Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Switched at Birth: Perspective Switch

The theme this semester is identity. These themes arise inevitably and naturally: all the things in my different classes and even in my personal reading or watching converge into a point of commonality. It's ridiculous but also intriguing.

I believe I made a passing mention a year or so ago that I was watching Switched at Birth. It happened that I watched the first ten episodes on Netflix, enjoyed them, and from there started watching the new episodes on Hulu as they came out. Overall, I enjoy the show as something casual to put my attention on. But every so often, it surpasses something and becomes really worth my time.

You've probably heard by now, but the "special angle" that has made this show is that one of the girls who was switched is deaf. So through this show, I've seen more sign language than I ever have in my life. Being able to see, just a bit, into a different perspective is one of the amazing opportunities of fiction and it's wonderful that this show has taken raising awareness about the deaf community so seriously. It dives head forward into many related issues and makes challenges by encouraging questions and answers.

This week's episode, minus the first and last scenes, was presented entirely without audio. Now you see why the show is often called revolutionary? I've never watched something like that; it was amazing. At first, it felt wrong: you see the characters communicating and you can read the subtitles, but there still seems to be a barrier between you and them. But at some point, that barrier (mostly) faded. In any piece of fiction, you are seeing through a chosen lens (whether it's a character's perspective, some other narrator's, or simply the camera's). For this episode, the lens happened to be deaf. And as a hearing person, being able to see (even if only in the most basic way) through that lens was so new and so eye-opening.

Many of the online comments are centering around whether or not they should have added music. Not using music certainly would have made the experience more immersive, but neither do I think it completely detracted from it. Either way, this episode was a wonderful piece of work, showing how TV can entertain but can also take chances and inform and make discoveries. 

Switched at Birth, you have something.

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