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    Physical Disability in Movies and the Media: Prejudices, Patterns and Changing Perceptions


    10/5/19 | 4:30 PM – 5:45 PM time


    Tina Hittenberger, C.O. (E), Drew Hittenberger and Associates (Petaluma, CA, USA), American Board for Certification (Alexandria, VA, USA)

    Lauren Selman, Producer and Activist (Hollywood, CA, USA)

    Session format
    Room 3B, Exhibition Hall 2
    Developing Countries / Education
    Target audience
    Congress registrants only
    Session Chair

    Tina Hittenberger



    Using archival footage and resources from the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences, this narrated anthology will survey the history of physical disabilities in movies, illuminating how filmmakers have approached disabilities.

    All over the world, people attend movies for entertainment, education and insights into lives other than their own. Using the basic tools of their trade - framing, editing, sound, lighting, set design - filmmakers create powerful experiences that mold perceptions, reinforce stereotypes and create fantasies. Actors, telling stories of people with disabilities, evoke powerful emotions of sympathy, fear, contempt or admiration - but they always remain outside mainstream society.

    Prior to the 1960’s, being disabled almost always assured social, education and occupational discrimination. Moviemakers’ tendency to isolate disabled characters in realistic stories was consistent with the way mainstream society treated its disabled population. However, within the last fifty years, comics, sophisticated cartoons and animation have given rise to SUPERHEROES. In a new bionic world of mechically-enhanced demigods, physical disabilities are transformed into super-powers that can be used for both good and evil. Filmmakers have created high-tech prosthetics, digitally enhanced images, make-up and fantastic special effects that awe audiences. However, these invented characters are eccentric, formidable and certainly not part of the dominant culture. Where does that leave the audience - especially the disabled audience? How does a culture perpetuates itself and it’s perspectives? Perhaps the images are so strong and the stereotypes so durable and pervasive that they may have obscured disabled people’s perceptions of themselves.

    Statement of the objective / learning objectives

    Through a narrated visual anthology attendees will be exposed to ways the movie industry has depicted the physically disabled experience, explore possible reasons for fascination with the topic and examine the attraction of high-tech heroics.

    This session focuses on the topic Education.

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