Electronic Theses and Dissertations





Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy



Committee Chair

Craig Stewart

Committee Member

Marina Levina

Committee Member

Amanda Eager

Committee Member

Wanda Rushing


This study examines representations of women with disabilities in sketch comedy. Previous scholarship on this topic has found disabled women figures in popular culture to be represented through a trope of otherness that situates their bodies as incomplete, defective, and lacking value. Typically, representations of disabled persons reinforce their corporeal differences and deviances. As a popular culture artifact, Saturday Night Live (SNL) provides a platform for representations of disability. My study is situated within the field of critical disability studies to offer further insights into how disabled women characters represent portrayals of resistance that go against normative culture to define their bodies on their own terms. I also employ rhetorical frames of the burlesque and grotesque as a methodology to uncover how these sketches portray disabled women characters as agents who reclaim and rework the cultural meanings of their bodies amidst ideological tropes of disability found throughout the dialogue of each scene. Although the trope of otherness is employed in these sketches in ways that ridicule and shame the bodies of disabled women characters, I argue that to the contrary these characters' bodies provide a means by which they can trangress the normative ideals of the beauty myth in particular. My argument centers on how these characters challenge the normative definition of "physical disability as bodily inadequacy," as described by Garland-Thomson (1997a), through their corporeal deviance by utilizing the spectacle that is created by their disability(s) to subvert cultural standards of beauty and, at times, transform the shame that is placed upon their bodies (p. 16). In doing so, these women characters enact agency by constructing their female disabled bodies as capable, desirable, and sexual.


Data is provided by the student.

Library Comment

Dissertation or thesis originally submitted to the local University of Memphis Electronic Theses & dissertation (ETD) Repository.