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Andrew’s Class Summary: September 22nd, 2010

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Class began with Dr. Foss warning us that even though he may appear incompetent with technology, remember and trust that at least he can still grade papers. While carefully mulling over this assertion (threat), we went on a walkthrough of a new program called Panopto, which involved unicorn magic, twists, turns, mazes and a rant against the administration for taking so long to get him a new laptop, or at least one with the correct number of monitors. Unfortunately, this precise case of the dual monitor mystery plagued the impressive presentation and we were forced, not through desperation, but through sheer ingenuity, into small groups to talk about Charles Dickens’s A Christmas Carol and its importance in disability studies. While Tiny Tim is a hot button topic for many disability theorists, must we really be so hard on Dickens, or can we use his depiction in order to further the conversation in disability studies?

While discussing Dickens’s A Christmas Carol in small group, we relied heavily on Mitchell and Snyder’s “Narrative Prosthesis” essay. We thought that Dickens was very self serving in using Tiny Tim as a walking, talking metaphor to represent disabled persons. Instead of being a true representation of the disabled, Tiny Tim is a representation of how we are supposed to feel in a guilty and charitable way. Bérubé asserts that, Tiny Tim is used as a reference to the other  characters’ “moral standing, offering [them] opportunities to demonstrate whatsoever they might do to the least of their brothers”(570). This helps to distinguish the intentions of the other characters based on how they perceive and treat Tiny Tim, but fails to shed light on the plight of the disabled, and does not depict any serious ways to help improve their conditions in society.

In comparison to Longman’s “The Cultural Framing of Disability: Telethons as a Case Study,” using Tiny Tim as an object of charity undermines his human nature and causes him to a poor representation of disabled persons, much like the children in the telethons who were direct copies of Tiny Tim, frequently shown as the “…perpetual child, sweet, cheerful, and brave,.. the disabled person as object of charity, grateful but hopeless and doomed unless those who are healthy and normal ‘give’; the disabled person as vehicle of others’ redemption…”(505).  In the end, because of these stereotypical traits, we only see that Scrooge is truly a changed man because he takes pity on Tiny Tim and saves his life by buying his family a giant Christmas Turkey, but are given no insight into Tiny Tim’s actual character. As cynical as this seems, our group did end on an optimistic note, while pondering over Garland-Thomson’s idea of depicting Tiny Tim as a naughty,  “normal child,” we thought it better that at least Tiny Tim wasn’t depicted as evil, like with Shakespeare’s Richard III.

Back in large group, Foss relayed the back story of Dickens’s life leading up to the publication of “A Christmas Carol,” and how Dickens lambasted the treatment of the poor and disabled during a lecture tour of America, which you can read about in his travelogue, “American Notes for General Circulation.” The criticism of American institutions lead to a huge loss in appeal and popularity for his works in the Americas. In order to win back his audience, and make up some money for his publisher, Dickens released the sentimental Christmas tale.

We were then asked to consider the work as a study of the urban poor, much like his later work Hard Times. Is A Christmas Carol more of a study of lower class life or of disability and impairment? Obviously, we chose the latter. Unfortunately, the chimes were ringing fifty past two at that moment and we were left with one last question: If the way we perceive the poor in literature is inaccurate, can we or should we change our way of thinking in the ways described and outlined by scholars in disability studies?

Written by aallingh

September 28th, 2010 at 9:14 pm

“The Trouble With Jerry”

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I just finished reading the Telethons article and decided to see if I could find an example of one on youtube.  Instead, I found this video:

[kml_flashembed movie="http://www.youtube.com/v/fKCf1NVk8Lw" width="425" height="350" wmode="transparent" /]

I thought this video was pretty relevant to Longmore’s article since the article discusses the costs of telethons.  Clearly, telethons do provoke upset among those who actually have disabilities.  In the article, columnist Bob Greene is quoted saying Jerry Lewis’ telethons are  “the only way that will work” (504).  I disagree with Greene’s justification of Lewis’ telethons because of the use of the word “only”.  There’s no way that a telethon is the only thing available for raising money and awareness of disability, especially when the results gained don’t necessarily justify the means.

Even though the use of telethons has decreased, this video proves that their effects are long lasting.  The article says that telethons began to decline in the early 1990s, and this video is from 2009.  I also thought that the people in this video were not struggling with “the loss of American identity” (505), an idea about disabled people the telethons promoted.  Both the woman and the man interviewed  in this video are well spoken and know exactly what they believe, leading me to believe that they are pretty comfortable with their identities.

One last thing that bothered me- was it really necessary to zoom the camera in so close to the woman’s face?  It didn’t even show her whole head.  Is that standard when filming someone talking/an interview or does it say something about whoever filmed the video?

Written by Susan

August 29th, 2010 at 6:57 pm

Syrian Soaps and Longmore’s Telethon Dilema (A revised post)

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Hey, y’all! While checking out the BBC News website this afternoon, I came across this video about Syrian soap operasthat are beginning to “confront taboos and spark debate.” Below is the site’s summary of the video.

Ramadan is a time for prayer and reflection but it is also the most popular season to unveil new TV dramas in the Middle East.

Syrian soaps have become popular across the region in recent years due to their realistic plots which have also caused controversy.

Religious leaders in Syria have already called for one soap to be banned this year due to its hard-hitting storyline.

Lina Sinjab reports from Damascus.

Surprisingly, one of the examples of soaps that confront taboos are two soap operas that “talk about people with special needs.” The interviewee adds, “We didn’t talk about that before.” The video isn’t solely concerned with disability topics; however it is interesting to note the context in which disability appears here. A description of the taboos says that  they are “difficult to touch” in a public setting. Other examples of taboos in soaps are gay characters or characters critical of radical Islam.

Thoughts? This reminds me of our readings about the history of disability, specifically Western disability, and how the topic was/is a taboo and was/is associated with other taboos such as sexuality, ideology, or religious dissent.

Also, I’m curious to see if the portrayal of “people with special needs” on these Syrian soap operas is cliche, realistic, or a mixture. Perhaps the answer is obvious; they are, after all, soap operas.

As a psych major with an interest in cross-cultural psych and stigma associated with psychology, this video really gave me a lot to ponder.

Have a great weekend! Guess I just confirmed my nerd status by posting on a Friday afternoon. ; )

**BELOW you’ll find additional thoughts that I had on this topic after reading Longmore’s “The Cultural Framing of Disability: Telethons as a Case Study.” I originally posted this as a comment (also below!)***

…after reading Longmore’s “The Cultural Framing of Disability: Telethons as a Case Study,” I would argue that representations of disability on soap operas are similar to those on telethons.

Specifically, these representations share Garland-Thompson’s sentiments that “…The dominant mode of looking at the disability in this culture is staring” (502). Staring is precisely what people do when watching these representations on television. This staring, as Garland-Thompson theorizes, carries a lot of weight and “constitut[es] the starer as normal and the object of the stare as different, it creates disability as a state of absolute difference, rather than as simply one more variation in human form” (502).

As stated in my original post and as evident in the news clip, the object – disability in our case – created as a state of absolute difference is similar to the other “taboos” mentioned in the video (homosexuality, etc.) Just as Longmore argues in his article, these representations are very problematic because television “seems to posses even more truth-value than photography” (504).

Just as concerning is Longmore’s argument that “live television seems to posses even more truth-value than photography” and that “the seeming veraciousness of television masks the extent to which the makers of live TV manufacture the ‘reality’ of the present” (504).

When soap operas or telethons are some of the only representations of disability in a culture, then there is a risk that the very conveyance of this topic (television media) can skew the reality of disability.

Any ideas for improvements?

Written by Robert

August 27th, 2010 at 4:29 pm