“DeafU” is a Netflix documentary following several deaf college kids that go to Gallaudet University, a deaf institution, that documents their everyday life. The show follows Alexa, Tessa, Daequan, Rodney, Dalton, Cheyanne, Renate, and Cameron. Every episode follows their hardships within the deaf community and as everyday normal people. It gives a certain perspective on the social aspects of the deaf community of that campus.
One thing the show mentions, are the tensions that are present within the deaf community. In the show, Alexa, a cast member, talks about “the elite” factions of the deaf community. These are individuals whose families have been deaf for four or five generations.
In addition, one of the girls, Cheyanne, has a YouTube channel. She would usually mouth or say the words to cater to her hearing and speaking audience. In the show, there was a group of “the elite” deaf girls watching her and were not too pleased to see her video because they saw it as poor representation of their community. Cheyanne can be seen being bullied by these girls and judged by her friend, Cameron. This situation brings in the significance of how the deaf community values their language.
Two Maryville College professors, Angela Myers and Will White, answered some questions about their opinions on the show. As far as representation on the show, they would not show this to their class as an educational video.
White said that it portrays the students who go to that college in their social circles, and the show only represents one type of community.
It also showcases their differences to hearing people and even to each other. White thinks that the show could have highlighted their career goals, their majors, or alumni rather than just drama with the show the few representation deaf people have.
Ava Bernardino, an American Sign Language (ASL) major, answered questions about her opinion on the show. She saw that some people felt that it portrayed the deaf community poorly in the show. Although she would recommend this show, she would hope that they could take it with a grain of salt. Bernardino felt the community could have been represented differently. She suggests that the show could have been longer to showcase the accomplishments of deaf people, and there could have been more representation shown of the community.
The two cast members, Rodney and Daequan, are the people viewers learn the most from in the show about how deaf people interact to drama between their friend groups.
Daequan comes for an unsafe neighborhood with a deceased parent. He lost his hearing when he was very young. When his parent died, he had to live with one of his friends. His story is very important to look at because it shows how a person who wasn’t born deaf had to go about the world in a brand-new way.
Rodney gives the audience most of the ins and outs to the viewers throughout the show. Rodney is for himself, so he is neither with the deaf community nor against it. His perspective is important because he sees what others do not. He does what he wants such as wearing his hearing aid, which in their circle is seen as taboo. He is truthful about how he feels and how he doesn’t really see himself as deaf but just an everyday guy.
The show tells how some deaf people value their community. One of the cast members, Dalton, showed that he did not want any part of the hearing world at all. Dalton threw away his hearing aid at a young age and tried to avoid hearing girls to date. Tessa, being part of “the elite,” was seen being one of the girls that disliked Cheyanne for mouthing the words on her YouTube channel because she felt that she was not good representation of the community.
On the other hand, Daequan talks when he signs, and that is seen as taboo in that the deaf community. Those are some common splits that cause social tensions and can affect how people interact with others who are similar to him.
This show can show people a new perspective of non-hearing people with the suggestion of taking the show as entertainment rather than learning about the community has a whole.
This show answers many questions the general hearing population may have had. By showing them going through day to day life, it helps to combat stereotypes. Overall, “DeafU” had drama and serious elements but could also be presented in a more positive and educational way.