Wednesday, May 18, 2011

"Feeble Monsters: Making Up Disabled People" Excerpts

"Visual Culture: The Reader" (1999) "Feeble Monsters: Making Up Disabled People" by Jessica Evans, Stuart Hall. (pgs. 274 - 288)


"The idea of otherness is complicated, but certain themes are common: the treatment of the other as more like an object, something to be managed and possessed, and as dangerous, wild, threatening. At the same time, the other becomes an entity whose very separateness inspires curiosity, invites inquiring knowledge." - L. Jordanova, Sexual Vision

The focus here is on the failure of the individual to adapt to society as it is, and thus the impairment is regarded as the 'cause' of disability... Studies of the representation of disabled people have shown that disabled people are habitually screened out of television fiction and documentary programmes or else occur in a limited number of roles. It is as if having a physical or mental impairment is the defining feature of a person to such an extent that it makes a character less than a whole character: it subtracts from personhood and undercuts one's status as a bearer of culture.

Charitable giving is both a momentary and psychological transaction, one of social insurance against the prospect of damage to the viewer's own body. Presented, as so often is the case, with an aggressive image of pain or debility, the viewer feels relief (that they are not like that), guilt (for feeling relieved), and hatred (for being made to feel guilt. What I want to argue is that pity and altruism, which is the conscious aspect of reacting to disabled posters, are closely linked to hatred and aggression. Giving to charity is at the same time an act of kindness and an act of rejection, making the giver feel whole an separate; the contradictory values are what makes the treatment of disabled people an arena of conflicting values.

The paradox that the disabled person as 'other' is seen as feeble and fearsome at the same time never becomes clear to the prejudiced person, about the 'other' is something that needs to be confronted... Just as in the archetypal fairy stories, the witchlike qualities that we dread (will they turn us into a toad?) and the helpless, powerless princess/victim, waiting to be rescued, are two sides of the same coin." ... Ian Craib (1994) argues that we need to recognise the social and psychical 'importance of disappointment'. He thinks that our culture is dangerously close to denying the inevitability and necessity of suffering and of messy or 'negative' feelings, as part of normal life."

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