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May 1998, Week 2


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Film and TV Studies Discussion List <[log in to unmask]>
Donald Larsson <[log in to unmask]>
Fri, 8 May 1998 08:42:17 -0500
TEXT/PLAIN (50 lines)
William Goodman comments:
> Thanks to all who responded to my request regarding films and
> disabilities.  On the subject of scarcity, I don't consider 25 films
> featuring disabled characters to be very many in relation to all the
> films available.  Think how many more films examine gender or race
> relations in comparison.  Also, the films that most know of that feature
> disabled characters center around their struggles with their
> disabilities.  There are little, if any, films that feature disabled
> characters simply living their lives along with the rest of society.
> Just like other minorities, we disabled people are here in society, but
> are drastically underrepresented in film.  Any comments?
It seems that when disabled characters are featured in films, they
serve as central to that film, at least as supporting if not main
characters, so that the disability itself becomes an "issue" to be
dealt with as with other "social problem" films (racism, alcoholism,
AIDS, juvenile crime, whatever . . . ).
But it may be that the concentrated narrative of commercial films
vitiates the possibilities of presence for the disabled in a way that
it does not (in the last two decades or so, anyway) for women and
minority characters.  The disability itself must be "dealt with"
regardless of the actual film content.
In contrast, TV series seem to offer at least some opportunity for the
disabled to appear "mainstreamed" as a part of the series' overall
diegesis, though even here the presence of the disabled is
disproportionately small.  Aside from the occasional series, like
REASONABLE DOUBTS (or I suppose we could go back to the fad for
disabled detectives in the early 1970s--IRONSIDE and LONGSTREET, eg.)
that feature a main character who is disabled in some way, there are at
least a few series that have presented disabled characters as
continuing supporting characters without a great deal of fanfare.
One of the earliest series in which I can recall this happening was LOU
GRANT, where one of the newspaper staffers was routinely seen in a
wheelchair simply as another worker in a large city newspaper.
Don Larsson
Donald Larsson, Mankato State U (MN)
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