Disability in Disney

I just wrote about disability in popular media for a grad class, so I analyzed Disney movies.  None of my friends could think of a person with disability (not a disabled person, I’m working on people-first language) portrayed in a Disney movie.  Upon further research, I came up with the following:


A clownfish with a “lucky fin” from a barracuda accident while in the egg.

Nemo succeeds despite of his disability, which is not a particularly supportive message.  While this representation still plays into the “inspirational” viewpoint of disability, it still seems to be the best representation of disability in a Disney movie.


Quasimodo was told he was a monster since childhood, and that society would reject him, so he hid in a bell tower.  While the movie does attempt to send a message that inner beauty is more important than out

ward disabilities, it instead seems to say that you have to prove yourself a man in order to miraculously gain acceptance.  Save the village, Ta Da!  Everyone loves ya, kid!

Seven Dwarfs

Here we see an example of disability being portrayed as entertaining.  Not only are they dwarves, but they represent a broad spectrum of disabilities: selective mutism, severe allergies, narcolepsy, vision deficiencies, emotional/behavioral disorder, social anxiety, etc.  The audience laughs along with Snow White at their silly and seemingly inept behaviors, the motley crew who has banded together to fend for themselves.  The message portrayed is that “normal” people can come into their living space, laugh at their disabilities, and then expect them to save you from the evil queen.  The dwarves are far more forgiving than I may have been.

Captain Hook

An evil, yet laughable, villain with one hand, who has a terrible fear of crocs.

I still love Disney movies.  I am just more critical of them, and hope that they are more inclusive in their character choices in the future.

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