The Mainstream Is Not the Enemy: Maximizing Audiences for “Disabled Voices”

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Michael Noonan


disability, comedy, collaboration, authorship


The unique, powerful and compelling perspectives of people with disabilities have gone unheard by mainstream audiences for too long. In film and television, this lack has been largely blamed on broadcasters, distributors and audiences themselves, who are failing to fulfill their moral obligation to watch.  But finding an audience for ‘disabled voices’ means a shift in priorities for those who produce disability narratives. Successful film and television producers prioritize ratings and ticket sales, study and analyze what kinds of stories work, and ensure their product has the best possible chance of reaching a wide audience.  The producers of disability narratives need to do the same, prioritizing what an audience wants ahead of how people with disabilities are represented, who is making the representation and how it will impact on the “disability community.” I collaborated with three men with intellectual disabilities in the production of my PhD film in Australia in 2010.  My aim was to create a comedy film that would appeal to a mainstream audience and give the strongest possible “voice” to my collaborators, a process that required an abandonment of the “us and them” mentality and the forging of a new model of collaborative authorship.


To view supplemental materials that accompany this article(provided by the author), visit this link.

And here is a 45-minute doco about the author's PhD project (and is related to the article).

The password to view the contents is: dumtdownload


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