Representations of disability in contemporary film : the afterlife of the freak show.


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This project is an excavation of the ways in which cinema has relied on a one-dimensional approach to its representations of disability. I argue that the way disability is represented becomes a modern instantiation of the Freak Show. I explore these issues through three different films, all of which come from distinct genres. I discuss the way The Greatest Showman is instructive toward ways cinema engages in sanitization and de-historization of the freak shows pre-modern origins. I show how The Shape of Water gestures toward concerns at the very idea of authentic representation. The final film I use is The Texas Chainsaw Massacre which gestures toward the possibility of how the narrative structure in films regarding disability could possibly be changed. My conclusion argues that the solution to these representational concerns is caught up in is to change the types of stories that films are choosing to tell about disability.



Film Studies. Ableism. Representation. Psychoanalysis. Rhetoric. Disability Studies.