With Spider-Man making a killing at the box office and new series featuring Peacemaker and Naomi out next week, it could be easy to overlook another superhero comic adaptation. El Deafo is the childhood alter ego of creator Cece Bell, who gained better hearing through the use of a Phonic Ear aid. It is also the title of the animated adaptation that releases today.
A severe infection while she was a child resulted in the loss of her hearing and the story is an autobiographical account of Bell growing up and learning to cope with her disability. The three-episode show follows along watching the difficulties she encounters and how escaping into her heroic persona empowers her in real life.
At the core, El Deafo captures what it means to be young in a universal way. It explores relatable themes of fitting in and all the insecurities that come with it. The series takes a wholesome and charming approach with its use of bunnies as people and humor. The times Cece’s teacher forgets to turn off her microphone while using the restroom always earns a chuckle. All the protagonist wants is for people to accept her for who she is and sometimes it’s difficult for people to look past her hearing loss. There is also a personal touch with Bell serving as the narrator and the score and soundtrack set a lighthearted tone.
It’s good that young hearing-impaired children can see relevant and positive representation of themselves, but when it comes to diversity, the discussion shouldn’t be merely about inclusion now but normalization. Because of the shows’ broad themes, it portrays Cece as your typical kid. She wants to have fun with friends, attend slumber parties, and get closer to her crush. These are all regular things a young person would want and it helps remove the stigma around deaf people and people with disabilities in general.
El Deafo is also an enlightening experience to those unfamiliar to what it means to live with an impairment. Throughout the series, the audio and dialog are altered so viewers can step into Cece’s shoes. This helps to connect and empathize with the character and people with similar conditions. Also, the protagonist’s experiences bring more awareness on how to properly communicate with deaf people without being disrespectful. Even the best intentions can come off as insensitive or as microaggressions.
The latest Apple TV+ animated original captures the insecurities of childhood in a charming and relatable way while providing an empathetic and insightful depiction of someone with a disability.
Join the AIPT Patreon
Want to take our relationship to the next level? Become a patron today to gain access to exclusive perks, such as:
- ❌ Remove all ads on the website
- 💬 Join our Discord community, where we chat about the latest news and releases from everything we cover on AIPT
- 📗 Access to our monthly book club
- 📦 Get a physical trade paperback shipped to you every month
- 💥 And more!