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Disability in the media

1 May

In my blog I will be looking at how disability is viewed in the media.  Those with disabilities are sometimes viewed as the ones who we awe pity to, while in other times they are viewed as the supercrips.  Media is often the medium through which disability is constructed. Often people with disabilities are viewed as the burden or outcast of the society where they are object of violence. In most of the times we see disability persons incapable of participating in simple life activities, such as building successful intimate relationships.

Moreover, “Gillette Children’s Specialty Healthcare”, is a healthcare center where children with disabilities are helped to live with their disability and get around their barriers to fulfill their hopes and dreams. In an advertisement made to promote the center, a child (Alex) with a rare genetic syndrome is shown as the strong 6-year old kid where he can read and write at the same level of those who are older than him by three years.  The advertisement breaks the notion that: disabled children cannot be as smart and intelligent as normal/healthy kids. It also shows that disable children do not need to be pitied and awed but need to feel encouraged and supported.

Gillette Children’s Specialty Healthcare promotes their center through a series of short videos.  Although, Each video shows a different story, presenting a child, suffering from a different disability. Yet, each video breaks a stereotype towards people with disabilities.  In another example, we see Bella, a young energetic young girl suffering from a condition that affects 1 out of 100,000.  Bella is shown in the video living and acting just like any other girl at her age, she: runs, laughs, plays, and jokes normally despite all what she went through. The advertisement here is trying to show that children with disabilities are no difference than healthy children. They go to school they have fun, and also have unique personalities and characters. We are all the same.

I believe these promotions go well with Charles Riley’s article “Disability in the Media.” In his article Riley shows how the media outcasts the disabled people and portray them as the “other”, where we as healthy people differ from them. They are most of the time shown as the ones who: are pitiable or pathetic, object of violence, sinister or evil, ritual or laughable and burden or outcast, and that is few to mention. For instance, in season 6 episode 3 of “Can’t Hardly Wait” we see Jimmy a disabled character trying to make an intimate relationship with Ashley, but he keeps on failing. If we look deeply in Jimmy’s character we find out that Jimmy is portrayed differently than any other guy of the same age. Jimmy is unable to make intimate relationships because he is a disabled guy. This shows the stereotype about disabled people in a way or another. It shows that disabled people are incapable of making sexual relationships and are incapable in participating in simple life activities.

But the question remains who benefits from misrepresenting and stereotyping disabled people in the media? Also, another question, is it ethical to misrepresent a certain group of people in the media? If not, then why is it still on the media?

Citation:

http://www.gillettechildrens.org/fileUpload/All%20About%20Gillette.pdf

http://www.tv.com/degrassi-the-next-generation/cant-hardly-wait/episode/753463/recap.html?tag=episode_recap;recap