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CLASS ESSAY – DISABLED REPRESENTATION IN CASUALTY (BBC 1)
Disabled people are one of the most underrepresented groups on British TV, therefore for many media commentators it is a sign of progress when mainstream TV dramas such as Casualty feature them as central characters. However, when disabled people are featured, often lazy stereotypes are utilised which can have a very negative effect upon the audience.
In the sequence, the main focus is on Alex, who is in a wheelchair who is shopping with his brother. The mise en scene establishes Alex as a middle class man; his well-spoken voice, use of standard English and clean and neat appearance and brother who is a doctor all serve as cultural codes for the audience.
Initially, the sequence is a slightly alternative representation of a disabled man because he is represented as an unlikable character because he is often rude to the shopkeeper and his brother. When asked by the shop assistant if he would “like to try one on”, the camera abruptly cuts to a high angled close up of him which highlights how weak, angry and upset he is particularly when he criticism his brother in a very blunt fashion. Moreover, the low angle over the shoulder shot which focuses on the shop assistant highlight her dislike of Alex. However, because he is disabled, the other characters don’t admonish him; this therefore conforms to the stereotype of disabled people as victims and as a special case. Cutaways clearly indicate his brother’s hurt and disappointment and these anchor the preferred reading that Alex is unfair to his brother and that the audience should feel sympathy for him.
It could be also argued that Alex is demonised because he is stereotypically represented as a burden and someone who always needs help. In particular, the brother helps him empty his urine catheter which is made more unpleasant because the director chooses a close up (that lasts quite a long time) and prominent diegetic liquid sounds to demonstrate the yellow liquid being released into the toilet. The sequence has high levels of verisimilitude and it appears that the director chose to encourage the audience to be shocked and saddened by the life of Alex. This is very much in line with Paul Hunt’s research in 1991 which found that disabled people were not represented as normal, instead they were portrayed constantly with the medical model whereby the representation is always centred on the disability. This sequence also serves to represent the able bodied brother as somewhat of a saint because he helps his brother despite his rudeness and lack of gratitude.
Yet, the representation does change and the ideology of the final scene encourages audiences to see beyond Alex’s disability and understand that he is an intelligent and commanding man. Alex is shot from a low angle and takes control of the emergency situation. A medium close up of Alex helps focus the audience on what he is saying on the phone and to a bystander – he speaks clearly and issues instructions. A cutaway to his brother demonstrates his pride in seeing his brother triumph over adversity. The shots in this sequence are edited to last only a short period which accents the drama and excitement for the audience. It offers a real feel good factor because the two brothers are working together and Alex’s disability is not important when he is faced with a difficult situation.
To conclude, the extract represents disability in a safe and inoffensive manner. It perhaps does so because it is scheduled on BBC1 which has to adhere to the Royal Charter which stipulates that the institution should educate, inform and entertain a diverse audience. The representation of Alex is initially negative but becomes very positive by the end, thus it is quite a well-rounded representation and Alex is neither idealised nor demonised. For the target audience of Casualty, the representation will do little to challenge stereotypes but at least the final preferred reading is that disabled people are not entirely useless like many representations suggest.
Thanks to Dave Buckett from Y12, who found this revision booklet and thanks to whoever made it!:
Here is the first mock paper. Please complete it for homework under timed conditions: 90 minutes for TV drama (45 minutes to write) and 45 minutes for audiences and institutions.
Answer the question below, with detailed reference to specific examplesfrom the extract only.
Extract: Primeval Series 2 Episode 3, written by Richard Kurti and Bev Doyle, dir. Jamie Payne
The representation of gender in the clip given conveys interesting and thought provoking ideas and contrasts between characters.
The young women called Abbey, her character steers away from the stereotypical image of women, young women, she is portrayed as a strong and feisty female, √ this is evident in the shots where she is operating a mechanical machine, √ with much skill and efficiency also. A wide shot √ is used when we first see her √ to establish the scene and location (the woods and forest). √ The close ups also of the end of the digger fortifies the fact that Abbey is experienced in using such a machine √again reinforcing her non stereotypical√portrayal, she is given the impression of a tomboy. The mis-en-scene used also fortifies this point, she has a short almost boyish hair cut√ and wears a leather jacket √that makes us think of a character like Steve McQueen or perhaps “Greece”, √ mainly male, strong willed characters. √
The fact that she also fights the Sabre-toothed Creature, saving the man’s life shows her tenacity. The shot that this portrayed through is a continuity edit. Also the wide shot √of her running after the man being chased reinstates this point again, √ as the man, who stereotypically is supposed to be strong and courageous√ is in fact running and being chased, this is a contrast to the women who is running through the forest with a gun to help him for a second time! √The dark shape of the gun in her hands, reiterates, power, as a gun, is in this extract, power. √
The gentleman who is in a sky blue t-shirt is portrayed as more of an intelligent man, √brain rather then brawn. √When the sabre-tooth attacks there is a close-up √of him in the hole cowering, √this goes against the usual stereotypes of a man, a contrast between him and Abbey. Despite his cowering √he does show an instance of courageousness, √when he lures away the creature from Abbey. Despite this brave act he √still is running away from the sabre tooth tiger, √ a continuity edit is present when he is running and also when he uses the zip wire, √ close ups√ show fear and exhaustion on his face. The fact that he also uses his belt on the zip wire again shows his brains over brawn. √ The mise-en-scene of his clothes convey a more stereotypical view of the man, they are neutral and earthy colours and are dirty and strained, √ this helps paint more of a picture of a mans man, or someone who is not afraid of getting their hands dirty. √
The non-diegetic sound of the ambient sound-track helps √convey the tension and fear and also helps make the pace of the action a whole lot faster, especially in the chase scene, a combination of this music √and also the fast pace of the editing √raises the tempo and tension. The blurring and wipes Xbetween each edit gives the action the impression that it is too fast to see and fortifies √the fact that the creature is very fast. The music becomes slower, but is ramped up with tension as (sounds?) drove on through the scene with the man with the shotgun, creating a sense of dread and anticipation! √This along with the wide shot and the man’s face, riddled with anger and malice, conveys a tension filled shot. √
The man who is wearing pink attire is portrayed as more of a pretty boy, √lover not a fighter, √the pink colour is more common to girls, women therefore gives him an air of effeminacy. √The rest of the cast wear mainly earthy colours or smart suits etc, whereas he wears feminine colours turning the stereotypical image of a man on its head. The fact that he also doesn’t have a gun √and instead, quite comically pulls a spade out, √whereas the other two people in the shot √both have guns, one a man and the other a women, this gives the impression that the women is almost more reliable than the man wearing pink.
The wide shot √showing the tree in the barn gives a very theatrical feel to it, almost tries to emulate√ a sense of bravado and coolness that other films use e.g. the opening shot of Reservoir Dogs. √Also the fact that there are three of them may portray symbolic qualities, like the three musketeers etc. √
The lady who is talking to the gentleman who breeds dogs is portrayed as a pristine, more of a stereotypical view of a lady. √This is conveyed through the sequence “My Best Coat”! √This provides a clear √insight into her personality. She is strong √whilst using words but when the man pulls out a gun a close up reveals her √devastation and fear. Even the colour of the ladies “Best Coat” is white, √which provides the thought of purity and pristine.
The over the shoulder shot and the cross cut editing √reveals the rising anger of the gentleman breeding the dogs. √He is weak when the pristine √women threatens him but has much more power when he picks up the gun. The line “won’t be pushed around anymore” indicates his explosion of anger. The diegetic √noise of the barking dogs also convey a sense of threat and hysteria. This shot conveys √the power of a weapon and also the power of words and how gender can be powerful. √
This extract turns a lot of ideas mostly stereotypical views of gender on its head, which therefore gives the viewer an interesting watch. √
|Use of examples||20||17|
|Use of terminology||10||7|
Mad Men is a TV drama set in the patriarchal world of the American industry. In class we are going to analyse a number of clips found on this website:
Also, here is the sequence you need analyse for your next h/w:
The format of the paper is always the same (see below), the only difference is that the representational group and TV drama will change. It is usually expected that you will spend 30 minutes watching and making notes and then 30-45 minutes writing your answer which leaves 45-60 minutes for the audience and institutions question. Personally, I would aim for 40 minutes writing the representation answer which leaves you 50 minutes for the audiences and institutions question.
Section A: Textual Analysis and Representation (Unseen moving image extract)
• You will be allowed two minutes to read the question for Section A before the extract is screened.
• The extract will be screened four times.
• First screening: watch the extract; no notes are to be made this time.
• Second screening: watch the extract and make notes. • There will be a brief break for note-making.
• Third and fourth screening: watch the extract and make notes.
• Your notes for Section A are to be written in the answer booklet provided and must be handed in at the end of the examination. Rule a diagonal line through your notes afterwards. Extract: The Killing Episode 1, Series 1 Extract length: 5 minutes max.
Timing of extract: First 5 minutes of Episode 1. Answer the question below, with detailed reference to specific examples from the extract only.
1 Discuss the ways in which the extract constructs representations of gender using the following: • Camera shots, angles, movement and composition • Editing • Sound • Mise-en-scene