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5 TV Shows with Hearing Impaired Characters

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by Jennifer Muirhead (subscribe)
I am learning all the time. The tombstone will be my diploma. ~ Eartha Kitt
Published February 27th 2018
ASL on the screen
TV shows that feature deaf or hearing impaired characters allow deaf people to see someone like them represented in the media, and hearing people to hopefully become more aware and accepting of the deaf. Here are a couple of shows which feature deaf characters, played by deaf actors, just living their lives like everybody else.

1. The West Wing

deaf actor, Marlee Maitlin, West Wing, The L Word, tv shows with deaf characters
Marlee Maitlin. Photo by By Angela George. CC BY-SA 3.0.

The West Wing, originally broadcast on NBC from 1999- 2006) was a drama dealing with the ins and outs of life in the White House. While none of the main characters were deaf, it did feature political consultant Josephine (Joey) Lucas, played by deaf actor Marlee Maitlin. Her will-they-won't-they romantic subplot with Josh Lyman (Bradley Whitford) produced some of the most enjoyable scenes of the first season.

2. The L Word

The L Word, lesbian tv shows, tv shows with deaf characters, Marlee Maitlin

The L Word is a Showtime series that centred around a group of lesbians living in West Hollywood. Jodi Lerner (Marlee Maitlin again) features in seasons 4, 5 and 6 as the girlfriend of Bette Porter (Jennifer Beals). Jodi is a sculptor who works in scrap metal and recycled materials. Unlike in Joey in The West Wing, Jodi does not use an interpreter to communicate, relying only on ASL, speech and lipreading. Bette's infant daughter, Angelica, begins to pick up some ASL signs from seeing Bette and Jodi signing around the house.


Shoshanna Stern, deaf actor, tv shows with deaf characters, Weeds
Shoshanna Stern. Image from Wikimedia commons.

Weeds is a black comedy/drama created for Showtime by Jenji Cohen. It centres around a widow named Nancy Botwin, who begins selling marijuana to make money after the death of her husband. Her son, Silas (Hunter Parrish), has a deaf girlfriend, Megan, played by Shoshannah Stern, a deaf actress who was born into a fourth generation deaf family. Silas's relationship with Megan is on and off, but she returned for the final season. Megan communicates using ASL (American Sign Language), lip-reading and speech, and Silas learns some ASL (including some very rude signs).

4. Sue Thomas FB Eye

Sue Thomas, Sue Thomas FB Eye, TV shows with hearing impaired characters, tv shows with deaf characters
Sue Thomas FB Eye by Pax, DVD cover, fair use.

Sue Thomas FB Eye is one of those rare shows that actually has a deaf main character. Inspired by the real Sue Thomas, who was deaf from the age of 18 months and the first deaf person to work undercover specialist doing lip-reading for the FBI. The series premiered on the PAX network in 2002, ending in 2005 and was released on DVD in 2010. It stars deaf actress Deanne Bray as Sue Thomas, who leaves her home in Idaho and goes to Washington to work for the FBI along with her hearing dog, Levi. Sue uses lip-reading, ASL and speech to communicate.

5. Switched at Birth

Switched at birth, ASL, tv shows with deaf characters

Switched At Birth
is an American teen drama series that first aired in 2011. It is unusual in that it has not just one, but multiple deaf recurring characters and some scenes are entire in ASL. It is the story of a teenage girl named Bay, who learns that when she was a baby she was accidentally switched for another baby. She meets her biological family, and Daphne, her parents' biological daughter, who has been deaf since contracting meningitis at the age of three.
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Why? Because representation matters.
Your Comment
Jennifer thanks for highlighting this issue.
by May Cross (score: 3|5570) 698 days ago
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