Netflix’s newest unscripted sequence, Deaf U, spotlights younger college students at Gallaudet College in Washington D.C., a school predominately for the Deaf and Exhausting of Listening to. Whereas the Deaf viewers might have been trying ahead to seeing a glimpse of themselves represented on the display screen, this sequence serves primarily as a voyeuristic and salacious gaze for the listening to viewers into Deaf lives.
At one level, two of the principle stars, Rodney Burford and Daequan Taylor, casually mentioned how Daequan acquired fellow pupil Alexa Paulay-Simmons pregnant in opposition to her consent. In the meantime, Daequan is clearly uncomfortable revisiting the subject with Alexa, the lady he bodily and emotionally violated. Rodney and Daequan are each Black, whereas Alexa is white. Black men are often misrepresented in the media, and the fetishization of Black males as sexually aggressive and unsympathetic in the direction of females just isn’t a optimistic illustration. I can virtually assure that Black Deaf males would discover it unsettling that the one two males from their group had been portrayed on this manner.
The storylines on Deaf U don’t have any route or decision. We actually solely see the scholars talking about relationships and sex, partying, and the way they signal. We do not hear about their courses, and discussions of family dynamics are sometimes overshadowed by the deal with their intercourse lives or their existence in relation to different Deaf college students. As a filmmaker, I’ve seen many listening to producers with restricted views on Deaf tradition have this mindset of framing Deaf folks on how effectively they hear or speak. What is that this obsession with sound and signal language? We wish to see the human facet of who they’re as folks with out subjecting them as inspiration porn for his or her incapacity or listening to loss.
All through all eight episodes, not a single Black Deaf feminine appeared. This lack of illustration extends past the solid; Deaf U has one Deaf producer (Nyle DiMarco) and one Black feminine serving as a supervising producer (Naimah Holmes). When present producers rent a Deaf producer or marketing consultant to imagine a “token position,” oversights can occur. They can’t do the job alone. The burden of that accountability is inherently unfair. In actual fact, I’m experiencing that stress firsthand whereas creating my very own TV present. As a Black Deaf feminine within the business, I’ve some affect to vary that.
In a present I’m creating, the Black feminine characters tackle rape tradition, expertise misogynoir, interact in empowered pondering, expertise relationships, love, enterprise possession, interacting with, and supporting one another whereas some are moms and/or daughters. We’re impartial and community-engaged individuals who do not want saviors. It is deceptive for Deaf U to set the precedent that Black Deaf ladies don’t exist as a result of now we have been combating to see a optimistic illustration of ourselves on the display screen. The erasure of Black Deaf females in one of many solely reveals that options Deaf characters hurts us.
Jade Bryan is a social justice activist and is the primary Black Deaf, award-winning filmmaker with 25 years of film production and a BFA diploma from Tisch, New York College. . She has written 10 screenplays, produced six documentaries, function movies, and is the founder and creator of the #DeafTalent® Movement to lift consciousness for Deaf Expertise who’re POC, Black, and different ethnicities who’ve been systematically boxed out of the movie and TV business.