Netflix’s newest unscripted sequence, Deaf U, spotlights younger college students at Gallaudet College in Washington D.C., a university predominately for the Deaf and Arduous of Listening to. Whereas the Deaf viewers might have been wanting ahead to seeing a glimpse of themselves represented on the display, this sequence serves primarily as a voyeuristic and salacious gaze for the listening to viewers into Deaf lives.
At one level, two of the primary stars, Rodney Burford and Daequan Taylor, casually mentioned how Daequan acquired fellow scholar Alexa Paulay-Simmons pregnant towards 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 direction of females just isn’t a optimistic illustration. I can nearly assure that Black Deaf males would discover it unsettling that the one two males from their group had been portrayed on this method.
The storylines on Deaf U haven’t any route or decision. We actually solely see the scholars speaking about relationships and intercourse, partying, and the way they signal. We do not hear about their lessons, and discussions of household dynamics are sometimes overshadowed by the give attention to their intercourse lives or their existence in relation to different Deaf college students. As a filmmaker, I’ve observed many listening to producers with restricted views on Deaf tradition have this mindset of framing Deaf individuals on how properly they hear or discuss. What is that this obsession with sound and signal language? We wish to see the human facet of who they’re as individuals 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 forged; 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 function,” oversights can occur. They can’t do the job alone. The burden of that duty is inherently unfair. In actual fact, I’m experiencing that stress firsthand whereas growing my very own TV present. As a Black Deaf feminine within the business, I’ve some affect to alter that.
In a present I’m growing, the Black feminine characters handle rape tradition, expertise misogynoir, have interaction in empowered considering, expertise relationships, love, enterprise possession, interacting with, and supporting one another whereas some are moms and/or daughters. We’re unbiased and community-engaged individuals who do not want saviors. It is deceptive for Deaf U to set the precedent that Black Deaf girls don’t exist as a result of we’ve got been combating to see a optimistic illustration of ourselves on the display. The erasure of Black Deaf females in one of many solely exhibits 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, characteristic 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.