Module 3: Screen Media Cultures

3.6 Analyzing Representations


Watch the trailer to Pacific Rim: Uprising (2018) below. Alternatively, choose another science fiction film that employs futuristic technology.

As you engage with this video, consider the following questions:

  • What technology is being represented here?
  • What is the aesthetic of the technology?
  • What does it do?
  • Who made it?
  • How does it change the body?
  • What is the relationship with the ?
  • What is the relationship with community, access, care, and social justice?
  • What emotions are associated with the technology?
    • Imagine the kinds of complications, feelings, and experiences that are connected to the technology
  • Can you imagine a different use for this technology?
  • Can we this technology?


Think of a disabled character in a science fiction film, television show, video game, or book. Use the documentation tool below to post images or descriptions to support collaborative archiving and discussions that might arise from this module. What tropes, trends, and patterns do we see emerging? What is the relationship between technology and the character in these examples?

These representations matter. As Kathryn Allan and Ria Cheyne (2020) contend in their introduction to the special science fiction issue of the Journal of Literary and Cultural Disability Studies,

“Science fiction opens up possibilities for new worlds and ways of being that enact the crip possibilities of desiring disabilities. Disability studies grounds these possibilities in the present and material conditions in which we continue to experience physical and social barriers.” (p. 391)

The representation of disability in science fiction tells us about present and future relationships between disability, embodiment, and technology.  The science fiction stories we tell negotiate complicated and conflicted extraordinary and ordinary intersections of bodies, technologies, and difference (Murray & Pullin, n.d.). In some instances, science fiction perpetuates ableist myths:

  • that technology is curative;
  • that disabled bodies all want and need to be cured;
  • that technology is made by able-bodied peoples for disabled users;
  • and that technology can and should improve the limitations of our bodies.

At other times, as in the representations of Geordi, Professor X, or Batgirl/Oracle, the myriad relationships between disability and technology can be agentive, flexible, and disruptive to social categories such as disability, gender, and race.


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Digital Methods for Disability Studies Copyright © 2022 by Esther Ignagni is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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