The ABC Family drama that took the Deaf and hard-of-hearing community by storm last summer is back, and with a vengeance. Depicting drama between Daphne and Bay (the two girls that were switched at birth) and their respective families, Switched at Birth tugs at the heartstrings of people of all types and is destined to positively change peoples’ perspectives of Deaf and hard-of-hearing people.
In my last blog post, I expressed my disappointment in ABC Family taking a patronizing view of Deaf people as they asked people on Twitter how proud they were of Emmett speaking on the show’s finale (this tweet no longer exists). After watching the latest episode, I’m happy to say that I believe the show has taken two steps forward in regard to accurately depicting the different experiences Deaf and hard-of-hearing people face on a regular basis.
First and foremost, as a Deaf person, it is nice to see how Emmett, a deaf individual, is shown on a subsidiary of a major television network and is an important part of a band. This inclusion in the band really shows the general population that Deaf people are not limited by their hearing loss and can do anything they put their mind to.
One thing I’ll note is that the show is making timely suggestions of showing how Deaf people have been suppressed by their hearing peers. This suppression happens for a number of reasons and is often a result of innocent ignorance.
This was explicitly shown twice in this episode. The first being the awkwardness in Emmett’s face when he was handing out flyers with Wilke and Toby, and was lost during the conversation with Simone Sinclair; and the second being when Bay ordered the tamales for Emmett without Emmett’s permission.
I’m quite pleased that the writers included this – it’s truly representative of what most Deaf and hard of hearing people have experienced at one point or another when around hearing people. On the other side of the equation, Bay brought up a good question at the very end of the first episode: how does she know the rules?
The answer given was “give it time.”
In essence, this is cultural assimilation and learning cultural norms – Deaf people know they are different and the responsibility is on both Deaf and hard-of-hearing people, and hearing people to figure out how to best communicate. These necessities are unique to the Deaf culture, but are further proof that each culture has their own norms.
With this said, my hope is that more parents and families of Deaf and hard-of-hearing children watch this show as it will shed some insight as to what their Deaf or hard-of-hearing family members go through.
Congratulations, ABC Family! Two steps forward this time around – I look forward to many more!
Purple Digital Media Coordinator Corey Axelrod is a regular contributor to the Purple Blog. Corey’s views and opinions are his own and do not necessarily reflect those of Purple Communications. Watch for more reviews as Switched at Birth season two continues! Follow Corey on Twitter @coreyaxelrod.