Breaking New Ground: Switched at Birth and ASL
by Marcus Luera
This week, TV history was made by the drama Switched at Birth that follows the lives of two girls who were–you guessed it–switched at birth. One of the elements that sets this show apart from others is that it prominently features deaf culture through one of the main characters, Daphne. Katie Leclerc, who plays her, has Meniere’s disease. The show also features Sean Berdy and Marlee Matlin.
With the show’s focus on deaf culture, it comes as no surprise that there is signing in every episode. That, in itself, is fantastic and fascinating. Where this show broke ground was when they did an all American Sign Language episode. Except for the first scene and the few moments at the end, you heard no voices. The only sound in the episode was the score.
For those of us not fluent in ASL, the episode will require multiple viewings to pick up all the great performances as the show is subtitled, but the story and performances hold up to multiple viewings. There have been special/gimmick episodes of TV before but none have had this kind of importance. This was big step toward inclusiveness and a very entertaining TV experience. I hope we see more all-ASL episodes in the future.