PODCAST| Chiara Nicoletti interviews Eva Espasa, Senior Lecturer at the University of Vic-Central University of Catalonia, Spain.
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Starting from her presentation at the ARSAD 2019: “The audio description of blindness in films: visual pleasures or “blind nightmares”?”, Eva Espasa, Senior Lecturer at the University of Vic-Central University of Catalonia, presents her work in collaboration with fellow colleague Montse Corrius, also Senior Lecturer at the University of Vic–Central University of Catalonia. At the 2013 edition of ARSAD, Eva introduced her abstract on the specificity of online training AD students, where she described several activities designed specifically for distance learning. With this particular experience in mind, Eva Espasa elaborates on the genesis of the 2019 research inspired by Georgina Kleefe’s 1999 book Blind Nightmares. Sight Unseen which looks at the stereotypical descriptions of blind characters in films and it extends its view on the different depictions of male and female blind characters.
“The audio description of blindness in films: visual pleasures or “blind nightmares”?”: Visual impairment has been portrayed in films mostly through stereotypical descriptions of blind characters, who not only allow us to analyse their representation in the film but also to provide a more general reflection on blindness, vision and, by extension cinema. Portrayals of diverse types of disability in the cinema are also stereotypical and extreme, showing characters who are either “evil avengers” (Norden, 1994) or “supercrips” (Hartnett, 2000). Current research has addressed the visions of disability and specifically of visual impairment in films. Quantitative studies have given a general account of the attention paid to blindness in films (relatively higher than to other types of disability), and have reported the negative stereotypes of blind or visually impaired characters (e.g. Norden, 1994). Qualitative studies have provided in-depth analyses from cinema, gender and disability perspectives. Some have explored the filmic reasons and social consequences of including blind characters in films. Gender analyses have pointed at the different depictions of male and female blind characters. Feminist film criticism and the notion of visual pleasure (Mulvey, 1975) have been used in Blind Nightmares by Kleege (1999), to denounce the depiction of blind characters in films as other, as objects to be looked at. Georgina Kleege reflects on how, by representing blind women, the cinema continues to present generally stereotyped positions in line with what Mulvey points out about the classic cinema. Moreover, women are still represented as more passive in so far as they depend, to an even greater degree than the sighted ones, on the other’s gaze. In the case of men, their visual impairement usually translates into a feminization and asexualization of the character. What, to our understanding, has been less explored so far is the role played by audio description in the depiction of blindness in films (cf. Thompson, 2018). It is important to see to what extent audiodescription challenges other perspectives. Does it add or 22 challenge stereotypes? To answer this question, this article will analyse visual impairment in a set of films that have been both previously analysed by film or disability studies, and that have been audio described. The analysis incorporates the notions of “visual pleasure” and of “normalism” (Rius, 2011). It intends, finally, to incorporate its findings into the reflection on audio description policies, ethics and practices.
To check out ARSAD complete programme, click here.