By now I’m probably sure that you have heard of the latest sitcom on ABC called Speechless, a comedic look into the lives of a young gentleman with Cerebral Palsy and his family.
Knowing how the media portrays those with special needs in the past, I was a bit skeptical at first as to whether the show would have some sense of dignity to it. And then I learned that the boy who plays J.J. just so happens to have the Cerebral Palsy himself, an amazing actor named Micah Fowler. Could it be, that Hollywood is actually listening to us?
As a matter of fact, yes. It’s safe to say that this show is disability done right.
Speechless centers around the DiMeo family and their quest to give their teenage son J.J. a normal life. Six schools in two years lead them to where their life is now, a testament to the woes of the special education system. J.J. is your typical everyday teenager just looking for a sense of normalcy in a world full of ableism. Sadly enough, this new town that they move into is chock-full of it, despite good intentions.
For instance, upon entering the school that claims it’s “all inclusive” on a loading dock near the dumpsters of all places, J.J. is met with a cheery aide that is borderline pandering to him like a child and a classroom of teens and a teacher who already dubbed him an inspiration when he hasn’t done anything but set wheel into his classroom.
I love the show’s take on J.J.’s character amungst all this, he is annoyed when pandered at and treated like an inspiration and isn’t afraid to communicate it via his speech board, which he uses with a laser pen attached to a head band. He is very sassy and isn’t afraid to give offending people the back of his hand, or as his mom calls it “the finger.”
Speaking of his mom, Minnie Driver plays this part really well. She is a feisty advocate not afraid to call out anybody who messes with her son, but not to the point where she is a helicopter parent. You also get to meet his father, who is skeptical about this whole move.
J.J.’s siblings are also really fun and are just as enjoyable to watch. His sister also questions the “everybody gets a trophy” aspect of the new school, while J.J.’s younger brother is trying to find his place, scoring a potential girlfriend in the process and running into a few bullies along the way.
All in all, I really did enjoy the show and it’s fresh take on the lives of people with disabilities. Towards the end, you eventually meet his new aide and I enjoy that character as well. I am looking forward to seeing more adventures of the DiMeo family and hearing more of what J.J. has to say. This is a great take on disability, and I hope more shows like this will soon follow. It’s positive, funny, and not afraid to address the many aspects of the issues we as a disabled community face.
Needless to say ABC, you nailed it!
Want to check out Speechless for yourself? Although it premieres on ABC September 21, at 8:30pm EST, you can check out the first episode by clicking here.