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Disability in Media - Lesson 6: The 'Super-Crip' Phenomenon

Lesson 6: The 'Super-Crip' Phenomenon


The second disability stereotype that will be explored is “disability as hero by hype”. This stereotype is more commonly referred to as “the super crip” pereception. When not pitied, persons with disabilities are sometimes seen as “heroes,” or in other words, outrageously admired for their “courage” and determination. This stems from the belief that life with a disability must necessarily be horrific and unsatisfying, and as such, we must admire persons with disabilities for being able to live “the way they do.” Much like portraying disability as a form of lesser self-worth (as is often the case with the “disability as pity” stereotype), placing persons with disabilities on a pedestal is another way to denote this social group as “other”. This particular stereotype is also linked to the idea that disability in one area is complimented with superior abilities in another area (for example, the misconception that people who are blind have superior hearing).

The lesson shall incorporate lecture, video examples and various activities to clearly define this stereotype, its implications and related themes.

Learning Outcomes

Upon completion of this lesson, students will be able to:

  • Identify several examples of the "super crip" phenomenon, in different forms of the media (advertisements, television shows, movies, etc)
  • Discuss where this particular stereotype may have originated and link it to the historical context provided in previous lessons.
  • Understand how this particular stereotype perpetuates certain social problems faced by the disability community, and identify some of those social problems.
  • Recognize the role that talk shows in particular have played in perpetuating this stereotype and compare it to the freak shows of the 1800's.
  • Understand how both the "disability as pity" and "disability as super crip" stereotypes work to "other" persons with disabilities.


  1. (5 min.) The teacher will commence by introducing the stereotype, the beliefs linked to this stereotype and several examples of the super crip notion being perpetuated in the media. It may be helpful to refer back to the Media Awareness Network article introduced in a prior lesson. Note examples of 'super-crip' in movies, such as Daredevil.

  2. (10 min.) The teacher will then outline the various social implications linked to this stereotype, and invite students to think of some of their own. As a starting point, the following points are taken from the aforementioned article:

    • It presents disability as a challenge which the character must overcome in order to be "normal"
    • It makes audiences feel better about the condition of persons with a disability without having to accommodate them, reinforcing the notion that disability can be overcome if only the person would "try hard enough"
  3. (10 min.) Talk shows: The teacher is encouraged to use talk shows as an example to stimulate class discussions. For example, many talk shows air entire episodes on people with "extraordinary" stories or peculiar physical anomalies. These persons with disabilities are portrayed in much the same way as those in freak shows during the 1800's. Show the Maury Clip.

  4. (15 min.) Divide the class into groups, and have each group discussion some examples of these talk shows and in what way they perpetuate this stereotype that they may be familiar with in their own experience. After 10 minutes, have each group report back with their most compelling example.

  5. (10 min.) The remainder of the lesson will be used to discuss the two homework assignments linked to this lesson, and to answer any questions students may have.


  1. Surveying disability in the media: students are required to "survey" different forms of the media over the next 48 hours and document where disability is portrayed, and in what contexts. They are to bring their findings to class.
  2. Students must read the McDougall article and respond to it on their blogs. Pages 394-400 are optional reading.

Materials Required

  • A computer with access to the Internet
  • A PowerPoint presentation to enhance the themes introduced
  • Video clip: Amputees on the Maury show

Video Clips

Lesson Activities

  • Lecture, supported by PowerPoint presentation
  • Class Discussion
  • Video Clip

Assigned Readings