Negative perception about people with disability in the movie rain man

That movie, in its first days, accomplished more toward bringing Savant Syndrome to public awareness than all the efforts combined of all those interested in this condition the past years following Dr. It is a memorable movie about a memorable savant. I was pleased to have been a consultant to that film. Because that film has served as the introduction for so many persons to savants, it is worth looking at some of the effort and activity that led to its creation, its authenticity and its success.

Negative perception about people with disability in the movie rain man

University of Hawai'i Manoa Abstract In this article the authors explore images of disability in Hollywood movies. Our analysis draws from the historical-philosophical method of Michel Foucault.

We argue that in Hollywood films disability is extricated from its concrete manifestation as a physical or mental condition and treated as a cultural sign. When read across the different movies the signs of disability can be coalesced into what Foucault calls a discourse. Discourses are socially produced ways of talking about an object that situate the object within socially produced relations of power.

We argue that when viewed this way disability becomes situated within a discourse of pity. In Hollywood films the discourse of pity articulates disability as a problem of social, physical and emotional confinement. The disabled character's thwarted quest for freedom ultimately leads to remanding the character back to the confines of a paternalistic relationship of subordination.

In the biographical movie My Left Foot staring Daniel Day Lewis as Christy Brown, an artist with cerebral palsy, the audience is viewing a movie that some argue marks a turning point in how people with disabilities are represented in Hollywood film.


Christy Brown is shown from his early childhood as independent and resourceful; the only barriers in his life are the misunderstandings, prejudices, and stupidity of those around him.

Therefore, this Hollywood depiction supports disability rights activists who assert that "there is no pity in disability. Whatever the physically impaired person may think of himself, he is attributed a negative identity by society, and much of his social life is a struggle against this imposed image.

Negative perception about people with disability in the movie rain man

It is for this reason that we can say that stigmatization is less a by-product of disability than its substance. The greatest impediment to a person's taking full part in his society are not his physical flaws, but rather the tissue of myths, fears, and misunderstandings that society attaches to them.

MurphyHowever, it is our position that Hollywood films have been unable to shed the encasing logic of pity. We agree that films such as My Left Foot signal an improvement in how the disabled are portrayed in these films, yet they do not operate outside the most subtle and insidious workings of pity.

My Left Foot details the trials and tribulations of the artist as he grows from struggling childhood to accomplished and respected artist. The filmmakers are attempting to make a moral statement that their film transcends the degrading and encasing logic, or illogic of pity that has typically been articulated with various images of people with disabilities.

The movie critic Roger Ebert echoes this sentiment in his review of the film, "perhaps concerned that we will mistake My Left Foot for one of those pious T. Ebert understands that the movie is consciously trying to articulate a sense of disability that moves beyond typical representations.

Yet the filmmakers are not trying to gloss over the fact that pity and its debilitating features are still deeply entrenched in the public psyche. Pity is still seen in the father's wishes to keep his son hidden from the savage stares and insensitive comments of the community.

Negative perception about people with disability in the movie rain man

Pity is still found in the eyes of his mother who wishes to make his life as fulfilled as possible, and is fearful that Christy will be rejected as a love interest by able bodied women. Pity still exists in the knowing glares of the artist's circle of friends.

The moral of the story is that Christy transcends pity through grit, will, and self-determination. Pity still abounds in the world of those with disabilities, even for one like Christy Brown who found such success.

Pity confines life possibilities.


Pity implies providing for, caring for, and protecting Shapiro Pity is an emotionally conditioned social response which marginalizes those with disabilities and better serves the interests of those who show pity than it does the object of their pity.

The filmmakers in My Left Foot show a skilled adeptness at critiquing pity and working outside the confines of its tragic logic. They cast a knowing eye toward the disabling quality of pity that exists in the world while simultaneously producing a new vision of people with disabilities.

But does this movie truly operate outside the dictates of pity?

A bad stereotype of an autistic person.

Our position is that it does not. Methodological notes Our analysis focuses on a number of popular well known films 13 with disabled characters, where as one web site Films Involving Disabilities provides links to over 2, such films.

We do not claim that all films involving disabled characters articulate disability within a discourse of pity, and we discuss at least one film that troubles this discourse, but we have found a significant number of very popular films that situate disability in this way.

We have chosen only popular films, because they influence perceptions and opinions of many viewers Safran Media images mold society's attitudes, therefore, it is important to analyze whether images of people with disabilities in the media are molding prejudices and fear Nelsonpity and paternalism, or acceptance and empowerment.

Because of the wide audience in which Hollywood films reach, they can also educate.May 04,  · The other side of this are the various stereotypes film has produced regarding those with disabilities, “stereotypes so durable and pervasive that they have become mainstream society’s perception of disabled people and have obscured if not outright supplanted disabled people’s perception of themselves,” (Norden, 3).

Is Rain Man such a bad image of autism? This week in Sheffield is the showing of the theatre production of Rain Man. The film has a bad press in the autistic community for giving people a stereotype of a person with autism - a secret genius with a hidden gift, but completely inept at everything else - that is inaccurate and widely believed.

I saw the movie again this past weekend, and watching it for the second time made an indelible impression on me with respect to its portrayal of autism and the enormous strides that have been made in our knowledge of autism in the 30 years since Rain Man’s release.

On a scale of 1 to 10, for me, the movie Rain Man is a The writers, the producers, the directors, and particularly Dustin Hoffman wanted the film to be real, to be accurate, to be respectful and dignified as it dealt with a delicate topic of handicapped persons, and to be moving.

Kim Peek (), a man born with congenital brain abnormalities who served as the inspiration for the film "Rain Man." Tom Wiggins (), a blind black musical prodigy whose developmental skills would today qualify him as autistic.

According to Stuart Murray in Representing Autism, Rain Man helped establish “the autism movie” as its own genre. Turning out to be a sub-genre of family melodrama, it was dominated by stereotypes that oversimplify the complexities of the disorder.

Interacting with Autism