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.

    One Comment

  1. dragoncatMarch 9th, 2013 at 7:29 pm

    I am taking an ASL class right now, and watching this episode was our homework for spring break. It was amazing to see ASL and deaf culture represented in this way; nothing like this has ever been done before. We had just learned about the events at Gallaudet University in class, so it was cool to see it referenced in the episode. Its just amazing to see a show like this on a major tv network and I hope that this show continues (because now I will catch up on the other episodes) and that I might see others like it on tv in the future.

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