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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 8. (Dis/Dys)abling the Truth: Findings and Implications for Pedagogy


← 112 | 113 →Chapter Eight

(Dis/Dys)abling the Truth: Findings and Implications for Pedagogy

This study was created to bring awareness to an important aspect of critical pedagogy in disability and media studies, acknowledging a void in the “big picture” and working to provoke a conversation. Linton (1998) writes that disability studies is

A location and a means to think critically about disability, a juncture that can serve both academic discourse and social change. Disability studies provides the means to hold academics accountable for the veracity and the social consequences of their work, just as activism has served to hold the community, the education system, and the legislature accountable for disabled people’s compromised social position. (pp. 1–2)

By examining how three selected television programs—Glee, Breaking Bad, and Parenthood—represent youth living with disability in an educational context, this study offers some initial insight into the impact that visual images, television, and popular culture have on our values and thus our everyday lives (Kellner, 1995). In part, the value of this study is its concern with connecting critical questions of justice and disability (e.g., how youth with disability are represented on mainstream ← 113 | 114 →television), the social context (television) that helps produce our attitudes toward youth living with disability, and whether we are or can become critically conscious about the representations of disability that we consume while watching television programs focused on the representations of youth living with disability in an educational...

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