2010 Student Research Conference:
23rd Annual Student Research Conference

I Am Sam: Portrayal of Disabilities in Popular Film
Megan M. Dowdy
Dr. Elizabeth M. Clark, Faculty Mentor

The 2001 film I Am Sam moves beyond the role of an entertaining flick and into the function of a social discourse on the cultural representation of disability. This paper identifies the medical and social models of disability studies, explains the cultural constructs leading up to these models, and gives examples of how the medical and social models portray disability in film. As a creative work, the aesthetic production elements and the constructed character interactions in the film communicate information that both add to and detract from the dignity of the depiction of disability. The film compares and contrasts the medical and the social models through Rita's and Sam's characterization with the aesthetic use of camera techniques, color palette, lighting, and musical schemes. An analysis of the film concludes that the film's central conflict of the right to guardianship is resolved through the empowerment of the social model.

Keywords: disability studies, cultural studies, aesthetic criticism, communication, social model, medical model, media, film

Topic(s):Communication
Art
Health Science

Presentation Type: Oral Paper

Session: 60-2
Location: VH 1320
Time: 3:00

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