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the girl with violets in her lap [userpic]

May 7th, 2014 (01:01 pm)

Man, I am getting annoyed at Switched at Birth. For those of you who haven’t heard of it, it’s an ABC Family show about, yes, two teenage girls who were switched at birth, and most people look at the title and network and assume it’s awful. I don’t blame them, either. But for its first few seasons it was the best take on disability issues that I’ve ever seen on television. One of the girls became Deaf when she was a toddler, and most of the show circles around that: the general difficulties of living in the world as a Deaf person and the reaction of her (privileged, ignorant) birth family to her Deafness, yes, but also explorations of Deaf pride/culture -- why some Deaf people choose not to have cochlear implants to become hearing, why some Deaf people are proud and happy to be Deaf, why some Deaf people would rather just live in a community of other Deaf people, why some Deaf people would not want to see hearing students being integrated into a Deaf school. Stuff like that. And the characters were well-drawn and the writing was sharp and smart and thoughtful, and all characters with disabilities are played by really great actors who also have those disabilities (MARLEE MATLIN, 4 REALZ), which, sadly, is pretty close to being a first on television*. (Think about Glee. I mean.) Whoever writes the show was clearly part of or at least very familiar with the Deaf community and very committed to presenting it accurately and intelligently. I was nuts about this show, and kept trying to talk it up every chance I got. I don’t think anyone I ever talked it up to actually started watching it, but I was trying!

Unfortunately, it seems like it’s a rare television show that can sustain high quality for long. (Ask me my thoughts on the last two seasons of Modern Family.) I mean, it hasn’t gotten *bad*, exactly. There’s still a lot that’s worth watching. But it’s drifting, and I’m sad. It’s still doing OK by its presentation of disability issues, but it’s suddenly gotten really melodramatic, and it’s undercutting a lot of the cool stuff it’s done in previous seasons. It keeps introducing plots and then dropping them an episode later, and they did a mentally-ill-woman-stabs-someone-out-of-the-blue plot that I wasn’t thrilled with, since mentally ill people are no more likely statistically to be violent than non-mentally ill people. And I’m annoyed that after several seasons of Daphne being an aspiring chef, which they dealt with interestingly and at length, she suddenly wants to be a doctor. I feel like that is in large part motivated by “let’s make the really nice girl go into a healing profession, isn’t that what really nice people do?” thinking, and it doesn’t fit at all with her character as it’s been portrayed in previous seasons. And the episode with all the dancing was the stupidest thing ever.** I don’t know. It’s still worth watching, I guess, but compared to the fantastic all-sign-language episode last season where the Deaf kids take over their school to prevent its being shut down, it’s failing.

This entry presented to you by “I’m Bored at Work, Let Me Rant About Television” and the letter K.


*It isn’t just Deaf characters. They’ve got a kid in a wheelchair this season and they found a good actor for the role and are doing a nice job with that plotline.
**OK, not the stupidest thing ever. Grey’s Anatomy, frex, has done much, much stupider things. But it was bad.


Posted by: Tasha Rebekah Martin (lietya)
Posted at: May 7th, 2014 09:22 pm (UTC)

We just started watching Grey's Anatomy recently, so at least I have posts like this to remind me not to get my hopes up too high. ;) And yes, the use of actors/actresses who actually live the characteristics portrayed is really rare. It was shocking when Orange is the New Black and Elementary both cast trans actresses as trans women, for example.

On the bright side, it could yet be worse - I spent all of the first season of Elementary talking it up to people as really incisive and interesting and pitch-perfect on all the -ism issues it addressed... and then it came back with a season 2 filled with fatphobia, misogyny, and other assorted fails. *sigh*

(Also, Buffy did an episode with all singing and dancing that was fantastic. But it's noteworthy *because* it's the only instance of it I've ever seen that didn't suck laughably.)

Posted by: the girl with violets in her lap (slammerkinbabe)
Posted at: May 7th, 2014 09:42 pm (UTC)

Oh, maaan, if you haven’t gotten to the musical episode of Grey’s, JUST WAIT. It was so hilariously bad. I don’t know about you, but I have this HUGE pet peeve about people using songs in contexts where the lyrics are completely inappropriate as long as the title or the chorus seem right. (“Hallelujah,” anyone?) The Grey’s songs were, like, the worst in that regard. They used “How to Save a Life” and literally the ONLY lyrics that applied to the theme in ANY way were those five words. It was ridiculous. And they have, like, three people who can really sing (Sara Ramirez, omg) but they had the whole cast trying to sing and it was just terrible. So you have that to look forward to!

I maintain that the Look to Tomorrow musical episode was really good! (I made Look to Tomorrow up. Also its musical episode was terrible.)

Posted by: Tasha Rebekah Martin (lietya)
Posted at: May 8th, 2014 12:21 pm (UTC)

Aw, heck, Grey's ACTUALLY did this? Well, there's that to look forward to. :) At least we don't take the show very seriously!

The song thing bugs me, too. Though on the flip side, they used "Hallelujah" in the West Wing, and that still haunts me because it was so appropriate; the scene was about a lost love and tragedy and [spoilers] but it was heartbreaking.

Ha! Imaginary shows have the best musicals. :)

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