If you have access to Netflix, there is a new and somewhat groundbreaking new series called ‘Deaf U’ where the cast are entirely led by alums of Gallaudet University, the world’s first and only university specifically catered for deaf and hard of hearing students, based in Washington D.C.
This is an opportunity to show the world how diverse, expressive, beautiful but also complex, deep and perhaps intensive deaf community can be.
But has the series managed to portray that in a positive way that can make a positive and lasting impact, or did it focus too much on being a typical reality TV show, albeit more deaf-focused?
You can watch the ‘Deaf U’ review on video below…:
…listen to the podcast…
…or read the transcript below.
I don’t know where to begin with, but I’m going to try my best to talk about ‘Deaf U’ so this is my review of ‘Deaf U’, the Netflix series that follows a group of students who are at Gallaudet University in Washington, D.C.; a university that is the world’s first and only university that catered for deaf and hard of hearing.
So there’s a bit a twist as opposed to the average university and to the average series that you tend to watch. I wasn’t really sure what I was expecting, but I thought I’d give it a shot because it’s kind of representative.
And I was hoping that I would go in there and learn something new, but also hoping and praying that it will come out positive in the end. And I came out more confused and conflicted than ever before.
So I don’t know where to begin, but I’ll do my best. I’m going to talk about it. I’ll go over the positive side and the negative side and then just going in more detailes on who are going to be watching it. What will I get out of it? Why I’m feeling like this? And hopefully you will learn from it.
It’s impossible to please everyone
Like anything in life. There’s nothing going to be 100% perfect. I’m not expecting everyone to love it. There is a negative and positive to everything in life, everything.
So I know you’re not going to get everyone liking it, and I know it’s impossible to please everyone.
But I think it would be a very good idea to get different perspectives, my thoughts around it and what people can get out of it and hopefully people will get something out of it because I’m just so confused.
Let’s go over the positives
Let’s go over the positive. And the big positive thing about it is, in a sense, it’s groundbreaking because it’s mainstream. The whole concept of an all-deaf cast with a creative team, with people in there who are also deaf. And it’s out there in mainstream platform, which is kind of groundbreaking because it never happened before.
And on a platform like Netflix, then it’s a good opportunity to showcase to everyone that first of all, 1) deaf community does exist, 2) the deaf culture does exist and 3) to give people an idea of what to expect, get an idea of what goes on.
Because for people who are not in the community, then obviously you’re not going to be aware of what goes on and how it is represented and what does it feel like, what does it look like?
There are obvious element of things that hearing people will not be aware of, and it’s quite evident in there. And what I’m talking about is, there are certain situations where people realise, “oh, that’s a good point”.
For example, there were two people that were cuddling together and they wanted to talk. But obviously when you’re cuddling and your main language is sign language, you kind of have to break away and then sign.
But for hearing people, you can cuddle with a person and you can continue talking if you are mainly talking oral.
Another example, and most people don’t think about is, when two people, they go get their nails done. And what I imagine is that people then they want to talk and get their nails done with their friends.
But if it’s two deaf people and they’re getting their nails done, well, they can’t use their hand because they’re kind of trapped in there, which, you know, you don’t think about.
And it’s something that is kind of like #DeafProblems. But it’s a thing that happens. Little things like that, little nuances people don’t get to see. You get to see that in the series, which I think is positive.
And I understand that one of the big intention of the series is to demonstrate that there isn’t a one way of being deaf. It’s so complex, it’s so diverse, it’s so wide-ranging.
You’ve got different people from different backgrounds and you’ve got people who are maybe grown up Deaf in that community. In a culture with a history of Deaf family members.
An you get the others who are late-deafened and they enter the community late on, they learned sign language later in life, they have a different way of looking at things…so complex.
And I guess the positive thing is that you get to see that there isn’t a one way of being deaf. So it’s quite nice to see that diversity…
…or is it? Because I’ve got a few problems with the way that kind of being represented on the series.
As for the negatives…
The big negative thing for me is I don’t feel like it has a full representation of the different kind of deaf people there are. And what I mean by that, people like black woman. There are no black women within the main cast members there.
No wheelchair-users, no-one from a variety of ethnic minorities and different ethnicity and it doesn’t really demonstrate that at all.
And I think that’s a bit disappointing because there are options and there are plenty out there, especially at the university. Because let’s face it, at a university, you’re not short of options with the wide-ranging of people there, the different background and, oh, there are so many. And I don’t understand why that is not really there in the series.
I’m really confused by that. It doesn’t make sense.
I don’t know if this is true, but apparently the cast were chosen because of contacts or degrees of separation or even via Instagram and how they are appearing. And I’m guessing that is a way to make it entertaining because you want to have the right personality out there on the TV because it’s an entertainment program, a reality TV show.
So maybe that’s what they thought. You have to have certain kind of personalities on TV.
The other problem is that it’s 20 minutes long. So that can be a good thing because it’s just get to the point, don’t drag things on, don’t make it long-winded. Maybe that’s a good thing in certain situations.
But I feel like this is the problem in here. Eight episode, 20 minutes each, you think you can get through it quickly and it’s kind of fine. But because of how complex this topic is and the community and how it’s represented and the different issues within that, that needs to be dissected a bit more, it felt like it was crammed in a lot alongside those entertaining things like drama and relationship and love-fest.
Those were all crammed in together. And because of that, it felt like it just jumping from one scene to another. It didn’t really flow because crammed in a lot of things in 20 minutes.
I think that’s probably a mistake to do because you have to make sure that it represented the right way. When you want to tell the whole world who we are and you want to make sure that there are no misinterpretation and you want to make sure that people are looking at it in a positive way.
But I’m not so sure if it’s done like that.
It definitely does seem to be more focused on, I don’t know how to say in a nice way, but let’s just say pointless information, pointless cliffhangers and really just focus more on being like a reality TV show. Granted, I’m not a fan of these shows. It’s not my scene.
Even my wife said this is like “Made in Chelsea” or “T.O.W.I.E”. I’m not a fan of these shows, they’re not for me. And I’m guessing that’s what it looks like because they focus a lot on relationship and sex and love…that it’s just what it mainly focuses on.
And it just not for me. But at the same time, I feel like it’s a bit of a missed opportunity when you just focus on that and because of that, really, it just focused more on entertainment rather than combining entertainment with the right information in the right way
So for example, if you wanna talk about signings and ‘Deaf Elite’, then you want to make sure that the information out there clearly and again, you don’t want to be misinterpreting that, but I think it does.
The way it was put together, I feel like it was clearly put together for hearing audience. That’s fine. I don’t have a problem with that.
But I feel like because it’s for hearing audience, it needs to be done in a way that represent everything the right way, give positive impression of deaf community, looking at how diverse it is, looking at how complex it is but also how amazing it is and…So many things, and I just don’t really feel like it got that out there, and if it’s for the hearing audience, that kind of a dangerous thing to do.
You would think that if that is the main focus just on the hearing audience, then you would think that you have to make sure that the information out there is clear, the foundation is laid there and you build on from there. But I just don’t feel like it done that very well.
And you are expecting hearing audience to know a lot about elitism, signing, sign names, sign language, Gallaudet University….I’m willing to bet that the majority of the viewers have never even heard of Gallaudet University.
And this is the time to show that, just a little bit.
So because it focused more on entertainment and being all reality TV based and having a little sprinkling of education in there, I just didn’t like how that was represented.
You can even tell on major media publication, like for example, on The New York Times, the writer Mike Hale has done like a preview of ‘Deaf U’.
And he has said and I quote, …
“…the deaf and hard of hearing student at Gallaudet University are obsessed with sex at any other college-age human beings”.Mike Hale – The New York Times
No kidding Mike.
Humans?! I mean, wow, deaf people are human?! Can you imagine them portraying their human like behavior?
But this is the point people just don’t understand that. And this is why I feel like this is a missed opportunity to show that. It is focused more on the wrong narrative, in my opinion, when there are so many things to talk about, and I just can’t help but feel a bit conflicted on why that was put together.
There were certain things that I can relate to, and the big one is the whole thing about “not hearing enough, not deaf enough”. It’s mainly through Cheyenne’s narrative and I totally get that. And I can relate to some extent what she’s saying because I’ve talked about not deaf enough, not hearing enough. You are in that middle bit, where do you belong, create your own world.
But again, it’s not that simple. And that’s why I’m doing all of these content; I have to talk about it, because it’s a big topic. But it didn’t really do that in the series.
I don’t want to cast the blame fully on the cast members. I just know that there are more things going on behind-the-scenes than it seems. And you wonder whether there are certain things that are scripted.
You wonder whether they are restricted to say certain things, whether they are pushed to be more “out there” and entertaining and put that shock factor in there just for the audience to enjoy. You just don’t know. We don’t know what’s going on behind-the-scenes.
And I guess that makes me a bit worried about what’s to come, because I just hope that if there is going to be another series, then I hope better is yet to come. You just can’t really say from what I’ve seen right now, I don’t know what to expect if it’s going to happen.
But, ohh, I’m just so confused.
What do you think? I’m curious to know what you think. Let me know in the comment if you’ve seen it. What are your thoughts around it? Just share your thoughts. If you haven’t seen it, watch it. Give it a shot and see what you think.
I don’t hate it. I just don’t love it. But I’m just really confused and conflicted about what is the purpose of the series and…can someone clarify that for me? I don’t get it. I’m really confused.
Let me know what you think in the comments down below, make sure you Like, make sure you subscribe and I need to digest everything a bit more. This was going to be a long video, but let’s just stop it there, because there are so many things that can be interpreted from what I’ve seen.
I just don’t get it. So let me know what you think. And hopefully we can have that conversation and I will speak to you again soon in the future.