Technological Virility, Cyborg Infertility: Adaptation in "Top Gun" and "Born on the 4th of July"

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"Top Gun" and "Born on the 4th of July", provide two vastly different perspectives about what it means to be the user of an adaptive technology. In "Top Gun", the F-14 Tomcat is seen as a sleek and sexy machine capable of enhance its user’s masculinity. Meanwhile, "Born on the 4th of July" presents Tom Cruise as being a broken man who has become “confined” to a wheelchair. Current mainstream media represents prosthetic war technologies as being masculine, empowering, worthwhile, and freeing, while simultaneously showing adaptive technology devoted to enabling the disabled body as being feminized, marked by loss, weakness, and worthlessness; according to mass culture, the first technology is freeing, the second constricting, and heaven forbid, emasculating. Using a power chair for the past 15 years, I can say that rather than becoming a “defective” human who is “confined” to a wheelchair, I have come to incorporate the technology into my own body, allowing the equipment to supplement my limited physical ability. In this way, these adaptive devices do not supplant my humanity, but rather, have become an integrated and symbiotic part of my embodied identity – my wheelchair is not symbolic of my inability, rather, it affirms my independence. This presentation seeks to explore how the body is understood when it connects to technology, the problems inherent in the ways differing technologies are represented, and the possibility of reconsidering the disabled body as being a site for cyborg resistance.

Keywords: Adaptive Technology, Media Representations, Disability, Military Technology, Masculinity, Embodiment, Cyborgs, Empowerment
Stream: Technology in Community
Presentation Type: Paper Presentation in English
Paper: A paper has not yet been submitted.

Jeffrey Preston

Graduate Student (Masters), Faculty of Information and Media Studies, University of Western Ontario
London, Ontario, Canada

Diagnosed with a rare form of Muscular Dystrophy at 3 months old, I have always vowed to spend my life trying to make things better for others with physical disabilities. Currently dedicating my focus on researching representations of disability in the media at the University of Western Ontario, I am a former vice-chair on the Easter Seals Society of Ontario’s Board of Directors and the past-chair of their Provincial Council. I also spend much of my time educating the public on disability issues, independently making public presentations about disability issues over the past five years, including presenting a paper at International Association for Science, Technology and Society’s Annual Conference in February 2007. Finally, I a nominee for a 2006-07 Graduate Student Teaching Award at the University of Western Ontario.

Ref: T08P0079