Alegre de la Rosa, Olga María. La discapacidad en el cine (Disability in Film). Barcelona: Ediciones Octaedro, 2003.
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Based largely on Norden 1994, this study offers a history of disability depictions in English- and Spanish-language films, analyzes the stereotypes contained therein, and makes pedagogical suggestions. In Spanish.
Black, Rhonda S., and Lori Pretes. “Victims and Victors: Representation of Physical Disability on the Silver Screen.” Research and Practice for Persons with Severe Disabilities 32.1 (Spring 2007): 66–83.
DOI: 10.2511/rpsd.32.1.66E-mail Citation »
Analyzes eighteen films created between 1975 and 2004 in light of the stereotype categories developed in Biklen and Bogdan 1977 (cited under Film and General Media Studies). Notes that the pitiable and evil stereotypes were among the fewest to be represented; however, filmmakers continued to create damaging images such as the asexual PWD and the PWD without meaningful employment.
Darke, Paul A. “Understanding Cinematic Representation of Disability.” In The Disability Reader: Social Science Perspectives. Edited by Tom Shakespeare, 181–197. London: Cassell, 1998.
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Excellent and quite accessible overview of the field as of the late 1990s, complete with a review of the literature to date. A highlight is its application of film genre scholar Rick Altman’s seven genre characteristics to what Darke refers to as the “normality” drama (films in which struggling to overcome PWDs are cured, die, or feign ablebodiedness) to make the case that such films indeed constitute a genre.
Hayes, Michael T., and Rhonda S. Black. “Troubling Signs: Disability, Hollywood Movies and the Construction of a Discourse of Pity.” Disability Studies Quarterly 23.2 (Spring 2003): 114–132.
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This article draws on the work of Michel Foucault to illustrate the point that a “discourse of pity” still characterizes mainstream movies depicting PWDs even when the portrayals are generally more positive. Erroneously labels My Left Foot as a Hollywood film.
Longmore, Paul K. “Screening Stereotypes: Images of Disabled People in Television and Motion Pictures.” Social Policy 16.1 (Summer 1985): 31–37.
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A landmark work in the conjoined field of film studies and disability studies. This famous article, which underpins much of the international research to follow, was reprinted in Smit and Enns 2001 (cited under Anthologies), Gartner and Joe 1987 (cited under Film and General Media Studies), and Longmore 2003 (cited under Individual Productions). Essential reading.
Makas, Elaine. “Changing Channels: The Portrayal of People with Disabilities on Television.” In Children and Television: Images in a Changing Sociocultural World. Edited by Gordon L. Berry and Joy Keiko Asamen, 255–268. Newbury Park, CA: SAGE, 1993.
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Laments the lingering presence of old disability stereotypes (e.g., courageous/inspirational, humorous, pitiable, evil) on television, but notes an increase in “real person with a disability” portrayals particularly in such programs as Another World, L.A. Law, and Sesame Street. The article’s greatest deficiency is its heavy reliance on data from an unpublished and, therefore, unavailable study that Makas herself wrote in 1981.
Norden, Martin F. The Cinema of Isolation: A History of Physical Disability in the Movies. New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press, 1994.
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Historical overview of disability-themed films created mainly by the mainstream US movie industry. About one hundred years’ worth of films are discussed. In 1998, Escuela Libre Editorial in Madrid published a Spanish translation titled El cine del aislamiento: El discapacitado en la historia del cine, with dust jacket notes by the internationally acclaimed writer-director Pedro Almodóvar.
Safran, Stephen P. “The First Century of Disability Portrayal in Film: An Analysis of the Literature.” Journal of Special Education 31.4 (Winter 1998): 467–480.
DOI: 10.1177/002246699803100404E-mail Citation »
A meta review in the sense that it centers not so much on the disability images themselves but the scholarly literature on them. Examines and evaluates the varying approaches (e.g., historical, political, quantitative) that have emerged from a wide range of fields in the past few decades. Safran’s interdisciplinary perspective is most appropriate and welcome. A very useful supplement to accompany the literature.
Shakespeare, Tom. “Art and Lies? Representations of Disability on Film.” In Disability Discourse. Edited by Mairian Corker and Sally French, 164–172. Buckingham, UK: Open University Press, 1999.
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Summarizes the movie depictions of PWDs and observes their typically problematic nature (e.g., their tendency to be crude and simplistic, the frequent objectification of PWDs, the impairments taking on undue weight as defining aspects of disabled characters). At the same time, the author warns of the dangers of “overcensorious” readings of disability-themed films.
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