ABC’s ‘Speechless’ succeeds with accurately genuine character

ABC has taken on more than just the average funny show with a new facet of the company’s Wednesday night comedy block, “Speechless.” The show centers around a non-verbal teenage boy, JJ DiMeo, and his experiences growing up with severe cerebral palsy.

The show is gaining praise from both critics and audiences of all abilities alike for not only being entertaining but bringing realistic and vital representation to disabled and chronically ill people within media. Micah Fowler, the actor who plays DiMeo, actually lives with cerebral palsy. This is immensely groundbreaking, being that only five percent of disabled characters within media are played by people who actually live with the chronic illness/disability they are representing, according to a study via the Ruderman Family Foundation.

The show itself is making it’s mark on all ages not just due to representation but also for relatability. While covering topics such as the fight for equal access, showcasing  interpersonal relationships between able-bodied and disabled people, and navigating some of the more common aspects of teenage life, ABC has managed to also package it all in a manner that does not alienate or ostracize anybody, and just brings attention to these common societal and cultural things whilst keeping it light-hearted by adding humor.

Most humor surrounding mainstream media that dares to speak of such misunderstood topics is often very forced, very offensive or just plain cringe-worthy at best. But this show is genuinely funny, via the talents of comedy block veteran Minnie Driver. Driver manages to convey Mrs. DiMeo as the ultimate ferocious advocate when challenged by her children’s school system. Her character, even goes so far as to suggest the board should all try to play a game of “trash or person,” together.

In an age where representation in media is changing for the better, this show can not be missed.

A piece of realistic fiction that is not based on common tropes is a rarity, but a show that is not only realistic and relatable, but utterly eloquent? That is a gem in itself.

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