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Friday, 16 of April of 2021

Switched at Birth – “This is Not a Pipe”

“I’m home. Wherever that is.”

Were it not for Pretty Little Liars I doubt I would have checked out Switched at Birth. While original content is not new to ABC Family, only in recent years has it proven to be a great cable contender. Switched at Birth carries on this new found tradition and is sure to aid ABC Family in its ratings and legitimacy as a home for great television.

Is the show landmark? No. Is it bringing new stories or ideas to the table? Yes and no. But it doesn’t always take innovation to make a hit or to tell a good story. Switched at Birth tells the story of two teenage girls who are just that: switched at birth, and the toll it begins to take on the two families involved. That’s not an unheard of story. But what makes the show interesting is the characters. And the inclusion of deaf culture. And the social commentary.

Oh yeah. And some of the people who are on the show.

The genetic quest for truth begins with a blood test. A student administered blood test. Who the hell green lit that? Terribly irresponsible. Bay’s (cool girl name alert) parents are both A so she must be A or O. Science lesson for you, kids. Bay, who is AB,  is really bothered by this blood test. She remarks that she and her mother are very different, always have been. Their hands, their bodies; they’re not alike. Was she adopted? No. But apparently she thinks it sometimes, and people ask her if she was. Bay says she needs something from her mother, no matter how odd it might sound. Six weeks later, a genetic lab has determined that it is 99.9% unlikely that Bay is the daughter of her parents. A mix up (way too light of a term for what happened) must have occurred at the hospital. See, that’s why you mark your babies before they’re taken away, right Dwight?

The fact that the girls were switched at birth wasn’t the curveball of the show (because it’s the title). The real shocker is that Daphne (biological Kennish, raised Vasquez) is deaf. This opens up a lot for the show to be able to say about and for the deaf community. There’s a great scene with Daphne, Toby and Emmet that was a nice look into how deaf people are perceived and treated. Toby kept talking to Daphne about Emmet in the third person with him right there and she told him that was rude. And it was. So were the questions he was asking her. The show is bringing a lot of information about deaf people to those who probably don’t know much about it.

There are simple enough difference between the two families. One is wealthy and lives in an upper class, white washed neighborhood and the other is not, living in a diverse neighborhood in a house with bars on the windows. The girls themselves share some obvious, if not slightly generic similarities. Daphne is smart and polite, Bay is artistic and snarky. And of course there’s the “dating boys from the other side” aspect. After breaking up with Liam, Bay is now attracted to Ty, a kid from Daphne’s neighborhood that she keeps running into. And Daphne flirts with Liam when they run into one another on her tour of Bay’s school.

After taking Daphne home and seeing where she is living, the Kennish parentals feel they have to save her get her out of there. Ah the ever righteous upper class. Not only is this going to cause problems because Regina, Daphne’s non-biological mother, is not going to give her up, but how is this going to look to Bay? She’s not enough? They want their “real” daughter back instead of her? On top of that the dad wants to pay for a cochlear implant for Daphne. He wants to fix her according to Regina, and he thinks she wants Daphne to have to stay dependent on her. On top of that he goes to Daphne’s school (which nowadays he would never be able to do. How’d he get a guest pass? Did he get a guest pass?) and tells her that he wants her to think about going to Bay’s school. They set up a tour for her. She’d have an interpreter in all of her classes, she’d have the best education. And she’d be in close proximity to Bay and Toby. As if that weren’t close enough, Daphne and Regina (and grandmother) move into the enormous guest house of the Kennish estate. Plot devices!

Speaking of plot devices, Bay is reacting to the events of the pilot as if they are just that. That is to say she’s the only one acting like a normal person would. While her parents are fulfilling the roles of purveyors of plot devices (inviting Daphne to lunches and offering her things and trying to get her into a good school) Bay is the one going “What the hell? This is not normal.” It’s a great way to have events that need to happen for a story like this while still having someone for the “wtf” crowd to relate to. Yes, I know it’s a television show and drama in the extreme is necessary for things to actually happen, but it is nice for someone to acknowledge that this all may be happening a little too quickly. And that Mom and Dad Kennish are insane people.

Early on I got a very nature over nurture vibe from this show. I don’t know the thoughts on the creative types behind the show, but that’s what it felt like to me. The girls showed continued similarities to their biological families (such as Bay’s artistic abilities and Daphne’s red hair) and it seems like that is the main reason for the Kennish’s interest in Daphne. That is their daughter. That’s why they’re going to the lengths that they are. They are incredibly unlikable people. Entitled know-it-alls. Is this the perception of the suburban adult? I look for the social commentary in everything.

Switched at Birth has the opportunity to be controversial in a different way than some of its other programming. It’s not relying on scandal and shock value, it’s more about a hard to deal with situation and the definition of family. It’s taking the normal teenage identity crisis and amping it up exponentially.The inclusion of the deaf community certainly helps as well. All in all I really enjoyed the pilot. The show has the potential to say a lot and I’m very interested in where the characters are going to go and how they are (hopefully) going to grow. And like I said before, just look at the cast. A lot of familiar faces from a lot of different places.

Final Thoughts:

  • I should have seen it coming that Bay was the graffiti artist.
  • “So who do you think my dad is?” – How long until we actually get to this? I hope it’s George Lopez.

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