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Disability as a Political Stand-In and Shield: Anxious Masculinity in a Korean film, Marat'on(2005)

  • Journal of Special Education: Theory and Practice
  • Abbr : JSPED
  • 2014, 15(4), pp.365-396
  • Publisher : Research Institute of the Korea Special Education
  • Research Area : Social Science > Education

Chungwan Woo 1

1경인교육대학교

Accredited

ABSTRACT

This paper explores the cinematic representation of disability in a highly praised Korean film, Marat’on, directed by Chŏng Yun Ch'ŏl(2005), and illuminates the process by which disability, as a political identity and embodiment of lived experience, is co-opted by patriarchy and neoliberalism. In doing so, the paper first situates the film within the context of the “male in crisis” believed to be caused by the 1997 Korean economic breakdown. Then, it employs three theoretical concepts to critically read the film. Lastly, it textually analyzes the film in light of its narrative structure, character development, genre, and styles. The paper has two main arguments. First, Marat’on reflects and reinscribes a hegemonic idea of disability and gender. In the film, the dominant ideologies of patriarchy and neoliberalism are rearticulated by way of blaming a mother of an autistic son and remasculinizing the son with the familiar trope of “supercrip.” Second, disability as a representational strategy works to connect remasculinization and neoliberalization. In the film, the disabled son embodies the link and faithfully serves as a vehicle for disseminating neoliberal masculinity. The paper further suggests that disability becomes a visual signifier for (nondisabled)male suffering brought on by the economic crisis as well as an object that needs to be overcome for a new masculinized subjectivity. More importantly, overcoming disability is a rationale for subjugating another fellow marginalized group, especially a woman.

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