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Chronic YouthDisability, Sexuality, and U.S. Media Cultures of Rehabilitation$
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Julie Passanante Elman

Print publication date: 2014

Print ISBN-13: 9781479841424

Published to NYU Press Scholarship Online: March 2016

DOI: 10.18574/nyu/9781479841424.001.0001

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Medicine Is Magical and Magical Is Art

Medicine Is Magical and Magical Is Art

Liberation and Overcoming in The Boy in the Plastic Bubble

(p.29) 1 Medicine Is Magical and Magical Is Art
Chronic Youth

Julie Passanante Elman

NYU Press

This chapter analyzes the representations of “real” bubble boys, David Vetter III and Ted DeVita, alongside the movie The Boy in the Plastic Bubble (1976). News stories and movies about the bubble boy linked sexual exploration with space exploration, as well as manly self-sacrifice with self-making. Hence, the boy has been a figure through which Americans negotiated ambivalence about technology, masculinity, and sexuality in a new sexually liberated world. In particular, the representation of his “disabled martyrdom” showed how two conjoined rehabilitative narratives—“overcoming sexual repression” and “overcoming disability,”—had become co-constitutive expectations of adolescence, such that adulthood was represented as the achievement of heterosexuality and able-bodied masculinity.

Keywords:   bubble boys, David Vetter III, Ted DeVita, sexual exploration, space exploration, manly self-sacrifice, self-making, heterosexuality

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