Tuesday, 28 October 2014

Representation of Disability

Within the media the representation of disability is most commonly based on stereotypes and it represents certain people in a negative and weakening way. Paul Hunt found 10 obvious stereotypes that were used in the media to represent those with a disability. This include; a disabled person is pitiable and pathetic, seen as an object of curiosity and violence, being either sinister or evil, a super cripple, purely as an atmosphere, laughable, his or her own worst enemy, a burden, as a non-sexual character, or being unable to take part in daily life tasks. These are all stereotypes that you would probably notice yourself.
Shakespeare in 1999 presented to an audience the reason why people use stereotypes towards the disabled. He said ‘The use of disability as character trait, plot device, or as atmosphere is a lazy short-cut. These representations are not accurate or fair reflections of the actual experience of disabled people. Such stereotypes reinforce negative attitudes towards disabled people, and ignorance about the nature of disability’. What he meant by this is that writers and film makers often use disability to draw an audience into the story by grabbing their attention towards that character. This type of stereotyping is often used to background the main story and this making the disabled character seem different and non-human.
There are also individual and social models of disability stereotypes. The individual model is usually to do with the view that other people have a disability that has to be overcome or something medical. This would hold that disability with the particular person and they then have the responsibility for it. This being whether they have to overcome it or cope with it on their own. This overcoming is often done with medical attention and done with the use of cures, however there isn’t a cure for everything just yet. The medical approach to disability aims to, stereotypically, ‘normalise’ the disabled people.
The social model of disability is the way people can identify a person’s disability between a physical or a mental problem. The way that society views these types of disabilities is most commonly negative. What this type of disability does is it holds the disability with the individual almost labelling them by their impairment. This means that in society people sometimes forget about these people and access isn’t so easy to gain. An example of this is when in a built up environment it sometimes doesn’t allow people with mobility problems to access certain facilities. All this is all affected by discrimination from society. An example of this is when someone has had a personal tragedy and their daily life is instantly affected. What I mean by this is that they might not be able to get the job they want purely from the discrimination behind it. ‘You can’t work here because you’re in a chair’.
There is actually a difference between social and individual disability and it has been discussed that people don’t allow natural differences between people. This view is not only prejudice to the disabled people but it also has an effect on those people without a disability. A girl name Charlotte Cooper is an example of social obesity. It is found that obesity is also a disability and can be defined as a variety of things. This includes:
• A slender body is ‘normal’
• Fatness is a deviation from the norm.
• Fat and disabled people share low social status.
• Fatness is medicalised (e.g. jaw-wiring and stomach-stapling).
• Fat people are blamed for their greed and lack of control over their bodies.

A lot of people would say that fat people or people that are disabled aren’t usually seen as attractive. Why?  I think that the reason why people that have this ‘issue’ are seen as less attractive because they aren’t perhaps so agile. What I mean by this is that, for example, a person in a wheel chair would have to do things very differently to a person who doesn’t have to be in a wheel chair this meaning that they probably wouldn’t do so much in terms of activity. In the past, people used to think that a little fatness was attractive, showing that you are rich enough to eat and buy fattening foods. I would say that an example of this would be Marilyn Monroe Nowadays the public think that being skinny is attractive and much healthier so those who have a bit of ‘fat’ on them are unattractive. People, normally teens and women often become anorexic because they fear of being too fat because they won’t to be attractive. This suggests that to be attractive, you have to skinny. So why is being fat considered to be sexually unattractive? My opinion is that people think that being fat is really unhealthy and that idea could potentially come from the media and stories that even children read about fat people. The people who are perhaps looking for a sexual partner normally don’t even bother looking at the people that are a bit curvier because they are labelled as simply ‘fat’. This meaning could become a slight trend so nobody wants a ‘fat partner’. All this could be considered and used for people in wheel chairs or generally having a mental or physical disability because people might ‘follow the crowd’. Some people do find it difficult to look at people with disabilities purely because all they imagine is the suffering that the person goes through daily, so these people are instantly not attracted to them sexually. The public find it upsetting to think about people with a disability let alone see them on a daily basis and this could affect a person’s opinion in a sexual situation. They realise that these disabled people will have to face these problems of being perhaps, looked at funny, or treated differently and the disabled feel that people don’t know how to hand them in way of, do you give them sympathy, treat them like idiots or treat them the same. This meaning that SOME people generally avoid them for this reason.
In television the people directing instantly decided quite commonly that disabled can’t be used as sexually attractive characters.


The clip above is from the television series, Glee. In this clip you see two characters in wheelchairs talking about themselves and also about each other. This will show you some representation about people in wheelchairs and also how they can be stereotyped.

Mise en Scene
  • The mise en scene in this clip isn’t very easy to link to the representation of disabled people. What I will say is that Artie (the boy) is wearing glasses and is dressed quite geeky for his costume. Stereotypically people think that disabled people are all really clever and in my opinion I think that that is how Artie is being presented.
  • Another comment I will make about the mise en scene is that the setting has been down suitably for the needs of the wheelchair users. What I mean by this is that the two characters have plenty of space and the accessibility to move around easily. In society this isn’t always the case so this represents an opposing stereotype.
  • The girl is represented in my opinion as an opposing stereotype example as she talks about how she is captain of the cheerleaders and is blonde and has ‘this going on’ (meaning boobs). As a stereotype people wouldn’t think that any of that is even possible but it is realistic. This relates to people thinking that disabled people cannot be sexually attractive.
  • The camera consistently switches between the two characters.
  • The way the girl talks are against her stereotype of being in a wheelchair and having a disability. It represents her as being very opinionative and strong whereas the stereotype of which you would think she would represented as is weak and sometimes shy.
  • Artie does follow the ‘rules’ of his stereotype and the way he talks about himself and the female quite clearly shows his acceptance of being disabled. Stereotypically.
  • There is background noise whilst they are by the lockers of loud chatting in the hallway. This could be there to show that the two characters are a lot quieter than everyone else and ‘have to be’.
Camera Shots, Angles, Movement and Composition
  • At the very start of this clip, the first few seconds, you can see that the camera doesn’t quite capture the characters whole faces. This is to show that the people are lower down.
  • When the dialogue in the scene begins between the two characters, the camera is at their level and it isn’t at ‘normal’ height looking down on them. This is sometimes the case in films, to show the belittling of the disabled character.

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