Every year we see the “next big thing” in the media when it comes to music, there are singers, dancers, and many more. America’s Got Talent had a contestant named Kodi Lee sing and play the piano, but what was “different” was that he was blind and autistic. Everyone has some talent and that is normal, but what has surprised people, is that a person with a disability can be as talented or more than a “normal” person. In the article Laughing Matters – Kodi Lee Changed the World, the author uses ableism throughout the article to separate the able and non-abled people. Media within the article use negative language that falsifies disabilities, gives images of what to expect of someone with a disability, and the themes people with a disability are falsely associated with.
The language in the article portrays Kodi as an inspiration and someone who holds magic. These statements are negative because the reason he is inspirational and magical is because of his disability. An example of negative language in the article is “.. this incredible voice belonged to a man who is both blind and autistic” (Neworth, 2019).This could be an example of ableism because it’s implying that having a talent is only for abled people, and that if you have a disability you can’t be talented. Another example of poor language is “You have changed the world”. Neworth is saying that without his talent he is not seen. Words such as “courageous” and “challenging” are negative words used in the article. In the context, “courageously face such challenges,” it’s negatively supporting the medical model. It’s saying that his disability is something bad that Kodi deals with every day when he has learned to live with his disability, and it’s a part of who he is as a person.
Negative images of disabled people are prominent today. Neworth portrays negative images of Kodi, and people with disabilities in the article. For example, “...has monumental musical gifts that reveal his intelligence and spirit”(Neworth, 2019). This statement sounds positive however, it represents that without Kodi having his talent, he wouldn’t be intelligent or have an amazing spirit. His statement gives the image that if you have a disability, you need something special about you in order to stand out. Another statement was that Kodi “struggled to say his name and what he was going to perform.” This statement showed everyone with a disability is uncapable of independence and communication. Just those statements can portray images of people with disabilities as unable to survive in society.
The article has themes attached to it causing the readers to believe those things through the language and images. One of the themes portrayed in the article is that people with disabilities are nothing without a talent. Neworth demonstrates that having a talent allows them to be in society with the “normal” and allows him to not be seen with the disability. He will always have that disability, and it’s nothing he can "overcome” through his talent. It also gives the theme that his disability is some horrible disease/tragedy that he must live with. Not everyone with a disability dreads their life. Lastly, it’s saying that only people with disability can be inspirational or cause a change in society. Anyone, abled or not, can make a change.
Disability in the media has been portrayed in negative and positive terms. Language, images, and themes towards disability are a big factor in how society views people with disabilities. Society does not know how to approach, view, or react to disabilities because our language, images, and themes keep supporting the stereotypes. Society needs to understand that people with disabilities are a part of the normal society, and that starts with the media changing their ableism views towards situations with disabilities.