TV Drama Representation Of Disability
TV drama is very stereotypical in its representations of different groups of people. An example of this is disability, there are many stereotypes that are commonly followed within TV drama of disabled people. Although, disability is a rare thing to see in TV drama it does in fact occur and the disability has meaning and impact within the drama. The characters that are disabled are alienated from other characters and the disability is a large part of their storyline therefore ruling out the possible chance that a disabled character could appear 'normal'. A clip I have analysed involves a disabled man, 'Nick', that is represented to conform with stereotypes of disabled people, the use of camera shots, angles, movement, editing, sound and mise en scene all contribute to establishing this character as failing to 'fit in' with 'the norm' of society.
The clip opens with a shallow focus shot of a metal fence, this instantly connotes a feeling of being trapped and mirrors the need for escape. In relation to disability this could infer how a being disabled limits the actions of a character and how it can effect the person mentally as they feel scared and trapped. This interpretation conforms to the stereotype that disabled people are unable to participate in every element of everyday life as there are many obstacles in their way. The fence suggests prison therefore embeds disapproval from the audience and when the disabled character is presented the audience create a perception that this character must be lawless, sinister or evil therefore this representation conforms to stereotypes in society. Alongside this opening shallow focus shot is diegetic sound, voices of men can be heard-accompanied by the image of an out of focus yellow high-vis vest in the background- suggests that they are on a building site. This normal life situation juxtaposes the initial emphasis of being trapped to highlight the way disabled people are alienated in society and stand out among the masses.
A following shot doesn't reveal the visually shocking disability of 'Nick', instead it focuses on capturing his peers reaction by using a close up shot. This highlights the unease with disability in society. Disability is stereotyped as pitiable or pathetic therefore the reaction of his peer reflects that seeing 'Nick' is a chore and his company lacks enjoyment. The clip constructs a representation that disabled people are a burden and don't blend with society with ease. The diegetic sound of mens voices is muted slightly as the editors use sound perspective/aural perspective to emphasise the separation between the two characters, this connotes the divide in society therefore places the character with disability in a lower status than his peer. Also, the clip uses shot-reverse-shot once the disabled characters 'mate' starts a conversation with him, this is used to portray the way his 'mate' acts towards him and reflects that he feels uncomfortable through his avoidance of eye contact. This forms a clear representation that disability is an awkward and slightly taboo situation as many people feel uncomfortable in the presence of a disabled person due to feeling pity but not wanting to patronise.
Cross-cutting editing is shown between 'Nick' leaving the building site and going to help a woman with her shopping bags. This reflects the continuous hard time 'Nick' has in day to day life, it emphasises the stereotype that disabled people are their own worst enemy; 'Nick' gets frustrated when things happen that relate to his disability yet it's his facial disfigurement that is causing the reactions and situations. It is clear that 'Nick' is working class from his clothing and this is reinforced through the scene where he attempts to help a lady with her bags, she lives in a row of council houses and her children are shown with typical 'council estate' haircuts. This portrayal of working class people constructs a representation that disability is of lower status in society. A long shot reveals a street empty of people apart from the woman and her children, the scream she lets out when she seeing his facial disfigurement reflects the representation that a male with a disability is non-sexual. The TV drama is lifelike and the make-up that creates the disability on 'Nick' is very realistic to highlight that this is the way disabled people are treated. A hand held camera is used to produce a naturalistic effect, it can also reflect 'Nick's' anger at the way others treat him and act around him, this supports the stereotype that disabled characters are aggressive and violent furthermore they lack trust and are objectified to be an element of curiosity. This scene closes with non-diegetic sound, music of drums builds up and a sound bridge continues the intense music onto the next scene for a sense of continuity.
A shallow focus mid shot is used to show 'Nick' walking down a crowded street. This is followed by a series of short mid shots that contain strangers in the crowd looking at him. Paired with these shots is synchronous sound- intense music of drums(non-diegetic sound) over fast paced editing shots of a busy crowd and 'Nick' walking rapidly- to build tension and suspense within the clip. This sudden change of atmosphere, created by the music, forms a representation that disabled people are unpredictable, aggressive and not very friendly or approachable. The mid-shots of strangers create a connotation that disabled people are an object of curiosity and interest therefore the representation made within this TV drama conform to stereotypes of disability.
The final scene within the clip I've analysed features 'Nick' and 'the sergeant' in an open office environment. There is a long shot that effectively grabs the main focus to notice the army painting directly above the main characters head, this connotes that Nicks injury was caused in the army. Also, within this scene there is only diegetic sound of the two characters talking, the flow of conversation is not interrupted to suggest that the struggles and pain 'Nick' feels about his disability cannot easily be helped. Shot-reverse-shot shows how 'the sergeant' doesn't look very sympathetic towards 'Nick' but more burdened by him. This supports stereotypes of disability in society. The use of diegetic sound, the footsteps, in this scene creates normality therefore builds upon the idea of alienation and difficulty of fitting in for a disabled person. Although, the clip is solid in conforming to stereotypes of disability there is a side profile shot that challenges the expected representation. The side profile shot of 'Nick' hides his disability and deceives the camera to see a 'normal' person. However, this contrasts with the close up used to highlight the characters anger and reinforce the representation that he is his own worse enemy.
The clip shows a strong negative representation of disability that conforms to stereotypes of disabled people, for example; pitiable, pathetic, a burden and unable to easily participate in everyday life. This extract constructs a representation of disability through a variety of shots to build a general atmosphere and reaction to the disabled character. It is also prominent to the audience that the character is very unhappy with his situation, this is shown through the music and range of shots to show the characters emotions. The media hugely exploits stereotypes because the audience feel familiar with these representations, therefore a disabled character that conforms to stereotypes is more widely accepted and understood by the audience.