Season 1 of Netflix’s Deaf U will no doubt create contention. On the one hand, many will see the focus on Gallaudet University and its students as a long overdue spotlight on the deaf experience—one which doesn’t just depict hardships or obstacles of deafness. The opening scene, in fact, choses to immediately depict the advantages of deafness—with Daequan and Raelyn flirting from the windows of their respective dorm rooms.
Still, others might find the topic area—flirting, sex, relationships, reality TV things—a missed opportunity to cover deaf issues that aren’t also Love Island issues.
Deaf U producer, model, and deaf activist Nyle DiMarco said in an interview with Deadline that “the point of it all is that deaf people are human. We’re the same as human people, we go through the same as hearing people.” People flirt and have sex and go to clubs. Deaf people flirt and have sex and go to clubs. All cultures are equal in the eyes of reality television, where the universal language is broken hearts and bruised friendships.
Many of the Gallaudet students agreed to the project for similar reasons as DiMarco. Cheyanna Clearbrook noted that she participated in order to “break boundaries down for everyone.” Renate Rose also pointed out how much of a “big deal” it was for Netflix to shine the spotlight their way. It was a chance to represent a community.
Of course, that community shares many of the hierarchies and internal prejudices of any other community, making the series difficult to watch at times, given students were experiencing very real pain and trauma.
So far, Deaf U has only given us a glimpse into deaf community. Here’s hoping we get more of that down the road.
Will there be a season 2 of Deaf U?
DiMarco hasn’t yet confirmed involvement on a follow-up season, though if Netflix is following suit with their other “U” series—including Last Chance U and Last Chance U Basketball, we could be in for a few more seasons. There are other colleges the series could potentially profile, as well as more aspects of deaf life in D.C.—such as sports, academics, and work—that Season 1 only briefly touched on.
In a recent interview, DiMarco explained how part of his intentions with the series was to challenge the hearing assumption that the deaf community was a “monolith.” Season 1 touched upon the various hierarchies in the deaf world—how some deaf students were maligned because of their hearing abilities (that they weren’t “deaf enough”). We hope future seasons explore more of these issues. And maybe a bit less of college culture we're already well familiar with.
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