Examining representations of mental difference, this collection focuses on the ways that adaptations (including remakes, reboots, and other examples of remixed narratives) can shape and shift the social contexts and narratives we use to define mental disability. The movement of narratives across media via adaptation, or within media but across time and space in the case of remakes and reboots, is a common tactic for revitalization, allowing storytellers to breathe new life into tired narratives, remedying past inaccuracies and making them accessible and relevant for contemporary audiences. Thus, this collection argues that adaptation provides a useful tool for examining the constraints or opportunities different media impose on or afford narratives, or for measuring shifts in ideology as narratives move across cultures or through time. Further, narrative functions within this collection as a framework for examining the ways that popular media exerts rhetorical power, allowing for deeper understandings of the ways that mental disability is experienced by differently situated individuals, and revealing relationships with broader social narratives that attempt to push definitions of disability onto them.
Whitney Hardin is a scholar of game studies, comic studies, new media, and civic literacies.
Julia E. Kiernan is assistant professor of communication at Lawrence Technological University.
Whitney Hardin & Julia E. Kiernan
Part I: Imagining and Broadening Narratives of Disability
Chapter One: The Prosthetic Self: Drag and Disability in the Figure of RuPaul
John W. Gulledge
Chapter Two: Adapting Medical Reports into Narrative Film: Autism, Eugenics, and Savagery in Truffaut’s L’Enfant sauvage (The Wild Child, 1970)
Joy C. Schaefer
Chapter Three: Remaking the Image of Autism: Why and How Comics Should Reboot Autistic Representation
Chapter Four: An Atypical Interaction with a Typical World: Viewing Coming-of-Age through the Lens of Disability Studies in Robia Rashid’s Atypical
Chapter Five: “But can we agree that he’s unwell?”: Narrative Resistance in Legion’s Approach to Mental Disability
Julia E. Kiernan
Chapter Six: Diagnosing Mental and Moral Disability in Post 9/11 Popular American Film Narrative
Part II: Renegotiating and Resisting Narratives of Disability
Chapter Seven: “A document in madness”? Disability Erasure in Contemporary Rewrites of Ophelia
Chapter Eight: “You’re all about ‘crazy’”: Rendering the Visibility of Trauma in Alias and Jessica Jones
Chapter Nine: Subspaces Run Through Your Head: Scott Pilgrim, Intertextuality, and Visualizing the Traumatized Mind
William Guy Spriggs
Chapter Ten: Minding the Gap: Adaptation of and Mental Disability in Quiet Life (1990, 1995)
Chapter Eleven: Adapting Autism in Telenovelas: Venevisión’s La Mujer Perfecta and the Trace of Esmeralda
Chapter Twelve: Female Representations of Autism and Disability in Telenovelas: La Mujer Perfecta
Andrea Urrutia Gómez
About the Contributors
Depictions of mental deficiency have been ubiquitous fuel for pop culture narratives. Of course, the limited and negative characterization of mental difference has never quite worked. Stereotypical stories are consumed by neurodiverse humans. These stories also operate within metaphorical frames and genres that are shaped through their reception and repetition. This excellent collection reveals how such stories gain new meaning -- because we refuse to believe or invest in a monolithic version of mental and cognitive difference – because we refuse to easily associate this difference with evil, sadness, violence, and loss. As the collected chapters show, when we remake, reboot, and adapt texts, despite their outdated representations of mental disability, they often come out both more accessible and broader in meaning, both more representative and more open to the audience. This collection captures the energy of this critical remaking, centering the agency of disabled people.