staircase and no visible ramp. Setting aside these access questions, the film offers an enjoyable viewing experience with commendable disability representation, making it a must-watch for your holiday movie list.

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Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer

I’ll start with the caveat that I loved Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer when I was young, but when I rewatched it as an adult I was horrified by how mean Santa is. I cringe every time I watch it, but I also refuse to skip this animated holiday classic because I have always felt connected to Rudolph and all of the characters on the Island of Misfit Toys. Rudolph's ostracism due to his red nose mirrors the discrimination experienced by many people with disabilities. Rather than embracing Rudolph as he is, his parents attempt to "improve" him with a prosthetic black nose, echoing the common experience disabled people have of our families attempting to "fix" or conceal our disabilities. Eventually Rudolph leaves his home and through a series of events he ends up at the Island of Misfit Toys - an entire community of beings that are segregated because they are different. In the end, of course, we find that our differences/disabilities can be our strengths and, like all Christmas classics, we get our happy ending.

About the Author - Stephanie Woodward

Stephanie Woodward is an attorney and Executive Director of Disability EmpowHer Network, a nonprofit dedicated to empowering girls and women with disabilities. Stephanie is passionate about seeking justice for marginalized communities - and has an arrest record to show for it. As a proud disabled woman and civil rights activist, Stephanie is committed to bringing more women and girls with disabilities to the forefront through mentoring and activism.

Stephanie Woodward

The opinions expressed in these blogs are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Christopher & Dana Reeve Foundation.

The National Paralysis Resource Center website is supported by the Administration for Community Living (ACL), U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) as part of a financial assistance award totaling $10,000,000 with 100 percent funding by ACL/HHS. The contents are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily represent the official views of, nor an endorsement by, ACL/HHS, or the U.S. Government.