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Disease & desire: Sexuality, disability, screen-based media

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Within the discourse about increased diversity in entertainment media, the need for more representation of diverse ability on screen is beginning to penetrate social awareness. Beyond quotas in relation to non-disabled characters, I am interested in the quality of characters with disabilities, particularly inclusion of their sexuality. The films and videos discussed in this thesis comprise examples of sexuality that appear progressive, but upon examination actually affirm heteronormative and ableist hegemony regarding sexuality and gender; and examples of innovative sexuality on screen and use of cinematic techniques that immerse the audience in the reality of traditionally othered characters to produce a new protagonism. Central analyses include the feature films The Fundamentals of Caring, and Margarita With a Straw, whose primary characters live with Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy and Cerebral Palsy respectively; and the documentaries Picture This and Sexual Healing: Inside the World of Medically Assisted Sex, which illuminate sex and disability as authored from within the disability community. Insights gained from these analyses will be applied to the process of adapting Kim Clark’s book, A One-Handed Novel, into a new web-series featuring a protagonist who lives with Multiple Sclerosis and receives the news that her body can only produce six more orgasms.
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