Abandoned stereotypes and persisting tropes: Exploring d/Deaf and disability representation in phase three and phase four of the Marvel Cinematic Universe

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2023-05
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Langbroek, Sanne
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Withers, Jeremy
Lawrence, Novotny
Stoehr, Alissa
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English
Abstract
This thesis examines recent representations of d/Deaf, HoH, and disabled characters in Marvel Studios’ Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) productions and evaluates the extent to which the franchise has moved away from harmful stereotypes and narrative tropes while also identifying potential areas for growth. The MCU’s earlier films constructed a problematic link between disability and superability, failing to ground themselves in the lived experiences of individuals who are d/Deaf or have disabilities. This thesis uses concepts from both Deaf Studies and Disability Studies to explore the representations of d/Deaf and HoH characters in Eternals (2021) and Hawkeye (2021), arguing that these productions offer more accurate and authentic representations of d/Deaf and disabled characters, moving away from some of the stereotypes and narrative tropes present in earlier productions. However, the exploration of disability in Thor: Ragnarok (2017) and Avengers: Infinity War (2018) highlights persistent weaknesses in Marvel’s portrayal of d/Deaf and disabled individuals, as these works continue to depict disability in problematic ways. The thesis highlights the need for greater representation and inclusion of d/Deaf people and people with disabilities in all steps of the creative process to create a more inclusive industry in which the representation of all identities can be accurately and authentically portrayed. By involving d/Deaf and disabled talent in all aspects of the production process, and by investigating the power structures at play within the industry, Marvel has the potential to create a more inclusive and equitable cinematic universe that accurately represents the experiences and perspectives of its d/Deaf and disabled fans.
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