• Down side up: representations of Down syndrome in Born This Way

      Olson, Bekah L.; May, Amy; Hum, Richard; Lazarus, Jason (2018-05)
      Stereotypical media representations of people with disabilities reinforce stigma, resulting in dehumanization. Conversely, positive representations create counter narratives that challenge stereotypes and stigmatized information disseminated by the media. While some studies have explored media depictions of people with disabilities in general, there is a lack of research focusing specifically on Down syndrome. Born This Way, a reality TV show, provides an opportunity to explore mass media depictions of Down Syndrome. Qualitative content analysis was used to understand how Born This Way constructs representations of adults with Down syndrome. Four major themes were identified. Born This Way's representation of people with Down syndrome is a departure from previous portrayals of people with disabilities. Specifically, people with Down syndrome speak for themselves and take back their narrative. Instead of dehumanizing individuals with Down syndrome, Born This Way represents people with Down syndrome as capable, independent, sexual, and multifaceted. Although Born This Way depicts differences associated with Down syndrome, these differences do not become more important than the person with Down syndrome. The portrayals in Born This Way have the ability to educate and influence viewer perceptions of people Down syndrome and positively influence viewers who have Down syndrome as well. Additionally, Born This Way seems to be offering a type of vicarious social support for parents of children with Down syndrome.