TV Drama and Disability (50 marks)
All representations in TV drama are mediated by the producer. As Stuart Hall in 1980 suggests, the audience can be positioned to accept a dominant, preferred representation. This clip shows many conventions of TV drama, including a narrative that signifies binary opposition of disability. The representation of the disabled man in this clip (Nick) and how he is treated fits the stereotypical way we would perceive them to be. Therefore it shall be discussed how the elements, even the smallest elements, of mise-en-scene, camerawork, editing and sound involved in the clip combine to form macro meanings of the representation of disability.
Mise en scene is used to create the reality of life for disabled people in a variety of ways. Location, costumes and props are all contributions to how disability is represented. The establishing shot of the clip shows fencing with barbed wire ravelled around, using a shallow focus. This has been filmed in a real location and Nick has been put in the next shot of the building yard to connote that the fence shows his feeling of being trapped because of his disability. It is also done to show the stereotypical mistreatment of disabled people of being different and isolated out from the ‘normal’ people, as we soon find out when his peers won’t let him do the job that he used to do. Considering that he has already done this job and so is experienced and knows what to do, it is clear that his disability is the direct reason to why they will not treat him fairly. It further suggests that people with disabilities cannot do the jobs that able bodied people can do, which is yet another stereotype associated with disabled people.
The costumes of the characters including Nick, his peer and the woman and her kids have been used effectively represent their class; they all where jeans and hoodies, and the woman’s kids have the stereotypical ‘council house haircut’ which all suggests that they are working class. This links back to disability as the stereotypical class of disabled people is usually aimed at working or lower class. The use of props in one scene (when the woman drops her shopping bags) is used cleverly to represent the stereotypical way that disabled people are viewed by others. This is shown by Nick trying to be that heroic man that helps a woman and in return is screamed at because of his facial disfigurement, whereas a man without the facial disfigurement would not have been greeted in the same way.
Cinematography through lighting and colour has been used effectively to create representation of disability. For example, in the scene of Nick and the Sergeant, a 3 point lighting system has been used to give low key lighting on Nick’s face so we cannot see his disability and connotes to one of Paul Hunt’s 10 stereotypes from the media; being sinister or evil. It also connotes the feeling of imprisonment again as the shadow creates a barred effect over his face. The overall colour scheme of the clip as a whole consists of very dull colours which connotes to Nick’s new life; unfair and unhappy. This represents disability in a stereotypical way of him being pitiable and pathetic.
Camerawork is used to create a variety of effects and can therefore contribute to representations of disability in different ways. A variety of generic shot types are used to aid audience engagement with the narrative. Close ups are used in the first scene of both Nick and his peer when having a conversation. This is used to establish the relationship between the two people and emphasise reactions of how they act around each other. In this scene we can clearly see that Nick’s old mate is uncomfortable as he tries to avoid eye contact with Nick. It also highlights his disability to represent that his facial disfigurement stands out to others and is what separates him from the ‘norm’. Over the shoulder shots are used when Nick is talking to the Sergeant and this helps put the audience in the action so they are more engaged into Nick’s anger.
The camera angles can also give suggestions of how disabled people are portrayed in TV dramas. In the scene where Nick runs to help the woman, we see her at a lower angle, helping to construct representations of disability by again connoting that Nick and others like him are evil as having the woman angled in this way makes her seem like the ‘damsel in distress’.
Editing is used to create continuity for the audience so they can follow the narrative. Simple cuts link the shots together such as shot reverse shot being used when Nick is talking to his mate. This links the conversation together so the audience knows who’s talking and can follow the facial expressions of the two characters. Using this editing technique allows us to see that Nick’s old friend is uncomfortable talking to him as he tries to avoid eye contact with him. This helps represent disability in the way that it resemble how people think and act towards those with disabilities.
Fast paced editing is used to emphasise the unease of the friend about Nick's facial disfigurement and to connote him wanting to speed the conversation up to an end. Cross cutting is also shown between Nick leaving the building ground and going to help the woman with her bags. This is done to show the continuous bad luck that Nick is having through the course of a day in a short amount of time. This relates to disability as is shows that people are treating him differently.
A temporal ellipsis has been used to organise narrative events to shorten down the course of the day shown in the clip. This is done not only to show Nick’s continuous mistreatment but also to show the growing anger inside him as the day goes on. When Nick is walking through the crowd everyone is blurred except him showing that he is singled out amongst a crowd because of his disability.
Sound is used as an effective mode of address to aid meaning for the audience. It is layered on tracks and the scenes consist of diegetic and non-diegetic sound.
Diegetic ambient sounds are used to create verisimilitude and consist of the dialogue of characters and the sound of objects. Diegetic is shown during conversations between Nick and other characters. Another diegetic sound occurs when the woman screams after seeing Nick, which is due to him making her jump because of his disability. This shows Nick is stereotyped of being ugly and scary, however it is a stereotype she did not mean to occur.
Non-diegetic sounds are shown when there is background music, narrator’s commentary, or sound effects to show dramatic scenes. One non-diegetic sound during the clip was the sound bridge which was used to cut from one shot to another. The shot consisted of Nick walking away angrily from the woman to him walking in a town centre. This music is loud, fast-paced and aggressive to highlight Nicks anger and frustration not only towards others but himself as well.
During the time when Nick is in the recruitment office, there is no background sound at all other than the two of them talking. This allows the audience to understand the importance and intensity of this scene as Nick is finally releasing all his anger out. It can be suggested said because he is whinging and ranting that he conforms to the stereotype of feeling like a burden to others.
Overall, this clip shows the common negative representation of disability that is often seen in both TV dramas and real life. It promotes several stereotypes of disabled people such as: pitiable and pathetic, a burden, evil or sinister, and unable to participate in everyday life situations. The clip manages to construct a clear representation of disability through other people’s reactions and body language as well as Nick’s own emotions. What was seen in this clip is often very similar to other TV dramas that the media use to exploit disabled people and their insecurities which are easily made into stereotypes of them.