This article contains opinion.
A new reality series hit Netflix Oct. 9 that gave the hearing world an insight to a different type of community.
“Deaf U” follows four students enrolled at Gallaudet University in Washington D.C. The first season is only eight episodes long with the episodes lasting roughly 28 minutes each. Each episode ends on a cliff-hanger type ending, and you will become invested in the story by the end of the first episode.
While the cast is Deaf, 50 percent of the behind-the-scenes crew is Deaf as well. The other half is either hard-of-hearing or hearing. Nyle DiMarco, an actor, activist and model, is the executive producer. He’s been promoting “Deaf U” since September when the first trailer dropped.
The first season focuses on eight different students and gives an insight into their lives as members of the Deaf community.
It centers around Rodney Burford who has a cochlear implant and uses both American Sign Language (ASL) and verbal means of communication; Cheyenna Clearbrook, a Deaf influencer and YouTuber; Tessa Lewis, a member of the ‘elite’ group at Gallaudet; Alexa Paulay-Simmons, another member of the ‘elite’ group who has multiple relationships throughout the show; Renate Rose, an outspoken activist who is dating Tayla, another student; Daequan “DQ” Taylor, a hard-of-hearing football player who was born into a hearing family; and Dalton Taylor, no relation to Daequan, who is also a football player.
Throughout the show, the audience learns about the different lifestyles that are not all that different than those in the hearing community.
Cheyenna receives negative feedback from Tessa and other members of the ‘elite’ or popular group at Gallaudet. The ‘elite,’ she explains through ASL, are members who were born into Deaf families who have been Deaf for generations and. They went to all Deaf schools, grew up together and have money.
The ‘elite’ bully Cheyenna’s feedback centers around her videos being more inclusive of the hearing community when the hearing community needs to be inclusive of the Deaf.
In her videos, Cheyenna enunciates well and puts closed captioning (subtitles) on them. Tessa, the apparent leader of the ‘elite’ group, is the main one upset.
In a quiet meeting with Alexa, who is a member of the ‘elite’ group but is also finding her own way, Cheyenna explains how attacked she felt.
Renate and Tayla are dating and are very outspoken about human rights such as LGBTQ+ issues and women’s rights. They go to a poetry reading, and Renate gets very provocative during her performance of a poem she wrote for Tayla.
Dalton, DQ and Rodney are close friends. Rodney invites DQ home with him for a family dinner. DQ, who grew up without a family, wants nothing more and feels loved and accepted at the dinner table. It appears that Rodney’s father knows ASL, but his mother and sister are hearing.
As a Child of a Deaf adult (CODA), I found the show to be a perfect example of what college is like, not only for a Deaf student. The show incorporates the ups and downs of relationships prior and during the college years, as well as the peer pressure we all feel to fit in.
Each episode seems to focus on a specific person, but it also includes the others. In the show, it’s stated that the Deaf community is so small that everyone knows everyone, and if one person knows that something happened, the entire community will know it happened. Also, the Deaf community does not hide anything from anyone. They are very open with every topic out there.
“Deaf U” brings representation to the table with the different stories and experiences all the students have gone through. It ends on a cliffhanger, almost like a plot twist, that you never saw coming.
If you’re looking for a different show to binge while learning something new, definitely check out “Deaf U” on Netflix.