Switched at Birth could have been a thoroughly conventional teen melodrama. Two families belatedly learn that their baby daughters were, in fact, switched. One family, the more affluent, is suing the hospital. The other, a working, single mother and her daughter, try to make the best of things. The girls know each other. The families interact. Though caught in these awkward circumstances, they somehow still seem to be teens, worrying over love lives, sports, school conflicts, everything we would expect. Except that one of the girls, Daphne, is deaf. She attends a school for the deaf and the hearing impaired, and through her and her school friends we are introduced to deaf culture. This series is truly remarkable in depicting this world, but is equally important because it makes deaf culture “normal,” another part of the communities surrounding it. Throughout the series scenes are frequently presented completely in American Sign Language. In this powerful manner, the expression of teenage feelings, the frustrations of trying to play sports, the fear that comes from being arrested by police who shout unheard commands, all become very real, almost taken for granted, by the audience. For deepening the world of family drama in a way that also truly enlarges the worlds of its viewers, Switched At Birth receives a Peabody Award.

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