When it comes to mainstream media
When it comes to mainstream media, the media has an essential role in representation and reporting specific issues. Its job is to profile people, but this can negatively affect certain groups of people. In America, 50 million Americans have a disability, but to the general public and academic scholars, disability issues do not have enough attention compared to other social minority groups in America. No media scholars asked people with disability about their opinions on media representations of their community or issues and how it affects them. Due to the lack of representation and profiling, this impacts the disabled community negatively and positively. The mainstream media should change its profiling of people with disabilities.
Stereotyping can lead to bias and assumptions about people with disabilities that is not accurate. A stereotype is a cognitive shortcut that allows our brains to judge based on visible characteristics and based on rumors, and anecdotes. It is also a set of beliefs that is incorrectly learned, over-generalized, or rigid. The media often repeats stereotypes to the public, which can lead to bias, be unfair, and can unintentionally keep qualifying people out of jobs. Stereotyping creates a person’s character for them; it takes away their right to make a first impression. It will cause them to lose a job when they never met the recruiter or earn a job when they never deserved it. The media reinforces stereotypes and how they present these stereotypes, people will adopt that stereotype. With the disabled community, the media often repeats stereotypes including the pitiable and pathetic, object of violence, sinister and evil, atmosphere development (tv shows and films), “super” cripple, object of ridicule, own worst and only enemy, burden, sexually abnormal, incapable of participating in society, and normal. The CDC states “People sometimes stereotype those with disabilities, assuming their quality of life is poor or that they are unhealthy because of their impairments ” (CDC). These stereotypes can have a negative psychological impact on these individuals. The media has a significant impact on society just by using stereotypes or even absolute terms.
How mainstream media defines or uses specific terms to describe people with disabilities can have a negative or positive impact on those individuals. In the disabled community, disability is an umbrella term. It is used to describe to anyone that has difficulty or a limitation; however, most people associate this term with being impaired, handicapped, spastic, idiot, and retarded. ” ‘Impairment’ refers to a defective limb, organ or mechanism of the body; ‘disability’ is the resulting lack of function, and ‘handicap’ denotes the limitations on daily living which result from disability ” (Barnes). These terms often turn into terms of abuse, resulting in society mistreating those individuals and often used interchangeably. Phrases such as ‘the impaired’, ‘the disabled’, ‘the handicapped’, ‘the blind’, ‘the deaf’, ‘the deaf and dumb’, and ‘the crippled’dehumanizes and objectifies disabled people and even using emotive terms or his or her impairment as a label is highly offensive. Labels and offensive terms is a form of discrimination. How mainstream media use specific terms or phrases is essential to how society treats individuals as a result.
Stereotypes are a natural way for our brains to sort information and is a process of selective perception. To some, the definition of a stereotype is “A widely held but fixed and simplified image or an idea of a particular type of person or thing” (Hamilton). It is based on the opinions of the individuals for that stereotype, which is a form of selective perception. Selective perception is a tendency to ignore information the individual disagrees with and amplifies information he or she agrees with their post of view. Stereotyping cues the perceiver to identify a person as an instance of social categorizing, which can help predict behavior and protect people from dangers. Stereotypical traits are not subjected to one group of people but occur in two groups but are more noticeable in one group than the other. Stereotyping starts at a very young age and its biological. An example is toddlers that are biologically programmed to stereotype against those of a different race because those of its race is more likely to treat it better. Perhaps this racial profiling could be cultural stereotyping. ” With regard to cultural stereotypes, traits that are thought to discriminate categories of people are probably related to positions these groups occupy in society.” (Hamilton, 20). However, stereotypes are harmful because it is opinion based and makes it difficult to determine if stereotypes are good or bad and as mentioned previously, more than one group of people can have the same stereotypical trait.
There should be more positive media coverage about disabilities. The type of media coverage affects how individuals perceive themselves. It affects their self-identities and performance. If there is negative coverage on disabilities, individuals will be in denial of their identity and have low self-esteem. Negative coverage is equal to negative stereotypes, which can cause situational stigmatism and devaluation of disabled individuals. This type of coverage can make them reject their disability and deny their disability status in order to avoid negative public judgments leading to negative self-identity. In a survey conducted by Dr. Zhang and Dr. Haller on Media impact on self-identity, and how people with disabilities based on perceived realism, media representation, and valence. Valence is the value attached to an observed event that can be positive or negative based on individuals’ value of the events. They measured media use, perceived realism, a medical model, the social pathology model, super cripple model, and self-identity. The result showed that having a more positive representation and media coverage benefits and empower disabled people more about their identities. It states:
“Only a few positive representations stand out and are more accessible in memory. When perceived as highly salient, those representations of people with disabilities as supercrip play a significant role on the psychological states of disability communities, and can even override the information processing factor, such as perceived realism ” (Zhang and Haller, 330)
Positive media coverage helps people appreciate and accept their disability more. Portraying people with disabilities as super cripple increases the individuals’ confidence in their identity and the positive effects impact their identities even when the super cripple portrayals are seen as unrealistic. When people with disabilities are portrayed more realistically, it leads to more positive stereotypes. The positive media coverage inspires disabled activists to discuss problems and issues openly as a result and further indicates the importance of equal positive media representations of disabilities in mainstream media.