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Relocating the Freak Show: Disability in the Medical Drama

Gesine Wegner


Through an analysis of various negotiations of disability in House, M.D. and Grey’s Anatomy, my paper discusses the narrative and non-narrative means that make the medical drama such an appealing genre to contemporary audience members. As the most successful medical dramas of the post-millennial era, House, M.D. and Grey’s Anatomy rely heavily on the exhibition of non-normative bodies, the humorous device of re-naming patients, and the narrative construction of disability as unbearable deviance. While Laura Backstrom locates the freak show in non-fictional television formats like the talk show and documentary, my paper illustrates how the medical drama, although at times highly self-reflexive, has become another pervasive relocation of the freak show into contemporary television. In a close reading of Grey’s Anatomy, I further demonstrate how the portrayal of a disabled doctor as a series regular both manifests and challenges some of the normative perceptions of the body that the genre relies on.

Corresponding author: Gesine Wegner, MA, TU Dresden, Department of English and American Studies, Helmholtzstr. 10, 01069 Dresden, Germany

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Published Online: 2019-03-06
Published in Print: 2019-03-26

©2019 Walter de Gruyter GmbH, Berlin/Boston

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