On the most recent two part episode of Doctor Who there was an interesting choice to make one of the characters deaf. In the episodes “Under the Lake” and “Before the Flood” the second in command is a woman who happens to be deaf. It got me thinking about the overall conversation about diversity in television. When we talk about diversity in television it has to be diversity across all ranges. It cannot just be about race or gender, it should be about the wide range of diversity that we find in the human race. Of all the shows that could pull off and highlight true diversity, Doctor Who is a show that is not bound by the rules of our current society because it can dream about what could be instead of what is.
Everyone is Capable
Part of what is great about what Doctor Who did by having a woman who is second in command and happens to be deaf is that they make it no big deal. She is just one of the crew and while she needs to have an interpreter to help her communicate, it does not mean that she is any less capable than anyone else. They even use the fact that as someone who cannot hear she has developed the ability to read lips, which comes in quite handy during the episode. It sometimes feels like someone who communicates differently would not be seen as someone who is just as capable and could have been used as the joke or the one that has to be propped up – or killed off. Instead of just another person along for the ride. The particularly creepy, scary ride.
I think a lot of times that shows and other media show people who are different as somehow less. Particularly I think that often people who have some type of disability are often used as sob stories or something that needs to be corrected for. I think this is changing, but it is still always good to see when we re-imagine how we see people who are different than us. When most of television seems to be done by white males it is good to see that they can potentially respect the imagining of people who are different than them as people and not just side notes or emotional resonance.
A Long Way to Go
It is great to see increased diversity in shows that I watch, but there is so much more that can be done. This is one example of something really good, but wouldn’t it be great if the character of the Doctor himself showed something a little different? So far he has been a white man and while yes it is nice for them to go back to an older Doctor, there are definitely some great ideas for doing someone of color or to even have a female Doctor. Now this is just talking about one show, but this is true for a lot of shows. Now this is not to say that we should force things into certain situations for diversity’s sake, but maybe we could rethink the story being told to think about how someone else might fit into that situation. We live in a big, colorful world, full of all types of people. Shouldn’t the shows reflect that?