Everywhere you look, from the government, the Oscars, film, branding and TV, Deaf people have a higher representation than ever before.
The most recent example of this is on BBC One’s brand-new dancing contest, The Greatest Dancer, where dancers have to win the audience over to keep their place in the competition.
On Saturday’s second show, Chris Fonseca, a deaf dancer, took his turn to attempt to win the audience over with his street dancing moves.
His welcome into the BBC studio’s reception was warm with the Receptionist signing ‘How are you?’ The BBC grabbed the perfect opportunity to build awareness, and you can see the impact that this has on Chris’s face clearly; his form of communication was already being understood and embraced before the process had even started.
His performance was impressive, fresh and unique and he gained the necessary 75% of the audience vote to stay in the competition.
The judges used the ‘deaf clap’/hand waving at the end of his performance.
The question in my mind was why did he get through?
You are probably wondering why I am asking that question but let me explain…
Following the usual reality TV formats, the show delved into Chris’s background to find out more about him. Sophie interviewed his brother and asked about Chris’s deafness. His brother explained that Chris got meningitis when he was 23 months old, and as a result lost his hearing.
At this point, they edited to the audience where we could see a collective, sad “aaaaww…” from them.
Clip from BBC – The Greatest Dancer
Now, this is where it gets interesting, and I’m sure you’ll agree based on his performance, the audience vote was well-deserved. But I am sure you would also agree that you wouldn’t want to see Chris gaining a place due to audience empathy, whether it is noble or not.
We all as humans have an underlying need or desire to support those who have achieved things against the odds, which is precisely the case for Chris.
He has limited access to music and audio yet performed impeccably and in time with the rhythm.
There is always a range of options when it comes to presenting a story. The choice was to start with his hearing loss and the sadness of this happening. However, another decision could have been an option. It could have explored his internal drive, perseverance and his fantastic street dancing; and not even talk about meningitis.
This would provide not just a flip of focus but an opportunity to explore potentially a more interesting and impactful narrative.
What has happened already is a flood of social media comments and conversations talking about how talented Chris is and calling for ‘Chris to win!’ In less than 48 hours, the BBC YouTube clip has been viewed 195,000 times, and I am clear in my mind that he is now the most talked about contestant of the show so far.
The following day, articles were everywhere including MSN news, The Express, Manchester Evening News, Telly Mix, Radio Times and Digital Spy.
Whether I believe the narrative choice was the best one or not – it is clear that this story has captured the hearts of the nation and that Chris is a talented dancer who just happens to be deaf. He has a real shot at winning and he absolutely has our vote!
A little more about Chris:
What some viewers may not have noticed is that Chris included British Sign Language into his dance routine – telling the story powerfully through dance and his native language. Take a look at the clip and see if you can spot any!
And, did you know Chris first appeared on our screens during the 40 second Smirnoff TV ad back in March 2016 to launch Smirnoff’s ‘We’re Open’ campaign that celebrated inclusivity. Take a look – Smirnoff ‘We’re Open’