Apple TV + embarks on a sensory journey to empathyville

The latest animated children’s show Apple TV + is dedicated to accessibility. deaf and dumb, based on the book Cece Bell, focuses on a girl who loses her hearing just before school starts. She goes into trouble as she learns to move the world with the help of her imaginary superhero alter ego. And in the process, he learns to love himself.

The show is, if nothing else, a little too effective to make you feel the struggles of this young girl. The Deafo sometimes he is too touching and sad for words – much to the credit of the writer, performer and animator. But the question is whether children are ready to feel so much above everything they are already doing.

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The Deafo review

Cece (voiced by Lexi Finigan) was like any other rabbit, but one day tragedy struck. She got a terrible fever. And when she woke up in the hospital, she couldn’t hear her mom (Pamela Adlon) or her doctor (Clancy Brown). This comes with a multitude of problems exacerbated by the already precarious nature of coming of age as a young woman. Thus, the usual school dynamics become even more inconvenient and difficult because Cece has to wonder if people are rude or treat her strangely because of her hearing impairment.

Cece’s one way to escape comes in the form of her favorite TV show about a superhero named Mightybolt. It gives her an idea of ​​how to deal with evil children at school, social alienation or any other problem that arises in her daily life. As her superhero alter ego El Deafo, who turns into fantasies in her head, she gains the confidence to confront bullies, to tell her mom what she thinks of her hearing and how the world sees her, and to be more serious with her friends about her needs.

A new kind of children’s show

The Deafo represents a new kind of hero.
Photo: Apple TV +

Graphic novel by Cece Bell The Deafo the last decade has been a silent blow. He sold millions and won awards. And as far as I can tell, it is considered a minor classic of children’s lit. Will McRobb, who also produces and preserves the new one Harriet the Spy show for Apple TV +, done by a fantastic the job of preserving the look of Bell’s original artwork.

The show looks sweet without being too sweet. It is elegant and fluidly animated. And the style of animation is unique enough that you don’t remind yourself of other works, without being so radical that you would have a hard time forcing children to sit still because of it.

Where The Deafo Becoming radical is in sound design. McRobb, Bell and director Gilly Fogg came up with a truly unique idea for presenting the world the way Cece from the series perceives it. So, if someone doesn’t look at Cece while she’s talking, and she can’t read from their lips, their sound becomes quiet and perishable. Sounds just like it could happen to someone who uses a faulty hearing aid.

This may seem alienating to children looking for easy viewing – but that’s the point. The Deafo it’s all about empathy, about trying to teach children about people who live completely separate from their perspective.

It is also intended to be something like a national team. Children’s cartoons have long been at the forefront of showing different ideas and attitudes. The best presenters know that children are most sympathetic when they are young and growing up. It is never too early to teach children to love everyone. The Deafo he has a rather remarkable checklist of ideas that he communicates, and that is why he should be praised. It helps, of course, that it is very good.

Not for those with a weak heart

Indeed, the show is almost over also good. The performances of children’s actors are so influential that when Cece and her friends face very real moods and sadness from childhood, it can be completely irresistible, as if you were in a room with a crying child. You just want them to be happy!! I may be losing sharpness, but once or twice in the episode I found myself on the verge of tears and, lo and behold, it’s a great feeling for a cartoon.

I used to be happy to be destroyed by the latest Pixar movie. But now I have a limit (especially since my sister had two sons) in relation to what I can bear to have a child go through.

Of course, it’s not that important because I, a childless man in my 30s, are nowhere near the target audience for this show. That’s a lot for The Deafo The credit for the creative team that everyone in this show is doing such a stellar job by communicating the complex inner life of Cece the Rabbit, and even less mine that I couldn’t emotionally process it.

Look The Deafo on Apple TV +

The Deafo premieres Jan. 7 on Apple TV +.

Rated: TV-G

Look at: Apple TV +

Scout Tafoya is a film and TV critic, director and creator of a long series of video essays The Unloved for He wrote for The Village Voice, Film Comment, The Los Angeles Review of Books i Nylon Magazine. He is the author Cinemaphagy: On the psychedelic classic form of Tobe Hooper, the director of 25 feature films, and director and editor of more than 300 video essays, which can be found at

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Naveen Kumar

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