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"Media representations of age and disability are very limited and unrealistic of what
occurs in the real world". To what extent do sociological arguments and evidence
support this view? (33 Marks)
Research which has been conducted by many sociologists supports the view that the
representations of age and disability, by the media, are very limited and unrealistic
compared to that which occurs in the real world. A piece of research which supports the
view that media representations of disability are very limited was conducted by
Cumberbatch and Negrine (1992); they found that there were no disabled people on any
of the current affairs programmes or TV quizzes which were shown during the day. They
also found that only around 0.5 % of characters in fictional programmes were disabled.
This therefore supports the view that media portrayals of disability are very limited.
However, this piece of research could be argued against by the fact the there are some
children's programmes, e.g. Cbeebies, which have presenters that are disabled. This
therefore goes against the view that media portrayals of disability are limited.
Barnes (1992) conducted some research on recurring stereotypes of disabled people; he
found that individuals within society who were disabled were seen as completely
dependent on others. He also found that there were 10 main stereotypes associated
with disability and the majority of these were negative ones. Barnes, who himself is
disabled, argued that these stereotypes are reproduced by the media; however, as
Barnes is also disabled, there may be some bias in his research and therefore, it cannot
not be seen as completely valid and reliable. These negative stereotypes and lack of
positive representations, which are portrayed by the media, may cause people within
society to misunderstand disabled people or even fear them. This therefore shows that
media representations of disability are unrealistic, and at times, also limited.
Television telethons which are the aspect of media that encourages individuals within
society to phone into special charity programmes, such as Comic Relief and Red Nose day,
and donate money in order to help disabled people. Roper (2003) argues that this feature
of Television media portrays disabled people as beggars as they are shown to be needy
and dependent. They also portray disabled children as overly cute a representation
which cannot be generalised to the range of disabled people in the UK. Therefore the
way in which these telethons portray disabled people is unrealistic as the portrayals
cannot be generalised to other disabled people within society. She also argues that
telephones are designed to encourage the public to give money to disabled people in
order to ease their guilt rather than educating the public about disability. These
portrayals of disabled people are therefore unrealistic as they do not show accurate
representations of disabled people within society.
There are also many representations of people with mental disabilities within the media.
The Glasgow University Media Group (GUMG) found that television and press focused on
violent incidents which involved individuals with mental disabilities; however, in reality
there is only a small minority of mentally disabled people who have the potential to act in
this way. They also found that these negative portrayals of mentally disabled people lead
individuals within society to fear them because of what they had seen on television
media. Therefore, this depiction of mentally disabled people on television and press
media is unrealistic as portrays them in a negative and untrue light. It could also be
argued that portrays of mentally disabled people are limited as only the violent ones are
shown on television and press media.
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There are also many unrealistic, and at times limited, representations of age within the
media. For some of the age groups, the representations are negative; these include
young adults/ adolescence and older adults. Due to these negative media stereotypes,
these age groups have experienced negative stereotypes. Older adults have tended to
be portrayed as a social and economic problem.…read more