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Representing Ability

amweiner's picture

Hey guys!

My project works better if seen in a presentation format and I could not technologically figure out how to put it on serendip. Therefore, I have sent everyone the link to it but I am posting here so if you all want to comment on it, you can do so on this post as if it were the presentation. I will also try to attach it to this just in case but I want to make sure you can view the videos. 

Sorry for the inconvenience!



File Representing Ability.pptx1.63 MB


Chewy Charis's picture

This "Open versus Closed / Out versus As" topic is particularly interesting to me because as I was searching for "creative writing on disability," two of the recurring tips were "Do NOT mention the disability unless it is central to the development of the story" and "person first, disability second." (I keep feeling like this kind of message makes disability seem like an inherently bad thing.) But perhaps this is the exactly value of displaying ASD traits in the Sherlock portrayed by Cumberbatch (for the TV show people). 

I contend that the function of displaying ASD traits here is to humanize Sherlock. If you compare the Sherlock portrayed by Jeremy Brett to that by Cumberbatch, you realize that the ASD traits are significantly more aparent in the Cumberbatch version. While previously, Sherlock was seen as superhuman, the producers might try to humanize him by displaying his disability, thus making him "flawed" --more human and more relatable. (As you said, "characters that are disabled will be flawed because everyone is. ")

Thank you for your project! It alerts us to actually reflect what we are seeing on screen and not just passively absorbing the presentations. 

smalina's picture

This made me think about the prevalence of characters who identify "out of" having a disability--which is much more common than I once realized. I'm thinking specifically about the film Marvin's Room, in which the main character, Bessie, who has been a caregiver for her elderly father and aunt, is suddenly diagnosed with leukemia. She reconnects with her estranged sister (Lee) and her nephews (Hank and Charlie) as she looks for a bone marrow match. Hank is being checked into the psychiatric ward of a hospital when we meet him because he has set his mother's house on fire--for the rest of the film he is on Lithium. We see a few scenes of Hank in the hospital, restrained and meeting with a cartoonish psychiatrist. Bessie takes an interest in Hank (who is presented as a misunderstood young man), and is the first person to finally listen to him--however, their connection is founded around her assertion that he is better than his situation. She is able to connect with him specifically because she decides that he is not disabled--he does not need medical attention for his depression and anger, instead he is just a troubled teen who has not been listened to. Though his very "typical" human emotional issues are depathologized, the fact that he is identified out of disability means that we no longer have to contend with the conditions under which he has been living at the hospital--as soon as he is done being restrained, the audience need not recognize that other people remain in these restraints at the hospital every day. In this sense, I think there is a huge responsibility for filmmakers/television writers to not abandon the conditions of insitutions and societal expectations related to disability even after a character is no longer considered disabled--this, like the social model of disability, forces us to think about society's responsibility, rather than putting it all on the individual and their personal identification/"problems."