Netflix’s ‘Deaf U’ sheds light on the deaf and hearing-impaired community

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Recently, Netflix has not disappointed, and the newest streaming original “Deaf U” is no different. Shot in a documentary style, this new TV series delves into the lives of various students attending Gallaudet University, a private institution located in Washington, D.C. for deaf and hard of hearing students.  

The show introduces the audience to several students, some who can partially hear and others who can’t, and displays how they go about their daily lives. I personally have never met someone who uses American Sign Language (ASL), so I found it both fascinating and humbling.  

Rodney, a hearing impaired football player at Gallaudet, explained the social and hierarchical status within the deaf community. Since Rodney is only hearing impaired and can still verbally communicate, he is often looked down upon. The series explores the stigma of not using ASL 24/7, which is one of the many things that will cause you to be negatively judged in the community. It even stems back to four generations ago and how many family members were deaf. A group of girls who call themselves the “Elite” are individuals who have had deaf family members, went to deaf-centered schools, learned ASL as their first language and were overall raised in the deaf culture.  

My favorite part of the show was hearing all of the cultural and social aspects that come along with being part of the deaf community. Renate goes more in depth about what it’s like being in a relationship with her girlfriend Tayla and also relying on ASL to communicate. For example, when deaf couples cuddle it’s a mixture between physical affection, separating to sign to each other and then back to affection again. The same goes for when they went and got manicures in the show. Unfortunately, they weren’t able to chat and gossip like a hearing couple because their hands were occupied with the nail artist. All these lifestyle differences are often things that a hearing person would never think twice about, however, it makes you appreciate the power of voice when seen from a different perspective. 

The deaf community is quite small, which means information of past-hookups, current flings and everything in between is no private matter. Alexa explains how there is no way of avoiding an ex-boyfriend or not seeing him with his new girlfriend. Everyone goes out to the same restaurants, drinks at the same bars and frequents the same people. And trust me, they’re all honestly blunt with each other. I’m not sure if it’s the ASL that catalyzes brutal honesty, but I love it. It’s refreshing to see communication that is clear and direct.  

The series is produced by Nyle DiMarco, a deaf advocate and actor, who also attended Gallaudet University. His goal was to portray the deaf community as humans, while also displaying the diversity at the school. He too is a fourth-generation deaf person in his family.  

Overall, I would recommend “Deaf U” to everyone and anyone. Kick back, relax and watch a show… but also learn something new at the same time!  

Rating: 5/5 stars  

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