Preface by Paul Willis
This reader begins a conversation about the many aspects of critical youth studies. Chapters in this volume consider essential issues such as class, gender, sexuality, race, ethnicity, cultural capital, and schooling in creating a dialogue about and a conversation with youth. In a society that continues to devalue, demonize, and pathologize young women and men, leading names in the academy and youth communities argue that traditional studies of youth do not consider young people themselves. Engaging with today’s young adults in formal and informal pedagogical settings as an act of respect, social justice, and transgression creates a critical pedagogical path in which to establish a meaningful twenty-first century critical youth studies.
22 “Breaking” Stereotypes: How Are Youth With Disability Represented in Mainstream Media?
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Individuals now have more viewing choices than ever before in deciding how to spend their time with television. With the explosion of cable programming channels, many different genres of programming are competing for niche market audiences. (Hiebert & Gibbons, 2000)
I wish to draw from a theory helpful in forming an understanding of the influence that television viewing has on its audience: Information Processing Theory. This supports the argument that as individuals watch television, they use various cognitive schemas to organize the observed phenomena (Lemish, 2007). Lemish (2007) stated,
The relationship between “new” information is combined with the previously held beliefs and in other cases, the schema is modified to accommodate new information. These schemas are formed and modified throughout life; media serves as a likely influence, as the previously held schema “guides interpretation of encounters with … TV characters. (p. 102)
Based on Lemish’s notion, I began uncovering the many themes and intricacies found in characters with disability recurring in two prime-time television shows. Through thorough analysis, I was able to see patterns and relationships emerge. For the purposes of this chapter, I will be analyzing the themes, bullying and stereotyping, as they appear in Breaking Bad and Glee.
A methodological approach that was useful in helping to guide my analysis was bricolage. In his work, The Savage Mind, Claude Lévi-Strauss (1962) defined bricolage as a way to be resourceful with any materials made available. French for the verb, bricoler, “to...
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