Stereotypes of Disabilities and Struggles of The Entertainment Industry

I stated in an earlier blog post that I was immediately drawn to the chapter on Cultural Analysis in the book Critical Media Studies: An Introduction because it dealt with the representations of what society often calls minority groups. I, being disabled am specifically interested in the representations of “disability” in the media. The disabled people are one of the groups that are “excluded” from TV and movies. This means that they are “symbolically annihilated or “written out of history through under representation in the media” (Ott and Mack 139), and when they are represented they are often stereotyped, which is the process of constructing misleading and reductionist representations of a minority… group, often wholly defining members of the group by a small number of characteristics” (140). Also, as mentioned in a previous blog disabled people are frequently portrayed by able bodied actors and actresses (MediaSmarts.ca and Henderson 2009).  Disabled people are one of the minority groups that are under represented making people believe that these people do not exist in our society.

Reading this chapter made me think about a contestant that was part of the past season of the reality show of The Glee Project named Ali Stroker, who has been paralyzed and in a wheelchair since the age of two due to a car accident. I have to admit that I immediately loved her not only because she was beautiful and extremely talented but also because, of her positive attitude despite the amount of obstacles that she had to overcome.  Throughout the competition, she barely ever complained or asked for any choreography or any part of the competition to be altered or changed due to the situation, she actually welcomed challenges.  Everybody on the show loved her, all throughout the competition, the creator and the choreographer would say “who wouldn’t root for her because of her story”.  While, it could be true, I somewhat feel like this was a pity comment. They also mentioned that if she was casted, she could be a love interest for Artie Abrams, the paraplegic on Glee. This is a stereotype that is common for people with disability.  What I liked about her as well is that she did know and was aware that being in a wheelchair has closed doors for her in the entertainment industry. I feel like that having a disability should not be a factor that would close doors because everybody should be entitled to have opportunities and every person should be equally represented.

She did not win but she still managed to score an episode of Glee. She was a combination of stereotypes during this episode. She was a bitchy mean girl in a wheelchair but she did not start by falling in love with Artie, which I liked because another common stereotype of disabled people is that they often develop romantic relationships with other disabled people. I thought that this was good because it would show that this assumption is most often false. This stereotype was soon consented to (made ok) by having her character have sex with Artie. I believe that though these stereotypes are written in because writers believe that it makes some kind of story. In reality, stories can be created without involving stereotypes.

I have  included a video called “My Gimpy Life: Inspirational” which explains a struggle that disabled people, specifically one’s in wheelchairs face in the entertainment industry.  I must warn you that this video contains some inappropriate language but the message of the video comes across effectively.

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