Dancing with Myself: Representations of Disability within Glee

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Levins, Lauren Ann
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Middle Tennessee State University
Media have potential to alter people's perceptions towards unfamiliar subjects (Davis, 2006). In the case of disability, danger can occur when representations are inaccurate. Previous research on portrayals of disabilities found a lack of representation and negative depictions overall. This study looked at the first three seasons of the television show Glee. Textual analysis was applied using Hall's Encoding/Decoding, Dyer's stereotyping, social construction theory, and a developed list of stereotypes. This study attempted to answer how people with disabilities were constructed and the perpetuation or challenging of stereotypes on Glee. Resulting topics involved storylines used to depict disabilities, interactions, and disability and agency. Stereotypes were found, but serious topics were also discussed. Implications involve the importance of accurate portrayals, the possibility to learn about disabilities, and the risks of self-stigmatization and negative treatment of disabilities. Further analysis of Glee seasons and comparisons of Glee's depictions to other shows were suggested.
Disability, Glee, Media, Stereotypes, Television