Disability fictions: The production of gendered impairments and disability in soap opera discourses

Research output: Other contribution


Questions of the cultural citizenship and recognition of disabled people lie at the heart of this thesis. Investigating the specific genre of the soap opera, it is proposed that such mainstream media portrayals have a significant role to play in the perpetuation of disabling prejudices and associated discrimination. Hence, this thesis has built upon and developed previous disability studies work on representation by investigating questions of audience interpretation and interaction. Addressing issues of identity and agency in a more ethnographic manner, concepts of normality, difference and gender have been placed close to the centre of analysis. It is proposed that investigations of psycho-emotional attachments, examined across a range of social contexts, have a central role to play in audience reception analysis. I contend that gender plays a pivotal role in viewing engagements, not only in the gendered structuring of the text, but also in the engagements that viewers seek and make with media genres. Consequently, undertaking an intertextual synthesis of narrative analysis and audience research, (as multi-voiced , socially situated phenomena) the thesis makes a significant contribution towards understandings of the processes and negotiations of meaning-making. Importantly, combining audience and textual analyses has demonstrated that few viewers experience pleasure in viewing images of impairment and disability, suggesting the need to address significant narrative inequalities as a crucial factor in representational change. Furthermore, forms of narrative structure and archetypal portrayals of disabled men are found to be particularly exploitative, upholding hegemonic ideals of gender and (non-disabled) normality, providing unpleasant viewing experiences for the disabled men in this project. Overall, it is proposed that impairment and disability portrayals should be more fluid, and the interactions between viewers and media texts, need to be understood as dynamic and complex, particularly if representations are to become more progressive. This necessitates placing gender at the centre of representational concerns. It also demands greater consideration to be given to the narrative conventions of media forms and the deconstruction of normality discourses, taking the discursive resources of their audiences into account. Overall, this thesis makes a new contribution to academic debates in disability studies, gender studies and media studies, synthesising concerns which have direct relevance to questions of audience and issues of inclusion within the broadcasting industry
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusUnpublished - 22 Jun 2004

Equality, Diversity and Inclusion keywords

  • Gender Equality
  • Disability Equality

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