I have never seen myself as a Sci-Fi or Fantasy fan AT ALL. I hate Harry Potter (blasphemy) and cannot bring myself to watch Lord of the Rings just yet. I’ve recently managed to watch and enjoy the new Star Wars film (maybe because it’s a lovely Disney movie) #Lukewouldneverhavediedthatway.
Anyway, due to this new found love I have for Space and the Super Natural phenomenon, I found myself watching Stranger Things, and I became hooked. I would play an episode while on the Cross Trainer at the gym and found the anxiety and drama of the show kept me going. The story lines were gripping, set in 1980s America and the acting was really good. I was really disappointed however by a particular scene and the choice of script used in one of the episodes.
After the shock of finding out that there are monsters growing and breeding inside of people/labs/The Upside Down (spoiler alert) one of the characters was quite obviously taken aback. Her friend called her name and she did not respond. Her friend continued to call her name and then said “Ummm hello, what’s wrong with you? Are you deaf?!”.
This made me feel very uncomfortable. Why should being deaf be used as an adjective for negativity in mainstream media and television? It makes using deafness an acceptable insult, something to call somebody when you are frustrated or annoyed with them because they did not hear you or respond. This is not just used on television, I have heard it in daily life. It happens with other disabilities too such as asking somebody if they are ‘blind’ because they may not have seen something.
This really hit a nerve with me and bothered me. I could not stop thinking about it for days after and asked my friends if they noticed when they watched the episode. I doubt that the producers of Stranger Things used deliberate historical fact of discrimination towards deaf people for their script. It was such an insignificant part of the scene, yet really stood out to me. It was just not necessary to say.
It reminds me of the staff member who huffed and puffed when saying ‘excuse me’ to my deaf housemate the other day in Tesco. We did not even have a chance to move before the lady asked again in a more aggressive tone. The lack of patience and unwillingness to consider that there may be a reason as to why a person would not move instantly is a problem, with even society today. The character in Stranger Things showed lack of patience as their first reaction was to ask if their friend was deaf annoyed instead of accept that something shocking had just been witnessed and they were processing it.
I do not know who else picked up on my Stranger Things example but, it is similar to when people used to say ‘that is so gay’ as though it was okay to compare things that someone did not like to being homosexual. *This was used much more when the world was less accepting of such relationships and the insults have seemed to disappear – which is what one would expect from the 21st Century. I’m sure if anyone was to use it as an insult today, it would be challenged and rightly so. Why is it a different story when the insults are based on a disability?