This week, The Good Doctor premiered one of its worst episodes yet.
The episode focused on a mute 10-year-old boy who could not speak verbally due to an incompletely formed trachea. Rather, he communicates with his parents using sign language.
The doctors fix his trachea enough to allow him to breathe without a tube.
But Shaun doesn’t want to stop there. He insists that the boy will live a subaverage life if he doesn’t learn to speak verbally and finds a surgery that would allow him to do so.
This is a common problem in the medical community: doctors often see people with disabilities as problems who need to be “fixed.” But there is absolutely nothing wrong with using sign language, which is a beautiful language.
The mute child did not need to be “fixed” and yet, the boy decides to have the surgery. His parents are delighted and tear up when they hear his voice.
It’s essentially like all of those disability porn videos you see on YouTube where a young child is fitted with a cochlear implant and “hears” his mother’s voice for the first time. Everyone cries and is incredibly moved.
And it’s all bullshit. People with disabilities do not need devices or implants to make them “whole.” They are perfect exactly as they are, no changes needed.
I wasn’t the only one who was appalled by the episode, of course. Fans took to Twitter to express their anger.
One user wrote,
“To ANYONE who watched #TheGoodDoctor tonight. YOU DO NOT NEED TO SPEAK TO HAVE A GREAT LIFE. This episode ostracized millions of #Deaf & #mute individuals. Making the boy feel less than for not being able to speak is the WORST message. Educate yourselves.”
“The answer to ableism isn’t “well let’s just make you like everyone else!” The answer to ableism is educating other people and making accommodations. Why can’t he go to a school where most kids know ASL (like a school for Deaf/HoH kids?). So many other ways to solve this.”
And yet another user wrote,
“It’s not stupid to use sign language! I really don’t like the show insinuating that kind of thinking”
And those are just a few of the tweets.
The one small good moment to come out of the episode was the fact that they cast a deaf actor to play the child. The actor, Zade Garcia, shared on Facebook that he had a great time on set and that everyone was very accommodating to him. He wrote,
“On the set of The Good Doctor, the best part of my work days were teaching everyone sign language. One day I came in to work and every person in the crew learned to sign ‘Good Morning’ and ‘Good Night’ and ‘Ready to go’! They greeted me all day in ASL! It made me feel so special and supported!”
It’s commendable that they would cast a deaf actor in the role but the episode was unnecessarily ableist. We deserve better than that.
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Lena Finkel is the Editor and Founder of Femestella. Prior to starting Femestella, she worked at People, InStyle, and Tiger Beat. Her favorite Housewife is Bethenny Frankel and when she’s not watching RHONY, you can probably find her obsessing over her tuxedo cat Tom or hoarding drugstore lipsticks.