Patient-subject agency in sleep disorder documentaries : an analysis of three films

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Montana State University - Bozeman, College of Arts & Architecture


A patient-subject in a sleep disorder documentary is particularly vulnerable to disenfranchisement and is often unable to govern her own portrayal. This is because the patient-subject of a sleep disorder documentary falls within a unique nexus of controlling power structures and gazes that are rooted in medical sociology, documentary filmmaking ethics, and the sociology of sleep. Relying on past scholarship on medical documentaries in general, I identify three themes that signal disenfranchisement of the patient-subject: when authority of knowledge rests with the doctor and/or the filmmaker, when the doctor is active while the patient-subject is passive, and when the patient-subject is exposed to voyeurism. I then analyze three sleep disorder documentaries for how well they maintain patient-subject agency.


The survivor is a film that is part of the student's thesis project.



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