Report: Characters With Disabilities ‘Marginalized’ In Kids’ TV, Movies
Characters with disabilities are largely missing from children’s television and film and when they are shown, they’re routinely portrayed as helpless, a new report finds.
Fewer than 1 percent of leading characters on kids’ television shows last year had disabilities. By contrast, 8.1 percent of prominent characters in family-friendly films had disabilities — the highest percentage in a decade — though this proportion still falls far short of reflecting real life.
The findings come from a recent report from the Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media at Mount Saint Mary’s University looking at representations of race, gender, sexuality and disability on TV and in films that were released in 2018. The analysis titled “See Jane 2019” factored the 25 top Nielsen-rated television programs watched by kids ages 2-13 as well as the 100 most popular films with G, PG and PG-13 ratings and the 100 most popular films overall.
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Even when characters with disabilities did appear, the report found that they were frequently shown in stereotypical ways. About 5 percent of characters with disabilities in children’s films were deemed to fit the “super crip” stereotype because they are seen overcoming a hardship or impairment despite adversity.
“This stereotype makes non-disabled viewers feel inspired without interrogating or making changes to the way society treats people with disabilities,” the report indicates.
A third of characters with disabilities in children’s films died and more than 37 percent were rescued in some fashion, according to the analysis. Meanwhile, the 6.1 percent of leading characters in popular films who had disabilities were more likely to be shown as violent.
“The bottom line is that despite the progress we are seeing, people of color, LGBTQ+ individuals and people with disabilities are still marginalized across (kids’) content,” said Madeline Di Nonno, CEO of the Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media. “Content creators can improve onscreen representations overnight by making sure that the worlds they are creating look like the real world in terms of whose stories are told, and by presenting marginalized characters in ways that allow them to be fully human.”