I have just finished watching an episode ‘Casualty’, a popular hospital soap drama based in the UK, where it is entirely focused on a deaf character. It also has a deep deaf representation behind-the-scenes to ensure accuracy to portrayed.
The character this episode is based is a deaf nurse called Jade, who is keen to confront her past by meeting her mother for first time. What she didn’t know is that her mother’s deafness also has an impact on her own, whilst the episode demonstrates the impact being deaf can have on her in and around the hospital.
You can watch the video…
…listen to to the episode…
…or read the transcript below.
Today I want to do my own review of the groundbreaking episode of “Casualty,” a popular hospital drama based in UK, it’s been around for decades. I think it’s 34 series that has been going on.
So it’s a big deal in the UK, and the reason I say it’s groundbreaking because this is an episode where it completely centres around one character, who is deaf, and it goes through her journey, her story, and her emotions, her feelings. And I just watched it and it was very good, very, very good.
I’m not going to reveal the entire story, if you want to watch it you can do so, but there will be elements of things where I talk about different characters and how they’re feeling.
So, there might be some spoilers, but I still think you will get a lot from watching it even if I tell you what happen in some of the instances, you will really enjoy it, it will open your eyes a lot and I just want to share my thoughts around the whole thing after watching just now.
Before we get into it, make sure you check out my Patreon page if you want to support this channel, and I’m going to talk a little bit more about this episode and also about what I’ve seen when people don’t provide representation in front and in behind the scenes, and get it as authentic as possible, because that’s what “Casualty” has done, but I want to talk about more about that, and you can check it out on my Patreon page, link is in the description.
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The general story is that, Jade, who is played by Gabriella Leon (who by the way, in real life, she is deaf herself, so you can’t get more true representation than that) thought that she has been abandoned by her mother, because she is deaf.
But she only found out about her deafness late, and her mother didn’t know that she was deaf either, yet she was then put into foster home after foster home. Jade then wanted to meet her past, and meet her mother.
Long story short, her mother is profoundly deaf, and she is mainly sign language speaker as well, and then that relationship gets interesting, and it gets emotional, and I’ll go in a bit more detail about that, but that kind of the general story of that particular episode.
And then around that, of course, there are lot of things like, “Oh, this person had an accident, this person had an accident.” And it’s like you’re waiting for it, you’re watching this character and thinking, something is going to happen. And then, BANG!…something did happen. Those are the little side stories and it kind of blend into the main story.
But, let’s get into the character, Jade. And even from the moment it starts, the scene opened, and she’s in bed, and you can see flashing lights, and the vibrating noise. She’s in bed and she’s waking up, and it’s immediately, it’s obvious that it’s her alarm, which flashes and vibrates, because obviously, you can’t hear that.
And I have kind of a similar set up, except I have a smoke alarm like that, where it flashes and it vibrates, but also I use the vibration of my phone, as my alarm so that I can hear it. And it works for me that way. For others, it might not work like that.
I think everything is muffled because she didn’t have her hearing aid on, so trying to make it realistic in terms of this is what you’re hearing, based on how she’s hearing it.
So, the caption “muffled sigh” came on, and then there was even certain captions came up when she was drying her hair, and it’s kind of like thuds against her ear, and just like thud, thud, thud, but, there were times, I have to be honest, where some of the captions where they describe the sound, I didn’t think it’s very, very good.
For example, when she was drying her hair with a towel, the caption came up “amplified white noise impact on ear”. For me, I don’t think that’s a very good caption, it didn’t really make it very accurate, it didn’t make sense to me.
I think it could have been something similar, like off the top of my head, “hand thumping against ear while drying hair”, or something that is quite specific. There’s an action because of a specific action, and as a result of that there is a specific sound that comes out of it. But that caption didn’t really tell you the full story.
But aside from that, then you get into it, she then puts on her hearing aid, and the little clever thing is that you can hear when she taps the hearing aid, and you can hear it going thud, thud, thud because you’re trying to adjust it, you’re fixing that and all you think and then caption comes up, “white noise” and is it white noise?
I’m not sure, I think it could have been other kind of background noise, but either way, what it’s trying to tell you is that, the role is with sound distortion around you, and then when she puts her hearing aid on, things have got a bit clearer, and the white noise has ended and the caption had displayed that. So it’s good that it tells you that, but I think the caption could have been a bit more descriptive.
The one thing that’s definitely accurate, is when she puts her hand over her hearing aid there’s a feedback, and that does happen. It’s like checking if it’s working, the battery is okay, all these things, and you have it on, and that is legit.
Because she’s a nurse, obviously, there would be all sorts of sounds in and around the hospital, and there were times where it was very overwhelming. So for example, she has tinnitus and it got really hard to hear certain things.
Or certain noises it become really intensive, a bit very overwhelming, and she got a bit sensitive it was high volume noises, and you can see certain captions appearing saying, “increased white noise”, as she enter the hospital, or “siren blaring” and she looks really uncomfortable with it.
The screen also got a bit fuzzy to give you an idea that that’s how she’s feeling, just overwhelming, just too much, and I’ve learned later on that the sensitivity to high noises is called ‘hyperacusis’, and that is apparently something that Jade is going through.
And again, it’s a true reflection of how some people will fear when there are noises, that are just too much to handle, it’s just too overwhelming, maybe you can’t really differentiate, you can’t separate it, and I get that a lot, because it just requires, either you have to concentrate really hard on what that noise is and trying to work it out.
Or you get exhausted from just this constant action of listening and listening, in amongst all that noise, you get that listening fatigue, and it just got very overwhelming, to the point where you just want to take off your hearing aid and that has happened at times.
And then, into the story itself about… She then eventually meets her mother for the first time since she was abandoned at the age of three. And she went to meet her for the first time, and didn’t realise that she was deaf, and the mother didn’t realise that, “Oh, you’re deaf as well.”
Now the mother who’s played by Sophie Stone, who is brilliant actress. Every time I watch her on anything, she’s awesome, I love her acting style and her emotion, and all you these things…brilliant.
So, Sophie Stone, is the actress and she plays a character called Susie, who is Deaf, and abandoned Jade as a child, and at that time it’s because she thought, she just couldn’t cope, or she was withdrawn, or she was not developing properly. She didn’t realise, at that time, that she was deaf. And then that story got opened up and got really emotional at times and got really deep.
The first time that they meet was in a cafe, as you do, and I couldn’t help but just laugh in terms of in dismay when they both wanted to order coffee. So you go to the barista, Jade orders, and she was speaking orally and asked for a coffee, and then Susie also asks for a coffee as well, but she doesn’t use speech a lot, and she did it a little bit, and the barista was like, “I don’t know what you’re talking about“, and it’s just ridiculous.
And even Susie said, “I can write it down for you.” And then Jade said, “Here’s what she wants.” And maybe Jade didn’t have to do that, but the barista was just not helping her. I think someone need a bit of deaf awareness training. Maybe, someone can contact that cafe and get that organised because the barista didn’t help
So at that time then they got the coffee, sit down, and they’re going to have a conversation and I don’t really watch this “Casualty” a lot, it’s just because of this episode I was really intrigued, so I don’t know whether Jade could sign or not, and how she communicates with deaf people, likewise vice-versa, what’s going to happen.
Is it going to be by text?
Are they going to write down messages?
Are they going to sign?
It’s interesting to see different ways of communicating, because there are different ways of communicating, between someone who is hearing, or maybe he gets partially deaf, hard of hearing, and someone who is profoundly deaf. There are ways to get around it.
So I was quite curious to see what happened, and low and behold, they were signing, and it seemed Jade was signing in Sign Supported English, but maybe she’s learning, maybe trying to get up to speed in terms of grammar, but obviously Susie was signing in BSL, in British Sign Language.
And that was the communication there, and obviously, again, it wasn’t like a full on communication in terms of a deep conversation at first, because there was a lot of emotion, they’re trying to get understanding, there are things going on in the background, and that is another moment where I was quite impressed, where the caption this time, was very accurate, because there was a caption that said something along the lines of, “Milk frother whirs,” which I think is really accurate.
So you know on the coffee machine, you can hear that noise, they want to get that milk to froth, and make it steamed and get the froth going, you hear that a lot in a cafe, and that was really highlighted in that particular scene, and it really made Jade like, “I just can’t cope.” She had to take her hearing off, (at this moment in time, I also took off my hearing aid, I’m kind of done with it for now).
And really, she took off her hearing aid because the noise was just too much, and it felt a bit better because it’s just really sensitive to have that high level of noise.
So then they where communicating, and one thing that she points out as well, is that, one, they were communicating by sign language, the open caption, which is the burned on caption, started to appear, and that was trying to say, “This person said this, this person said that.”
It was in different colours, so you can locate who says what and that’s how you read it, and on top of that, which is really important to have you mention it, the open caption was moved up a little bit than the average thing that you see in the subtitles at the bottom of the screen but the open-caption was a little bit higher.
And that’s because there were times where the open-captions appear at the same time as the closed-captions.
In certain situations, sometimes you see them overlap each other, and then you can’t see it, you can’t read anything because the open-caption is on top of the closed-caption, and you can’t see what’s going on, because it’s just distorted. But in this occasion, they separated it, which is perfect.
That was really important, because there was a particular point again when the milk frother was making that noise, and there was a sound distortion, and then there was a bit where she said “sorry”, and sorry was open-caption, and that was burned on the video, and then below was the sound distortion disappearing.
But it’s trying to say, both of these things were happening at the same time, and that was done really well. The fact that they wanted to use open-caption with the closed-caption, it was done brilliantly.
One thing that I’ve also noticed is that when they first met the first time, and they try to say that, “I’m deaf.” When Susie said, “I’m Deaf.”, I’ve noticed it’s Deaf with a capital ‘D’.
And then Jade said, “Me too”. I’m just, “Oh, you’re deaf?” And that was a deaf with a small ‘d’.
And the whole thing, small ‘d’ deaf, capital ‘D’ Deaf, you can learn more about that if you want to, but again it shows that they have the right people saying, “Okay she’s capital ‘D’ Deaf, and small ‘d’ deaf.” People argue whether is that needed, but, I guess in this situation, it was needed.
So the fact that it was there, shows you that they are the right people involved in the creation of this episode, because I suspect, most people would not be aware of the difference between small ‘d’ deaf and capital ‘D’ Deaf.
There are other moments where I thought I just had to again laugh in dismay and it’s because it’s a typical thing that you see in the real world, and that is when Susie’s mother, called Theresa, she was trying to find her, and long story short, there was a bit of an accident where she (Susie) had to go on the ambulance and the paramedic, and in the ambulance it was Jade, it was Susie, and then Susie’s mother Theresa, and then the paramedic was there.
The paramedic wanted to speak to Susie, and she wanted to get someone to translate, the mother Theresa, she intervened, “Don’t worry. Lifetime of practice over here, so it’s better that I communicate because I know best”, and I knew this is going somewhere and it’s going to be interesting.
So the paramedic said, “Could you ask Susie where is she feeling pain?” And some people might expect Theresa to resign, no, it was never going to happen, and I knew it was never going to happen. Theresa just start speaking, maybe slowly and saying, “Oh, don’t worry, she can lip read.”
And that was enough. 🙄
Jade was sitting beside her, and she said, “I can sign, I can do the interpreting.” And Theresa was like, “No, no, no, no, leave it to me, I know better.”
And this is a typical story that you hear all the time. The parent they think they know best about certain things, and I agree that there are times you do know better, but there are times where because of that lack of awareness, and it’s a hearing parent, they’re not fully aware of how that deaf child feels, and in this case she’s a grown up, but still, she feels like she knows better.
Susie got annoyed with it, and she’s like, “Okay, yes pain, side, blah blah blah.” But, it was clear that Theresa wanted to be in charge because she felt she knew better.
And that is what happens in the real world.
It can get quite complicated, it can get quite messy, because then the relationship between the parent who’s hearing, and the child who is deaf it doesn’t go very smoothly, and that shows when Jade then rolls her eyes, and I also, rolled my eyes as well.
Don’t worry Jade, I get it.
The other story which is also emotional and it’s also quite common in the real world. Is the fact that Jade was abandoned because she was withdrawn in her own world, and she wasn’t, according to professionals, developing normally.
At that time, they didn’t know she was deaf. And it was only later on, she was diagnosed as deaf but she was abandoned and put into foster care, and I’m sure that happens a lot in the real world, and also regardless of whether that person, if that person’s deaf, or other kind of disabilities or whatever, then you can only work out like how often this happens in the real world, where the child just needs a bit of adjustment, and that’s it, it will be fine, and everyone is to adjust around the child’s need too.
But that didn’t happen, and it just brought out that emotion of feeling where she’s felt, “Oh, I’m abandoned because I’m deaf?” The mother didn’t know, because the mother thought that it was important that she was put into special care, and the mother, in this term I’m talking about Susie, who said her mother said the same thing, and they said, “the professionals told us we should do that, it’s the best way, and we couldn’t do it on our own, so we had to put you in foster care”.
And that is really sad, really, really heartbreaking. Because I’m sure that happens a lot, when really a bit of patience and getting advice from the right people is all that you need.
And then towards the end of the episode, there was again another scene, which resembles in real life where Theresa said, “I tried my best, I listened to the professionals.”
And that gave me a bit of a warning sign when someone said, “I listened to professionals”, and they said “this”. In this situation they said “I should focus on speech therapy, avoid signing, and get enforce the person to speak instead of signing” and eventually, Susie did sign, but Theresa was saying “I listened to them and they said this”
That happens a lot. I hear that story a lot in the real world, even though that it would have been a lot smoother if everyone learned sign language. Theresa didn’t know any, and she didn’t think it was needed, and she felt like it was better to listen to the professionals, do it this way, this happens in the real world, and again it’s really, really sad, and it can get quite emotionally traumatic for the deaf person, in this case the deaf child.
That created a lot of mess, and that is because, sometimes, I can’t blame the parent, because they felt like they did the right thing by listening to the professionals, but sometimes, those professionals are among the least deaf aware people in the world. They think they know better, but by enforcing ‘audism’, and they enforce people to do that, don’t do signing, don’t do any of that, just forget about it, then that actually benefited the professional and the parent more, but it didn’t benefit the deaf child in any way.
It really captured that emotion, and it was just perfectly done. I thought it was really, really, well done.
The (big) reason it was well done because there were proper, proper representation of the people in the front, in front of the camera, and behind the scenes, trying to get the authenticity bang on, spot on.
Not only you have, first of all you have the programmes, first regular deaf character, who she is, Gabriella Leon, and she was playing the character Jade, and she’s deaf herself in real life, and she has experience, that’s number one. And then, her mother, Sophie Stone, well-known actress, and she is BSL speaker, and she is a professional actress as well, so it is not there’s no worry about that, just getting anybody, she’s a professional, she knows what she’s talking about, that’s another thing.
It was also written by two people who were also very well known, Charlie Swinbourne, and Sophie Woolley, and they are also deaf themselves, and it was directed by a deaf director called John Maidens: it’s a beautiful team, it’s a perfect team.
This is what happens when you have a good team, they bring it out real way, authentic way, unlike certain situations where you see people say, “Oh we couldn’t find anybody”, or they just bring some random people who pretend to be disabled, and it’s not really authentic, and they do things which is just not right, they don’t really bring out that authenticity on the screen.
This is what happens when you get the proper people, experts, and true representation on the screen. You get this, you get “Casualty” delivered in a really brilliant way, yes there were issues with the caption, I felt could be better, but in general, it was so good, it was so, so good.
And I just want to end with this: there was one scene, where Jade was speaking to Theresa, and trying to say that, “You’re wrong.” In general, that’s the story, you’re wrong. And Jade said, “And it’s OK to be deaf.”
Oh, that gave me shivers, oh, gave me shivers!
And it gave me shivers because the story makes sense because, again, you need to watch it, you’ll understand why she said that, but even for me, and I’m sure millions of people, to hear that and say, “It’s okay to be deaf.”
Oh, gave me shivers, and for me because all this time, where I’ve been treated like I am broken, or flawed, or I’m just put on the side somewhere, or I’m not normal, all these things, and sometimes, you need someone to say, “You are normal, because you are normal, and it is okay to be deaf.”
But, sometimes you don’t hear that, and almost all the time, you don’t really see that on the screen, and someone said that on the screen as well, and that was so, so important. I can’t emphasise how important that one sentence towards the end of the episode is, and it’s okay to be deaf.
If you’re based in the UK, you can watch it on iPlayer, and the story is just really, really good, even for someone like me who hasn’t really watched “Casualty” ever, and I wanted to watch this one because it’s just always nice to see someone who is like you on the screen, and it’s done in the correct way, in an accurate way, and they care.
They care by getting the right people involved, and I just loved that, and I just want to thank the whole “Casualty” team, crew, and the people involved in the making of the episode, and of course, bringing it on screen by Gabriella, she’s done amazingly to bring it on the screen…and every single person did what they had to do, and it was so well done.
Make sure you subscribe on whatever platform that you are on, it really would be amazing if you could do that.
In the meantime, I will speak to you again soon.
- What is ‘audism’? Plus my personal experiences of facing audism - October 27, 2021
- ‘CODA’ movie review: my thoughts on the latest deaf movie to be released - October 13, 2021
- Deafness as a ‘hidden/invisible disability’ - October 6, 2021
Thank you for such an amazing commentary! Any ideas where I can watch the actual episode of Casualty in Australia?
Ahmed Khalifa says
No problem, Tom. Thanks for checking it out 🙂 I’m not sure how you are going to watch it in Australia, as it’s only available in BBC iPlayer at the moment, which is UK-only. Sometimes it is uploaded onto YouTube but I couldn’t see any.