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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 9. Series Finale: Changing Attitudes and Perceptions Through the Media


← 126 | 127 →Chapter Nine

Series Finale: Changing Attitudes and Perceptions Through the Media

According to Riley II (2005),

The portrayal of disability culture is the crucial barometer of much-needed social pressure to recognize that people with disabilities are no longer children in need of handouts. Equality in this case arises from a little less “special” treatment of heroic awe—which further estranges the person with a disability from others—and a little more straightforward marketing. (p. 19)

The significance of a statement like the one above reflects the importance of this study as the movement toward CDSE continues to grow and shape the way individuals approach disability as a social construct. As I conclude this theoretical analysis of how disability is represented on mainstream television, I (1) summarize the previous chapters, (2) emphasize areas of optimism in education and pedagogical studies that support the inclusion of differences, (3) speculate about future research, and (4) reaffirm the purpose of the book.

← 127 | 128 →Summary of Chapters

My study started with an overarching research question/statement regarding the portrayal of youth with disability on television: Although historically television drama and situation comedies produced in the United States often have failed to acknowledge the complexity of the lives of individuals living with disability, over the last decade, some contemporary U.S. television programs such as Glee, Breaking Bad, and Parenthood have created more positive and nuanced representations of characters with both physical and...

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