Representing Youth with Disability on Television

Glee, Breaking Bad, and Parenthood

by Dana Hasson (Author)
©2016 Textbook X, 147 Pages
Series: Critical Qualitative Research, Volume 23


Representing Youth with Disability on Television is a complex and multidimensional mainstream cultural discourse that examines specific stereotypes in fictional programming. The book draws attention to the group labeled as disabled, which is often marginalized, misrepresented, and misunderstood in the media, by analyzing the popular television programs Glee, Breaking Bad, and Parenthood. To obtain a more rigorous account of the way that youth (9–18 years of age) with disability are framed on television, this analysis examines the following issues: how research on popular culture is contextualized within social theory; the theoretical perspectives on representations of disability in popular culture; and the various contexts, genres, media, representations, and definitions of youth with disability in popular culture. The text also outlines the historical growth of disability, which is crucial for a discussion regarding the changing dimensions of popular culture. Critical hermeneutics, content analysis, and methodological bricolage are the mélange of methodologies used to closely examine the dominant models of disability (social vs. medical) used in the portrayal of disabled youth on television today.

Table Of Contents

  • Cover
  • Title
  • Copyright
  • About the author
  • About the book
  • This eBook can be cited
  • Table of Contents
  • Acknowledgments
  • Chapter 1. The Personal Is the Public: My Story
  • Chapter 2. Mapping Out Disability
  • Chapter 3. What Do Popular Culture, Television, and Youth Have to Do with It?
  • Chapter 4. Youth Is Wasted on the Young and Other Myths About Popular Culture
  • Chapter 5. A Methodology to the Madness
  • Chapter 6. Game of Themes
  • Chapter 7. “Breaking” Down the Content
  • Chapter 8. (Dis/Dys)abling the Truth: Findings and Implications for Pedagogy
  • Chapter 9. Series Finale: Changing Attitudes and Perceptions Through the Media
  • Notes
  • References
  • Series index

← viii | ix →Acknowledgments

The function of education is to teach one to think intensively and to think critically. Intelligence plus character—that is the goal of true education.

— Martin Luther King, Jr. —

This book would not have been possible without the love, support, and encouragement I received from my husband Sam, my children Liam and Ella, my parents Jack and Randi, my second parents Marcel and Soly, my brothers Jeremy and Cory, Julie, Shane David, Nancy, Kayla, Dylan, and friends (you know who you are). It also is crucial for me to recognize my late grandparents Leon, Eva, Ike, and Mollie; they were instrumental in my development and have inspired me in more ways than I thought possible. My grandmother Eva will never know how much she turned my life around as I watched her face challenges and push through adversity (surviving the Holocaust and living through an amputation) to prove to herself and her family that she would not be beaten down but lifted up. My grandfather Leon, a Holocaust survivor as well, always expressed his wish for his grandchildren to pursue education and take it as far as it could possibly go. As a man who never ← ix | x →had that opportunity because of his circumstances, it was his biggest dream, and I hope that I have fulfilled his wish and have made him proud. My grandparents Ike and Mollie always only saw the best in their grandchildren and fed us with kindness and unconditional love that transformed into our realization of what it means to treat people with kindness, respect, and the purest form of love. Only now am I beginning to realize how much my family has sacrificed so that I could reach for the stars and push through what has been a challenging, yet incredibly rewarding time in my academic/personal life. I do not have words to adequately describe my deep gratitude for all they have provided me, although I hope to show them in the years to come. I have benefited greatly from the mentoring of Dr. Shirley Steinberg, Dr. Steve Jordan, and Dr. Karen Gazieth—their comments and exceptional efforts to make my work the best it can be will always be treasured and appreciated. Dr. Steinberg was instrumental in helping me to carry out a study relating to critical disability and pedagogy as I reflected on my past experiences and interests in both media studies and disability studies. I developed a tremendous desire to learn and understand this multifaceted topic of study. I am truly indebted to her for fostering the same pursuit and fascination in me and, of course, for her assistance and advice during my years as her student. Dr. Jordan has been a patient, helpful guide who never gave up on my efforts. It has taken many years and a lot of patience and persistence to bring this research to fruition. In essence, I hope that this book will make an impact in the field of critical disability and media studies. I hope that it will open the door for further exploration and understanding of a topic that has been marginalized for so long. I am hopeful that we are living in a time where diversity and acceptance is the norm and people are seen as people not objects, with varying strengths and abilities.

← x | 1 →Chapter One

The Personal Is the Public: My Story

Stereotype assumptions about people with impairments are based on superstition, myths and beliefs from earlier less enlightened times. They are inherent to our culture and persist partly because they are constantly reproduced through the communications media; books, films, television, newspapers and advertising. (Barnes, 1991, p. 45)

Who am I? How do I situate myself in my writing and what life experiences have brought me to this point in life? What effect do I want my work to have in my field and beyond? In Qualitative Inquiry, Butler-Kisber (2010) asks, “Who we are as researchers, our research identities, changes with time and experience, just as our everyday identities do” (p. 19). I believe that our experiences, especially early in life, mold us into the individuals we will become and give us a strong foundation for what will turn our passion into substance. Who I am affects my research, and I consider my positionality as I introduce this work.

Delving deeper into the reasons I have devoted so much time and energy to this field will become apparent as I weave together my past to make sense of my present. As a point of entry, I use the opening quote about stereotypes and myths about disability from Barnes (1991). ← 1 | 2 →I believe that this quote represents my burning desire to research a topic that falls under the radar so frequently, yet is fundamental to understand because of the impact it has on those who often are denied a voice in which to express their truth.


X, 147
ISBN (Softcover)
ISBN (Hardcover)
Publication date
2016 (March)
Disability Television Youth with Disability Fictional programming
New York, Bern, Berlin, Bruxelles, Frankfurt am Main, Oxford, Wien, 2016. X, 147 pp.

Biographical notes

Dana Hasson (Author)

Dana Hasson (PhD philosophy of education, Department of Integrated Studies in Education, McGill University) is an educational consultant and school counselor for a non-profit organization. Her research interests include media literacy and critical media studies, critical disability studies in education, technology, and critical pedagogy.


Title: Representing Youth with Disability on Television
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160 pages