Our recent class discussions have focused on portrayal of disabled individuals in media such as films and books by authors and directors. One aspect that we discussed was that of ethically portraying a disability in films. We look at celebrated films like A Beautiful Mind, and the director’s accuracy in the portrayal of a schizophrenic man. Though the depiction of such a disability is well done in media, it can never be fully explored by an individual that does not possess such a condition. It is similar to the phenomena of a colored individual entering a room full of non-colored people; the anxiety and fear of rejection by the minority will never be felt or experienced by the majority. The majority in this case can attempt their utmost to explain this feeling experienced by the minority, but will never be able to go far enough (this notion is further explored in Critical Race Theory in Communication studies). Just like racism, disabilities can be analyzed similarly in which individual’s that don’t experience a certain disability will never be fully able to explore the challenges, drawbacks and obstacles of that disability. I believe that when it comes to narrating such phenomena that is not personally experienced, an individual is always unreliable to a certain degree. On top of that, a director or an author might also unknowingly be overly sympathetic with a disabled person. While interacting with disabled individuals, I too am unknowingly sympathetic; this is something that disabled individuals are bothered by as in my experience. This “sympathy” can also contribute unreliability in narration by authors and directors in their work. It is very difficult to describe a condition that you’ve personally never have been in. No matter how hard an individual attempts, he or she can never fully be able to describe another’s situation unless they themselves have been in that position, and therefore any account they tell is unreliable to a degree.

Faizan Ahmad