This is a class blog run by Dr. Carolina Acosta-Alzuru and her students in the course "Telenovelas, Culture and Society" at the University of Georgia during Spring 2011

Friday, April 8, 2011

Disabilites on TV shows

Good job to Leonardo Padron on his inclusion in some of his telenovelas of disabilities. A recent study found that at least among American tv shows, there was a very small percent of characters with a disability, which doesn't at all portray the reality of one in eight people having some disability.

Padron has in several novelas included main characters with disabilities and realistically these characters don't magically get healed in the end. In his most recent, La Mujer Perfecta, the protagonist, Micaela suffers from Aspergers Syndrome which is a form of Autism. He infused the show with depictions of real life issues and struggles that people with this syndrome face, infusing awareness raising information with entertainment. Another show he did this with was Ciudad Bendita, where the main character, Bendita Sanchez suffers from a limp.

The article on the Inclusion in the Arts & Media of People with Disabilities website focused more on how actors and actresses with disabilities are not hired for major tv network shows but also mentions the small minority of characters with them. I think that if shows can powerfully hold an audience like novelas can, that the writers should use this to help inform people about the world around them. Although, for some tv shows are an escape from the sad realities of things like disabilities, I commend Padron for his efforts to help raise awareness of disabilities and diseases.

The article was published last September in preparation for October which is National Disability Employment Awareness Month:


  1. I think its pretty special that Micaela suffers from Aspergers Syndrome in La Mujer Perfecta. Every once in a while we can see shows trying to include a character with a disability to make the audience feel a certain way, but in this case its really an indepth look on how a person with Aspergers sees the world in everyday life. i rather see that then the overused "kid in a wheelchair," which directors hardly elaborate on or a gorgeous girl with a "limp," which honestly is nothing compared to living with a sort of mental disability.

  2. I agree with you, Melanie. I think it's really great that Leonardo Padron is trying to make some points and send messages to the audience through his writing of telenovelas. Like Dr. A said, although the public doesn't always get exactly what the writer is trying to say, at least if various writers bring to light specific issues like autism or breast cancer, the audience is receiving images of what can happen in real life. I think it would be very interesting to see the reactions of viewers if there was a character that had Tourettes Syndrome. Perhaps that will appear in a future telenovela!

  3. I have a lot more respect for Padrón for spotlighting individuals with disabilities after I took an alternative spring break to serve some individuals with intellectual disabilities in Philadelphia last month.
    The lack of portrayal of these individuals in TV directly parallels their lack of recognition in our society. Some of the stories I heard on the trip about their hardships and the lack of respect people show for people just because of a disability was truly heartbreaking.
    Luckily, there are institutions just like the one my team served at that are working hard every day for the inclusion of individuals with disabilities in society -- because in the end, we're all people. By the end of my trip, I was no longer serving "individuals with intellectual disabilities." I was serving people.
    Kudos to Padrón for stepping out and advocating for the inclusion of EVERYONE in our world.

  4. This comment has been removed by the author.

  5. Leonardo Padrón definitely deserves all the accolades he has received for the attention he has brought to Aspergers Syndrome. He humanized a topic that many people were uninformed about. Through Micaela's character he showed how people with Aspergers are just as normal as you and I, and I loved that message. Especially with the finale episode with her daughter- I really thought that was one of the most touching scene's I've ever witnessed! I could talk about how much I love Padrón's impeccable writing for days.