Journal of Literary & Cultural Disability Studies

Reading (Readings of) UK Channel 4’s 2012 and 2016 Paralympic Advertisements

On the Undecidability of Texts and Dis/Ability Itself

Journal of Literary & Cultural Disability Studies (2020), 14, (3), 261–279.

Abstract

The article deconstructs UK Channel 4’s 2012 and 2016 Paralympic advertisements, illustrating how the structure and arrangement of signs combine to challenge and reinforce stereotypical attitudes about ability/disability. However, the focus extends beyond taken-for-granted and commonsensical boundaries of a “text” to contemplate how readers’ readings (e.g. on weblogs, in newspapers, journals, books, etc.) in specific contingent contexts combine to produce paratext that authors meanings relating to ability and disability. Both the advertisements and the readings they engender produce ambiguous and complex meanings that seem to resist, or thwart, authorial intentions to produce positive representations and efforts to master, or govern, texts through binary oppositions. Such fragility and undecidability in the representations, readings, and the texts they combine to produce give them double-edged qualities. Although this makes them comparable to the pharmakon, namely a beneficial remedy and/or drug/poison, with regard to their likely impact upon a media landscape containing other portrayals of disability, the undecidability of the texts coincides with the dis/ability and dis/abled identities to which they refer.

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Works Cited

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Kudlick, Catherine J. “Disability History: Why We Need Another ‘Other.’” Rethinking Normalcy: A Disability Studies Reader. Ed. Tanya Titchkosky and Rod Michalko. Toronto: Canadian Scholars’ P, 2009. 31-37. Print. Google Scholar

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Mapley, Heidi. “‘Culture as Pharmakon’: Representation, Social Encounters, and Discourses of Disability.” Considering Disability Journal 1.3-4 (2016): 1-24. Web. 15 Jun. 2019. Google Scholar

Mitchell, David T. and Sharon L. Snyder. “Representation and Its Discontents: The Uneasy Home of Disability in Literature and Film.” Handbook of Disability Studies. Ed. Gary L. Albrecht, Katherine Seelman, and Michael Bury. London: Sage, 2001. 219-51. Print. Google Scholar

Oliver, Michael. “The Social Model in Context.” Rethinking Normalcy: A Disability Studies Reader. Ed. Tanya Titchkosky and Rod Michalko. Toronto: Canadian Scholars’ P, 19-30. Print. Google Scholar

Pullen, Emma, Daniel Jackson, Michael Silk, and Richard Scullion. “Re-Presenting the Paralympics: (Contested) Philosophies, Production Practices and the Hypervisibility of Disability.” Media, Culture and Society 41.4 (2019): 465-81. Web. 14 Apr. 2020. Google Scholar

Reynolds, Jack. “Decision.” Understanding Derrida. Ed. Jack Reynolds and Jonathan Roffe. New York: Continuum, 2004. 46-53. Print. Google Scholar

Royle, Nicholas. Jacques Derrida. London: Routledge, 2003. Print. Google Scholar

Ryan, Frances. “It’s Time to Stop Calling Disabled People ‘Inspirational’—Video.” The Guardian. 6 Sep. 2016. Web. 10 Jun. 2018. Google Scholar

Ryan, Judith. The Novel After Theory. New York: Cambridge UP, 2012. Print. Google Scholar

Schwandt, Thomas A. The Sage Dictionary of Qualitative Inquiry. London: Sage, 2007. Print. Google Scholar

Shildrick, Margrit. “Neoliberalism and Embodied Precarity: Some Crip Responses.” South Atlantic Quarterly 118.3 (2019): 595-613. Print. Google Scholar

Silva, Carla F. and David P. Howe. “The (In)validity of Supercrip Representation of Paralympian Athletes.” Journal of Sport and Social Issues 36.2 (2012): 174-94. Web. 14 Apr. 2020. Google Scholar

Swain, John and Sally French. “Towards an Affirmation Model.” Disability and Society 15.4 (2000): 569-82. Print. Google Scholar

Titchkosky, Tanya. “Disability Studies: The Old and the New.” Rethinking Normalcy: A Disability Studies Reader. Ed. Tanya Titchkosky and Rod Michalko. Toronto: Canadian Scholars’ P, 2009. 38-62. Print. Google Scholar

Titchkosky, Tanya. Reading and Writing Disability Differently: The Textured Life of Embodiment. Toronto: U of Toronto P, 2007. Print. Google Scholar

Titchkosky, Tanya and Rod Michalko. “Preface”/“Introduction.” Rethinking Normalcy: A Disability Studies Reader. Ed. Tanya Titchkosky and Rod Michalko. Toronto: Canadian Scholars’ P, 2009. vi-viii, 1-14. Print. Google Scholar

Wodak, Ruth. “Critical Discourse Analysis.” Qualitative Research Practice. Ed. Clive Seale, Giampietro Gobo, Jaber F. Gubrium, and David Silverman. London: Sage, 2004. 185-201. Print. Google Scholar

All Fur Coat and RA. “Why That Paralympics Trailer Dehumanises Disabled People.” Web. 20 Jan. 2019. Google Scholar

Anderson, Herbert and Edward Foley. Mighty Stories, Dangerous Rituals: Weaving Together the Human and the Divine. 1998. Minneapolis: Fortress P, 2019. Print. Google Scholar

Barnes, Colin. Disabling Imagery and the Media: an Exploration of the Principles for Media Representations of Disabled People. Halifax: British Council of Organisations of Disabled People and Ryburn, 1992. Print. Google Scholar

Barthes, Roland. Mythologies. London: Vintage, 1957. Print. Google Scholar

Barthes, Roland. S/Z. London: Cape, 1970. Print. Google Scholar

Bruce, Toni. “Us and Them: the Influence of Discourses of Nationalism on Media Coverage of the Paralympics.” Disability and Society 29.9 (2014): 1443-59. Print. Google Scholar

Cameron, Colin. Disability Studies: A Student’s Guide. London: Sage, 2014. Print. Google Scholar

Catchpole, Lucy. “I Love Channel 4’s Paralympics Advert. But We Can’t All Be Superhumans.” The Guardian. 20 Jul. 2016. Web. 14 Apr. 2020. Google Scholar

Crossan, John Dominic. The Dark Interval: Towards a Theology of Story. Niles: Argus P, 1975. Print. Google Scholar

Crow, Liz. “Scroungers and Superhumans: Images of Disability from the Summer of 2012: A Visual Inquiry.” Journal of Visual Culture 13.2 (2014): 168-81. Web. 14 Apr. 2020. Google Scholar

Crowley, Sharon. A Teacher’s Introduction to Deconstruction. Urbana: National Council of Teachers of English, 1989. Print. Google Scholar

Derrida, Jacques. Dissemination. London: Continuum, 1981. Print. Google Scholar

Derrida, Jacques. A Taste for the Secret. Trans. G. Donis. Cambridge: Polity, 2001. Print. Google Scholar

Derrida, Jacques. Writing and Difference. Trans. A. Bass. London: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1978. Print. Google Scholar

DeVolder, Beth. “Overcoming the Overcoming Story: A Case of ‘Compulsory Heroism.’” Feminist Media Studies 13.4 (2013): 746-54. Web. 14 Apr. 2020. Google Scholar

Drake, Caroline. “Visibly Invisible: Meet the Superhumans. On the Engender: Scotland’s Feminist Policy Blog and Podcast.” 2018. Web. 22 Jan. 2019. Google Scholar

Eagleton, Terry. Literary Theory: An Introduction. 1983. Oxford: Blackwell, 2008. Print. Google Scholar

Ellcessor, Elizabeth, Mack Hagood, and Bill Kirkpatrick. “Introduction: Toward a Disability Media Studies.” Disability Media Studies. Ed. Elizabeth Ellcessor and Bill Kirkpatrick. New York: New York UP, 2017. 1-28. Print. Google Scholar

Ellis, Katie. Disability and Popular Culture: Focusing Passion, Creating Community and Expressing Defiance. New York: Routledge, 2016. Print. Google Scholar

Fiske, John. Television Culture. New York: Routledge, 1987. Print. Google Scholar

Foucault, Michel. Power/Knowledge. Brighton: Harvester, 1980. Print. Google Scholar

Garland-Thomson, Rosemarie. “The Politics of Staring: Visual Rhetorics of Disability in Popular Photography.” Disability Studies: Enabling the Humanities. Ed. Sharon L. Snyder, Brenda J. Brueggemann, and Rosemarie Garland-Thomson. New York: Modern Language Association of America, 2002. 56-75. Print. Google Scholar

Garland-Thomson, Rosemarie. “Seeing the Disabled: Visual Rhetorics of Disability in Popular Photography.” The New Disability History: American Perspectives. Ed. Paul K. Longmore and Lauri Umansky. New York: New York UP, 2001. 335-74. Print. Google Scholar

Genette, Gérard. Paratexts: Thresholds of Interpretation. Cambridge: UP, 1997. Print. Google Scholar

Goodley, Dan. Dis/Ability Studies: Theorising Disablism and Ableism. London: Routledge, 2014. Print. Google Scholar

Goodley, Dan and Rebecca Lawthom. “The Ethics of Researching and Representing Disability.” The Routledge International Handbook on Narrative and Life History. Ed. Ivor Goodson. New York: Routledge, 2017. 481-92. Print. Google Scholar

Hall, Stuart. “The Work of Representation.” Representation: Cultural Representation and Signifying Practices. Ed. Stuart Hall. London: Sage, 1997. 13-74. Print. Google Scholar

Hartley, John. Communication, Cultural and Media Studies: The Key Concepts. London: Routledge, 2002. Print. Google Scholar

Hughes, Bill. “Civilising Modernity and the Ontological Invalidation of Disabled People.” Disability and Social Theory: New Developments and Directions. Ed. Dan Goodley, Bill Hughes, and Lennard Davis. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2012. 17-32. Print. Google Scholar

Ingold, Tim. MAKING Anthropology, Archaeology, Art and Architecture. London: Routledge, 2013. Print. Google Scholar

Jackson, Dan and Pullen, Emma. “Reframing Disability? Channel 4 and Paralympic Broadcasting.” nd. Web. 20 Aug. 2019. Google Scholar

Jameson, Frederic. The Political Unconscious: Narrative as a Socially Symbolic Act. London: Methuen, 1981. Print. Google Scholar

Jameson, Frederic. “Postmodernism, or the Cultural Logic of Late Capitalism.” New Left Review 146 (1984): 53-92. Print. Google Scholar

Johnson, Barbara. “Translator’s Introduction.” Jacques Derrida’s Dissemination. London: Athlone P, 1981. Print. Google Scholar

Kelly, Guy. “Return of the Superhumans: Behind the Scenes of Channel 4’s 2016 Paralympics Advert.” The Telegraph. 15 Jul. 2016. Web. 10 May 2018. Google Scholar

Kudlick, Catherine J. “Disability History: Why We Need Another ‘Other.’” Rethinking Normalcy: A Disability Studies Reader. Ed. Tanya Titchkosky and Rod Michalko. Toronto: Canadian Scholars’ P, 2009. 31-37. Print. Google Scholar

Lévi-Strauss, Claude. “The Structural Study of Myth.” The Journal of American Folklore 68.270 (1955): 428-44. Print. Google Scholar

Mapley, Heidi. “‘Culture as Pharmakon’: Representation, Social Encounters, and Discourses of Disability.” Considering Disability Journal 1.3-4 (2016): 1-24. Web. 15 Jun. 2019. Google Scholar

Mitchell, David T. and Sharon L. Snyder. “Representation and Its Discontents: The Uneasy Home of Disability in Literature and Film.” Handbook of Disability Studies. Ed. Gary L. Albrecht, Katherine Seelman, and Michael Bury. London: Sage, 2001. 219-51. Print. Google Scholar

Oliver, Michael. “The Social Model in Context.” Rethinking Normalcy: A Disability Studies Reader. Ed. Tanya Titchkosky and Rod Michalko. Toronto: Canadian Scholars’ P, 19-30. Print. Google Scholar

Pullen, Emma, Daniel Jackson, Michael Silk, and Richard Scullion. “Re-Presenting the Paralympics: (Contested) Philosophies, Production Practices and the Hypervisibility of Disability.” Media, Culture and Society 41.4 (2019): 465-81. Web. 14 Apr. 2020. Google Scholar

Reynolds, Jack. “Decision.” Understanding Derrida. Ed. Jack Reynolds and Jonathan Roffe. New York: Continuum, 2004. 46-53. Print. Google Scholar

Royle, Nicholas. Jacques Derrida. London: Routledge, 2003. Print. Google Scholar

Ryan, Frances. “It’s Time to Stop Calling Disabled People ‘Inspirational’—Video.” The Guardian. 6 Sep. 2016. Web. 10 Jun. 2018. Google Scholar

Ryan, Judith. The Novel After Theory. New York: Cambridge UP, 2012. Print. Google Scholar

Schwandt, Thomas A. The Sage Dictionary of Qualitative Inquiry. London: Sage, 2007. Print. Google Scholar

Shildrick, Margrit. “Neoliberalism and Embodied Precarity: Some Crip Responses.” South Atlantic Quarterly 118.3 (2019): 595-613. Print. Google Scholar

Silva, Carla F. and David P. Howe. “The (In)validity of Supercrip Representation of Paralympian Athletes.” Journal of Sport and Social Issues 36.2 (2012): 174-94. Web. 14 Apr. 2020. Google Scholar

Swain, John and Sally French. “Towards an Affirmation Model.” Disability and Society 15.4 (2000): 569-82. Print. Google Scholar

Titchkosky, Tanya. “Disability Studies: The Old and the New.” Rethinking Normalcy: A Disability Studies Reader. Ed. Tanya Titchkosky and Rod Michalko. Toronto: Canadian Scholars’ P, 2009. 38-62. Print. Google Scholar

Titchkosky, Tanya. Reading and Writing Disability Differently: The Textured Life of Embodiment. Toronto: U of Toronto P, 2007. Print. Google Scholar

Titchkosky, Tanya and Rod Michalko. “Preface”/“Introduction.” Rethinking Normalcy: A Disability Studies Reader. Ed. Tanya Titchkosky and Rod Michalko. Toronto: Canadian Scholars’ P, 2009. vi-viii, 1-14. Print. Google Scholar

Wodak, Ruth. “Critical Discourse Analysis.” Qualitative Research Practice. Ed. Clive Seale, Giampietro Gobo, Jaber F. Gubrium, and David Silverman. London: Sage, 2004. 185-201. Print. Google Scholar

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Cockain, Alex

Cockain, Alex