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How is disability represented using

camerawork, editing, mise en scene


and sound?
The extract is an opening sequence to a British T.V. drama that focuses on a 16-
year-old and his brother, who has down syndrome. The main protagonists name
is David and the brothers name is Ben.
Despite being the protagonist, David is extremely mean spirited toward Ben. The
audience has their difference in characters communicated to them in the first
three shots as it starts on a birds eye shot of the bedroom; one that both
brothers share. The side on which Ben sleeps is messy with toys spread across
the floor but very colourful with bright posters and a large red duvet while
Davids side, in contrast, is meticulously neat and tidy with a bleak and dim use
of colour for the props, such as the skull on his shelf and choice of duvet. The
first impression the audience receives from the shot is that both brothers are
vastly different characters; it introduces the theme of a binary opposition (Levi
Strauss) before properly introducing either character. As the scene continues, it
fades into a mid closeup of David, sitting on his bed while staring at a sleeping
Ben as narration is being played and the camera is panning around his head.
The audience see behind him rough sketches and a poster to a rock band. The
poster specifically is used to stereotype the protagonist as a violent teenager but
are contrasted against the sketches next to it which connotes a craftier and
under handed nature; this also adds to the character being artistic as he is later
shown sketching a horse in the middle of class. The stereotype of violent
teenagers goes in tandem with the narration overlaying the scene which reveals
Davids desire to kill his brother; it can be safely assumed that David is the one
narrating due to the fade transition to the mid closeup of him alongside the
panning camera as though the world revolves around him. Lastly, the shot cuts
to a close up of Ben, sleeping, but the feels jarring as the one and only transition
thats been shown is the fade; to the audience its sudden an unexpected and
shows perfectly how David feels about his brother without the need for narration
or dialogue. The cut occurs what feels like part way through the pan while David
is staring at Ben. The cut makes the shot almost feel as though it were
interrupted by something and the audience immediately see what it is thats
interrupted David. This is a metaphor, perhaps, for how Bens condition has
interrupted Davids life. Overall, the narration, and use if shots and transitions,
sets up David, the protagonist, to be a mean spirited and rather vile person. The
audience are allowed to pity Ben without even seeing his deformity on screen
due to how David is portrayed which delivers a very fair representation of
disability despite the fact that David stands against it. The show very quickly
challenges the stereotype of pitying a person with any form of disability by
having the audience pity a different characteristic of the character, their family.
Whether Ben had been disabled or not, David would have been portrayed as the
bad person which would mean that Davids binary opposite would have to be
good.
Disability appears to tear apart families. The scene within the kitchen shows a
clear divide between the two brothers in relation to the relationship they share
with their parents. Through dialogue, the audience can tell that the treatment of
both mother and father towards their children is biased; in a sequence of short
takes, adding a bit of tension to the scene, David complains about Bens cereal
and attempts to take some for himself. In the exchange, Ben is lightly scolded
while David is yelled at, being told to grow up. both interactions were with the
mother. As for the father, he doesnt once speak directly to Ben, only to David
(until he speaks to the two of them at the end of the scene about getting ready
for school) and lastly, as she leaves for work, the mother kisses Ben and tells him
that she loves him without saying a word to David. The dialogue, and lack
thereof, depicts the mother as perhaps the over protective and over bearing type
of person who strives a bit too hard to show affection for Ben as, in the process,
she subsequently neglects her other son entirely. On the other end, the father
appears to not know how to communicate with his son, further suggested by a
line of dialogue he says to himself about wrongdoings in a past life. Both parents
feel they only have the time for one of their children due to the occurrence of a
disability in just the one of them which shows a visible split in the family to the
audience. On a more positive note, there is still a metaphorical thread that
connects all members of the family to one another. Through mise en scene, the
costume choices for the family make it possible to argue that the family is
perhaps as functional as every other nuclear family. Though Ben and his father
share no in the scene, they both wear white tops while David and his mother
wear darker, similarly coloured tops. The use of costume easily draws the
audiences eye to each pair which either highlights the points of contention within
the family or shows that everyone in the family is still connected despite their
differences. In addition, the way in which Ben and David are treated by their
parents is in itself another part of their binary opposition as characters. Ben is
shown kindness and love from his mother while David is criticized and while
David is shown a firmness from his father, Ben is shown nothing. The opening
develops on stereotypes of the disabled being the source of strain for their loved
ones as, while this all can be argued to stem from Bens disability, the only
person to ever try and make him feel guilty about it is his brother. Hes still
shown love from his mother which is better than the representation people with
disabilities often receive from other T.V. dramas.

48 Minutes

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