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'The media love the artificial versions of what’s going on': media (mis)representations of Down’s syndrome

Thomas, Gareth M. ORCID: 2021. 'The media love the artificial versions of what’s going on': media (mis)representations of Down’s syndrome. British Journal of Sociology 72 (3) , pp. 693-706. 10.1111/1468-4446.12807

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Whilst disability has historically been depicted in problematic ways in TV/film and print media, more balanced and progressive cultural representations are arguably emerging. However, few studies address how disabled people and their families (e.g. parents) encounter, and make sense of, media configurations ostensibly designed to promote a more positive and visible image of living with disability. Drawing upon interviews with parents of children with Down’s syndrome in the UK, I sketch out how they feel about depictions that, arguably, depart from hurtful historical narratives of disability as tragic and pitiable. Parents praise, and mostly embrace, recent portrayals of people with Down’s syndrome in media outputs. At the same time, they raise concerns around tokenism, stereotyping, focusing upon ‘exceptional’ people, and fuelling sanitised accounts which deny, or at least obscure, the harsh lived realities for many parents of disabled children. I conclude by arguing that whilst parents largely applaud and welcome positive public narratives, they also fear that such representations threaten to gloss over the pervasive mistreatment, disregard, and disenfranchisement of disabled people and their families.

Item Type: Article
Date Type: Publication
Status: Published
Schools: Social Sciences (Includes Criminology and Education)
Subjects: H Social Sciences > H Social Sciences (General)
H Social Sciences > HM Sociology
Publisher: Wiley
ISSN: 0007-1315
Funders: The Sociological Review
Date of First Compliant Deposit: 8 December 2020
Date of Acceptance: 8 December 2020
Last Modified: 06 Nov 2023 15:11

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