and reflect on the readings and film issues. Consider these questions
and post your responses in the discussion forum.
- The films include creative expressions of artists working with
constrained conditions of ability. Consider the truth and humanity
expressed in the artists’ work.
- Does Zhang and Haller’s study of disabled audience response to media
characters with disability teach us anything important about our own
- Consider Shelly Berry’s short films. What are the values of artistic
expression from and for people with disability as well as able body
Consuming Image Reading Notes
Read Consuming Image, available in eReserves.
The authors conducted study of audience effects for people with
disability from media that represents people with disability and found
“Perceived positive media representation of people with disabilities led
to affirmation of their disability identity even when the media
messages were perceived as unrealistic, whereas negative media
representation led to denial of their disability identity.” According to
the U.S. Census Bureau, about 50 million Americans have a disability,
and about two-thirds of these individuals have a severe disability (U.S.
Department of Labor, 2012). Today, people with disabilities still face
many architectural, occupational, educational, and communication
barriers in the United States.” (319)
The 2011 US labor force was 17.8% people with disabilities, but their
unemployment rate was 15% compared to 8.7% for able body people. (319)
“In addition to evaluating media representation of disability issues
and the disability community, the study also investigates how media
exposure and the way people with disabilities process media messages
impact their disability identities.” (320)
The literature review examines scholarship on these topics.
- Media representations of people with disabilities
- Social cognitive theory and its relevance
- Perceived valence
- Perceived realism of representations. (323)
Zhang and Haller propose four hypotheses.
- H1: The more attention people with disabilities pay to mass media
for information about disability issues, the more likely they think
media frame people with disabilities as special or superhuman (the
- H2: The more attention people with disabilities pay to mass media
for information about disability issues, the more likely they think
media frame disability as illness (the medical model).
- H3: The more attention people with disabilities pay to mass media
for information about disability issues, the more likely they would
think media frame people with disabilities as disadvantaged and in need
of social or economic support (the social pathology model).
- H4: The self-identity of people with disabilities will depend on
(a) the valence of portrayals of people with disabilities in the media
to which they have been exposed and (b) the extent to which they
consider these portrayals to be believable and realistic. (324)
Discussion of Results
Consistent with the results from previous content analysis studies
(Clogston, 1990, Haller 1995), people with disabilities believed that
mass media, in general, frame people with disabilities as supercrips,
disadvantaged, or ill victims. Among these three dominant media
representations, most of them are stigmatizing, except the supercrip
model. These negative media representations reinforce the necessity for
disability activists to openly discuss the disabling environment created
by mass media and engage in an effort to promote changes in the social
discourse about disability portrayals because media have the power to
shape what public knows about disability. (329)
Zhang and Haller say their “study demonstrates that portraying people
with disabilities as supercrips gives positive feedback to people with
disabilities and affects their self-identity positively. Specifically,
people with disabilities are more likely to develop positive and
confident self-identity when exposed to media stories about the
accomplishments of individuals with disabilities. This finding is
consistent with SCT that perceived reward related to the observed
behaviors can increase self-esteem” (Bandura, 2001).
Being aware of the fact that ingroup members have accomplished great
achievements as implied by the supercrip model, people with disabilities
can relate to the media messages and take comfort and feel hope from
the fact that supercrips succeed in spite of a disability and,
therefore, maintain a sanguine self-identity. It is interesting to note
that such positive effects still take place even when people with
disabilities perceive supercrip portrayals as unrealistic. (330)
When mass media frame people with disabilities simply as sickly and
helpless victims, people with disabilities are primed with stigmatized
aspects of being disabled, and feel that a disabled person’s life is
inferior to, and less precious than, an able-bodied person’s life and
hence hold low self-esteem about their self-identity. These findings
suggest that the valence of media portrayals of people with disabilities
can impact the identity of disability community. Positive coverage,
such as the supercrip stones of achievement, helps people with
disabilities take a balanced approach toward their identity, whereas
negative coverage makes them not able to envision themselves properly.
This indicates that mass media indeed can influence who we are and what
we do. These findings are important for news media professionals to
understand that how they report a specific group of people has such
profound impacts on that group. (330)
The article closes with a quote from Michael Berube (1997) of PSU, who states,
In the broadest possible sense, it affects
our understanding of what it means to be human; in more practical
terms, it affects public policy, the allocation of social resources, and
the meaning of civil rights. Every representation of disability has the
potential to shape the way disability is understood in the general
culture, and some of those representations can in fact do
extraordinarily powerful, or harmful, cultural and political work.
Zhang, L., & Haller, B. (2013). Consuming image: How mass media impact the identity of people with disabilities. Communication Quarterly, 61(3), 319–334.
Supercrips Versus The Pitiful Handicapped Reading Notes
Read Supercrips Versus the Pitiful Handicapped, available in eReserves.
This is a study of thirty Israeli describing their most memorable
mediated images of disability. Two stereotypes are identified and
discussed, the supercrip and the pitiful disabled. Examines how
“individuals construct their identities within the social matrix are
relevant to their patterns of sense making of symbolic reality.”
Kama, A. (2004) Supercrips versus the pitiful handicapped: Reception of disabling images by disabled audience members.The European Journal of Communication Research Communications, 29, 447-466.
Whole: A Trinity of Being Film Notes
Watch Whole: A Trinity of Being (6 minutes).
Opens in silence – do not adjust your volume.
Barry, S. (Director) (2004). Whole: A trinity of being. [Motion picture]. South Africa. 15 minutes
Artistic Horizons: Exploring the Arts Film Notes
Watch Artistic Horizons: Exploring the Arts (30 minutes).
Time: 00:30:13 Artistic Horizons Video Transcript
Rivera, M. (Producer), & Mallory, J. (Director). (2009). Artistic horizons: Exploring the arts. [Motion picture]. US: Brainbones, Inc.
Art in the Eye of a Needle Film
Watch Art in the Eye of a Needle (2 minutes).
Time: 00:02:38 Art in the Eye of a Needle Video Transcript
Art in the eye of a needle. Retrieved from http://www.maniacworld.com/art-in-the-eye-of-a-needle.html