Representing Disability in British Television

How are images of the disabled, race and class produced and consumed? Include references. 

Throughout the history of television and film disability has hardly ever been represented accurately in the media, within Hollywood disabilities can be glamorised in order to gain more views and have a gripping storyline. However, because of this the imagery painted about mental and physical disabilities creates a false stigma around it. In my blog post, I am going to talk about two contrasting television shows where mental illness is represented Skins and My Mad Fat Diary. Both shows were aired on E4 and were a huge part of my generation’s culture and have very large influences over my generation and have the same target audience.

Growing up in my generation one of the must-see television shows Skins centred around a group of delinquent teenagers using substance abuse to run away from their problems instead of facing them. The show is a major culprit for glamorising mental illness and representing it in a poisonous way to its impressionable target audience of 16-20-year-olds. In the second generation of the programme, the character Effy played by Kaya Scodelario gets self-diagnosed with psychotic depression by her boyfriend. The character is portrayed as a self-destructive loose cannon she treats people horrendously with no remorse for her actions, blaming them on her mental illness. Effy’s character is built to revolve around her mental illness, being shown as damaged and mysterious, not as an actual person who happens to have a disability.

After the show aired the episode where Effy tried to commit suicide and ended up institutionalised people praised the programme for being brave and talking about the taboo subject of mental illness, however, they only made the problem worse by having a mental illness look cool and aloof and make you more interesting. The writers created a toxic relationship between the audience and mental illness because the audience is being fed the hyper glamorised version instead of an accurate one. But after E4 received a lot of praise for airing a programme with a character with mental illness they went in a better direction in terms of representing disability and released the show My Mad Fat Diary. The show centres around Rae played by Sharon Rooney who was institutionalised as a teenager when her mental illness and eating disorder got too much for her to handle on her own.

The show My Mad Fat Diary centres around Rae played by Sharon Rooney, who was institutionalised as a teenager when her mental illness and eating disorder got too much for her to handle on her own. The show follows her rehabilitation into the world, her friends and her family. Free from a lot of the cliques found in many of these types of programmes the writers approach the story line with humour and sensitivity which work in harmony with each other. Rae is a girl who suffers from obesity and mental illness, but she doesn’t want pity off of others she wants to be the best version of herself and has so much love to give to everyone. It’s one of the best non-toxic depictions of a girl suffering from mental health making Rae a role model for a teenager and young adults in the UK.

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Media Analysis (Part II)

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When breaking down this image I decided to first start out, by annotating the film poster and breaking each section down to gain a clear understanding of the piece. Overall the poster shows an image of a woman who appears to be a broken shell with no substance within the figure itself, because of the lack of gory and bloody details I can infer that the movie itself was going to be a thriller-horror and not a gruesome horror film; this argument can also be supported by the cloudy black shadows surrounding the figure adding to the eerie atmosphere and adding a sense of mystery to the image itself.

The mise en scene of this image was successful because the dark and eerie atmosphere of the film poster shows the reader that the movie is going to be one of mystery. The film poster has been saturated giving the poster an eerie atmosphere. The darkness surrounding the poster suggests loneliness and is relevant to the title. The contrast between the dark colours uses juxtaposition because the dark black at the very bottom of the poster signifies death however the white above can signify innocence, purity and life.

The main focus of the poster is the single female character in the very middle of the poster; this could show the reader that she is the main character of the film. The woman’s face is crack like a porcelain doll, the edges are jiggered and random, and this could show that the woman is in distress. The fact that it is empty inside could connote that she herself is empty and missing, searching for something. The expression on the woman’s face is one of fear and confusion however she is still an image of beauty with porcelain skin, plump red lips and sky blue eyes. This perfection seems like a curse because like a porcelain doll she is empty and fragile so easily broken.

‘Face your fear’ is a play on words, as the main focus of the poster is a singular broken face. This could also give the viewers a glimpse of her fear. The empty space within her broken face could imply that she is afraid of feeling empty and alone. The title the ‘The Broken is a standalone title. It is then supported by the broken face taking centre stage of the poster. The definition of being of being broken as a person is giving up all hope, it’s about someone being defeated, beaten, overpowered and overwhelmed. These two words sum up the movie either being about the path to becoming broken or the showing of a broken person breaking more.

Media Analysis

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The image above is a book cover for H.G Wells ‘The War Of The Worlds’. The components to the image that make up the book cover give a clear understanding to the reader of what is going to happen in the story. There are three colours to the cover itself, red, black and white, the use of these colours gives the image and eerie atmosphere. The use of red in the image is striking and pulls in the eye, having the sky as a blood red colour could infer many different things, in relevance to the story itself it signifies that doomsday is coming, with death, war and destruction following in its footstep. The use of the black silhouette of the skyline can connote the barren land that will be left behind after a culling. The use of the white can show that there is still hope and that at the end the problem will be resolved.

In the middle of the cover you can see a machine, it’s shaped like a typical UFO indicating to the reader that this is a science fiction novel. You can tell it the book will be about aliens because of the single light hitting the three figures coming from the vessel, this is very cliche of alien invasion where a single beam of light hits its prey and  pulls them up into the space craft. The way the alien vessel looms over the city silhouette with its mechanical arms outstretched, this shows that the book will be about an alien invasion, with the position of the alien above everyone and everything else this can show that the aliens have the most power and on the winning side.

The focal point of the cover is the figures that the spotlight is shining on. There are there figures standing under the light. Two male and one female, the girl is harder to spot because she standing closer to the tall man maybe because she wants to hide from the alien or standing close for support because he’s scared, you can see that these figures are probably a family. Because the spotlight is shone on this family the reader can infer that this is the family we will follow in the story. Because they are plain silhouette this suggests that the story is following a simple everyday family in a big situation.

The layout of the cover isn’t very busy with too much going on, it is very minimal with a lot of space meaning the imagery that is used is very striking but still basic. The title of the book almost jumps of the page, the contrast between the white font and the red background draws the eye to the title at the top of the page, the title and name of the author is also in capital letters showing the importance of the title. ‘The War Of The Worlds’ the title explains the whole plot itself it’s the war between humanity and the alien invaders from another planet.