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For the first time in the 30+ year history of The Simpsons, an episode featuring a Deaf character starring a Deaf voice actor was aired. While this is an important win for the Deaf community, it’s also a case study of how the media can accurately portray people with disabilities. Galt offers our take on what The Simpsons got right in terms of accurate representation.
Popular animated sitcom, The Simpsons, has always been about small-town American life. Through their characters, they’ve showcased various mental illnesses, chronic conditions, and disabilities, such as ADHD, neurodiversity, and diabetes. However, for the first time in their 33 seasons, they’ve now added a Deaf character to their ever-growing list.
In their recent episode, “The Sound of Bleeding Gums,” the show included a Deaf character named Monk Murphy, the son of late Bleeding Gums Murphy, Lisa Simpson’s musical idol. Lisa meets Monk, who was born Deaf, uses American Sign Language, and hopes to receive a cochlear implant, and she decides to “help” him.
In Galt’s opinion, the episode did a lot of things right in conveying the importance of understanding a person with a disability’s capabilities and ensuring representation means hiring a person with that disability for the job. Here’s our take on this ground-breaking episode of The Simpsons.
What The Simpsons Got Right in Terms of Disability and Ability
The episode shows Lisa continuously trying to help Monk, thinking he needs to change according to her own experiences and expectations of quality of life. According to Screen Rant, “At first, Lisa is eager to help Monk but is ultimately humbled when she realizes that his life doesn’t need changing.”
Including not only a Deaf character in the episode arc, but including an arc of this harmful misconception, from ignorance to understanding, is important discourse. It shows that Deaf people, and all people with disabilities, don’t need to be changed, and it’s great to see The Simpsons using their massive platform to accurately represent that.
The Importance of Accurate Representation of Deaf People
Beyond the episode accurately portraying Deaf people and their experiences, the episode itself starred Deaf voice actors, John Autry II who voiced Monk Murphy and Kathy Buckley who voiced a minor deaf character. This is the first time The Simpsons has included Deaf voice actors in their 30+ year history.
Even in the writing room, there were firsthand experiences with the Deaf community taken into account. An article from Variety shared that episode writer Loni Steele Sosthand said the episode was inspired by her life growing up with her father who loved jazz and her brother who was born deaf. Loni was given the runway to develop this episode and was the one that put John’s name forward to play Monk.
Similar to CODA, an Oscar-winning film about and starring Deaf people, “The Sound of Bleeding Gums” proves that when faced with an opportunity, Deaf people are able to perform the same job as hearing people, and advocates in the workplace can open doors to make it happen.
As an employer of persons with disabilities, Galt Foundation was thrilled about the accurately-portrayed addition of a Deaf character and voice actor on The Simpsons. It aligns with our mission of helping job seekers with disabilities along their desired career path and advocating for equity in the workplace.
Let Galt Foundation Help
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