Discussing disability issues in your next research paper

Adapted from the bestseller, Me Before You by Jojo Moyes, the movie of the same name has drawn much criticism from film critics and the disabled community alike. All agree that Emilia Clarke scores a quirky and stunning performance, but critics bemoan an overly romantic and maudlin storyline.

Learn more about disability issues here. (Credit: Warner Bros)

Learn more about disability issues here. (Credit: Warner Bros)

The disabled community find fault with the portrayal of a quadriplegic man who wishes to end his life by assisted suicide. An examination of how the disabled are portrayed by the media could be the focus of your next research paper.

Media portrayals or stereotypes?

Most people form their opinion about the disabled from what they’ve seen on television or in films. But these portrayals are typically very different from the truth of the matter. They don’t show how a disabled person thinks or acts but rather how the writer and director believe they act.

Jack A. Nelson and a series of experts in communication and the disabled offered an easy-to-read overview of key issues, continuing problems, new opportunities, and new technological tools. In his book, The Disabled, the Media, and the Information Age, Nelson offered results and analysis of a short study using illustrations, descriptions, and lists of organizations to create a handy reference.

According to Nelson, “These people are often portrayed as evil, or as pitiable victims doomed to an unsatisfying life, or in an array of other roles that in the main tend to strengthen prejudices, fear, and loathing among audiences. In a time when powerful media influences are molding society’s attitudes and bringing about social change, it is important to understand more about the role of media portrayals of this group that has been called the ‘invisible minority.’”

Nelson’s book and thousands more are available at Questia, the Internet’s largest online library of books, articles, journals, newspapers, and encyclopedias. But what you’ll also find are tools to help you research, write and cite your research papers.

Issues with Me Before You

In a June 6, 2016, article for Jezebel.com, “Me Before You Critics Take Issue With the Movie’s Ending, Depiction of Disabled People,” Clover Hope presented reaction from the disabled community in Hollywood.

Director Jenni Gold, who is in a wheelchair due to muscular dystrophy, stated, “Why always show disability as the worst thing?” Actor Zack Weinstein, wheelchair-bound due to a spinal cord injury, called the plot, “emotionally manipulative.”

“What rubs me the wrong way as an actor and as somebody with a disability living in the real world is not that this story is being told. It’s that so frequently this is the only story of disability that is told,” Weinstein added.

To judge for yourself how the movie portrays a disabled man, check out the film trailers.

Learn more about disability issues

Disability.gov has links to information on topics related to disability rights and history. Topics include:

  • Disability history timeline
  • Society for Disability Studies
  • Assistive technology timeline

To get a personal perspective, check out Voices Beyond the Mirror, a collection of videos from the Georgia Council on Developmental Disabilities. Through these videos, people with disabilities tell their personal stories and reflect on how the disability rights movement changed their lives.

Dating and disability

To see a personal perspective on dating and relationships from a person living with a disability, refer to Jon Bateman’s May 28, 2012, article for DisabilityHorizons.com, “Disability and relationships: my changing perspective.”

A freelance writer living in Calgary, Alberta, Canada, Bateman was born with spina bifida. He often writes about his experiences and views on disability and relationships.

Readers will find Bateman’s candor enlightening. He explained that falling in love often involves falling for an illusion of the perfect lover that eventually disappoints. As a man with an obvious disability, he did not fulfill the image of a perfect boyfriend or lover, but there were advantages.

“I realized how shallow, insecure, and vain some of the most physically attractive people could be, and I found myself more drawn to women who had strong opinions, values, and a sense of self-confidence,” Bateman said. “I realised more about what was most important for me and soon I knew the inner qualities I valued most.”

Learn more about issues relevant to people with physical disabilities at Questia.

Do you have personal experience with disabilities? Tell us your impression of the disabled in film in the comments.

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