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Representing Youth with Disability on Television

Glee, Breaking Bad, and Parenthood


Dana Hasson

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.
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Chapter 4. Youth Is Wasted on the Young and Other Myths About Popular Culture


← 58 | 59 →Chapter Four

Youth Is Wasted on the Young and Other Myths About Popular Culture

Today’s consumers are watching more TV than ever, which makes understanding what and how they are watching an essential part of any marketing campaign. (Nielsen Media Research, 2012)

Television differs from all other media preceding it in that it reaches children at a much earlier age and with greater intensity. This enhanced potential for influencing the intellectual and emotional development of young viewers is simultaneously the greatest promise and greatest disappointment of television (Berry & Asamen, 1993).

The debate has been ongoing regarding the importance of including media as a tool for teaching in our schools. That said, notions about how to properly use media are loaded with misconceptions and false perceptions. Our understanding of media and its implications and uses for education has grown significantly over the last decade. This new awareness has been informed by critical theorists such as Steinberg (2011), Kellner and Share (2007), and Kincheloe (2005b), who looked at how education has evolved into a more technological and popular culture–based discourse. They compared and contrasted past approaches to education and schooling and found an ← 59 | 60 →undeniable need for a media-based curriculum to help establish critical thinking and opportunities for success in the workplace. For example, Kincheloe (2005b) argued that information is dispersed from corporate-dominated producers to those who are non-privileged or considered to be a minority or disenfranchised. Kincheloe argued,...

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