Just When You Thought Sitcoms Were Washed Up: A Deaf And Interracial View

Better late than never, I say, and nowhere is that more clear than The Two Essences, a sitcom seeking funds over on Indigogo that I stumbled upon through Twitter!

What makes this one special? Let’s just say there aren’t enough television shows out there featuring deaf and interracial families simply living their life. In fact…I don’t think there are any. Consider checking this project out for Deaf Awareness Week if you’ve found yourself wondering how you can help increase deaf visibility, combat stereotypes and help creators get their work out there.

Or, hell, when you’re just plain ol’ tired of being spoonfed the same tropes time and time again.

mom and me
Pictured: me and my mother.

I’m hearing and biracial. My mother is deaf and white. My younger brother is hearing, multiracial and white-passing. I have and had many deaf and hard-of-hearing family members, acquaintances and classmates throughout my life. Our normal is unlike the normal pushed in your average mainstream romantic comedy or long-lasting ‘all-American’ sitcom — at best we’re a token somewhere in the background to create atmosphere and, at worst, not there at all. This ongoing message is more than just disappointment. It’s a downright bizarre, even harmful, way of viewing the world at large. This isn’t the first time I’ve written about the myth of normalcy and it sure as hell won’t be the last.

Director and deaf content creator Jade Bryan is eager to showcase the world of deaf people of color where they have previously, over and over and over again, been shunned in favor of the same basic narrative. The story revolves around middle-aged mother Essence Chamberlain-Dubois going back to school and attempting to balance her social life, family life and freelance career. Being a twenty-something caught in the crossroads of progress and regression myself, I can already find plenty to relate to. Unfortunately, I don’t have a million bucks to my name and the shiny title of ‘television agent’.

Crowdfunding is Jade Bryan’s attempt to find some support for a cast that regularly gets pooh-pooh’d for all the wrong reasons. There’s even a part in her introduction video where she relays how a prospective agent said they already did her story with ABC Family’s The Fosters. Because cishet able white folk have a billion stories to tell, but literally everyone else is a one-and-done checklist, am I right? What can I say, over a dozen superhero movies in and I still haven’t seen every last inch of nuance that can come from a snarky and/or well-intentioned white man who gets the girl, loses a father figure and saves the world.

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Bet you $20 at least one of them is struggling with the theme of responsibility.

The Indiegogo proceeds to show us the pilot-in-progress as well as some interviews and the director’s impressive resume, giving as a taste of what we’re going to see should this project reach completion. The humor is what you’ve come to expect from the genre, dealing with slice-of-life’s big and large problems with chill humor — the dating scene, coming to terms with aging, changing career fields, dealing with rude people, the works. What makes this seemingly stale subject matter fresh again is the fact it’s coming from some different perspectives for once. Goodness, who would’ve thought deaf people of color also had to debate about what to have for a family dinner or whether or not they’re considered MILF material?

There’s plenty more to chew on for those starting to feel the wear-and-tear of overused tropes in their media, too. It’s nice to see a mother-daughter relationship explored — even in the supposedly modern age media is over-saturated with tales about father-son and occasionally father-daughter relationships, rendering the elusive mother-daughter just slightly more common than giant robots and CGI dragons.

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Pictured: a mother and her son.

This isn’t mere novelty being pushed here (and woe betide you if everyday human beings ever come off as novelty). There are plenty of great actors here that deserve a chance to shine, mundane scenarios that could use another spin and a whole lot of potential for new talent to enter a stale-as-toast industry. I mean, just think about it. Think about how many funny, emotional and creative works of art we don’t get to see because too many agents decide for us what we want to buy. This is exactly why we need to put our money where our mouth is and turn the tides with our own hand.

A few dollars, a signal boost or some words of encouragement go a long way in the notoriously arduous filmmaking process. When I showed my mother the original Kickstarter the other day, she was beside herself with glee. This is the same woman that grew up watching television without subtitles, attended classes from kindergarten to college without interpreters and (still) applies for jobs that flat-out reject her qualifications to her face on the basis of her deafness. Imagine how many more people are out there just waiting to get their own little slice of joy in a damning world.

Let’s help bring it there.

Ashe Samuels is a media writer, reviewer and freelance illustrator. Find more of her work on dragonsandflowers, at her portfolio or on her Twitter

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