Saturday, 21 May 2011

Sensory Impairment

I may be at risk of becoming the blogger equivalent of a stalker, but I feel inclined to comment upon yet another episode of my favourite 'Giblets Drama'!

This evening was sufficiently complicated that I had to watch intently to keep up. The reason was, I think, the fact that a couple of substantial story-lines were converging, one for this evening, and one that will carry on into future episodes.

My comments concern the story-line of a deaf teenager. I write this with a particular care and concern for the deaf community in my part of world, and as one who represents them in some small part in my local diocese. Representations or portrayals of deaf/deafened/hard of hearing people is a matter of interest to me, and the episode of Casualty that we were treated to tonight approached this particular sensory impairment with considerable skill and insight. 

Experience has taught me that deaf people are represented in television drama as elderly more often than not. Those representations have often been fairly patronising affairs with a 'there-there' sub-text. Not tonight. The character tonight was a lad of mid to upper teenage years. He wasn't played as a tank-top wearing nerdy type (I seen that elsewhere), but as a fairly typical surly youth with all the requisite attitude and front. He signed as teenagers speak, with all the vernacular and creativity one would expect. That was the first bit of good news. He was a normal kid but had an issue with hearing - as opposed to a deaf person who happened to be younger than sixty. 

We were also given some insight to the experience of the profoundly deaf in the filming of his perspective. Shots with the noise of the hearing world were skillfully interspersed with the silence of this lad's own world. It was done in such a way as brought to life the very likely bewilderment that a deaf teenager, in clear danger of imminent abuse, may experience of the world. The camera work was, to my untrained eyes, brilliant in its evocation of that bewilderment. 

In general terms, it was the portrayal of this young man as all-but-normal (as all-but-normal as any of us) that was most positive. It avoided stereotypes, judgement and his deafness didn't feel spurious or gratuitous. In a world that still largely fails to understand deaf culture, the experience of deaf people in a hearing society, or the very simple fact that - aside from a sensory impairment - deaf people are normal and subject to the same difficulties and tragedies as the rest of us. 

I will watch with interest the unfolding story-line that appears to be wanting to wrestle with Muslim culture. I hope that the makers of this programme approach that with the same sense and balance as they did the issue of deafness tonight. 


  1. As I've mentioned before, I too am a fan/devotee of this series and tonight was a very good example of the research which clearly goes into each episode.
    The way the silent world of the boy was interspersed with those around him was very effective.
    It (hearing-loss) is an area in which I have an interest and it was good to see it unglamourised for once.
    The other story-line was well done too.

  2. I was offended during last saruday's casualty when there was a comment about drugs being scotland's national pass time, I am so fed up of us scots having the reputation of being junkies, alcoholics, wive beaters and other degrading insults passed by the english tv progs, its high time english program makers such as Casualty, Holby City and the rst stop insulting scottish people, not all of us are into drugs, booze and all the other stuff the english think we are indulging in
    people in casualty and holby should go and learn how to bloody act, oh and aye, thank christ all hospitals are not in the same league as Casualty or Holby City, go into these hospitals semi fit, come out completely dead

  3. Anonymous should get a life and learn to write in clear English. Your comments are clearly insulting and infantile in you believe that one small episode passes for a natioal wider generalisation of sterotyping. Isn't Taggert a prime example of Scottish Tv generalising itself? Bigot



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