Sean Berdy in Netflix’s “The Society”

Netflix recently released a new TV series called, “The Society.” It is about a group of teenagers being mysteriously trapped in a city that looks like their actual city but their parents are not there. The teens struggle to survive. Sean Berdy, an actor known from "Switched At Birth”, is featured in this series with a major role as Sam Eliot, a Deaf brother of Campbell Eliot (another character) played by Toby Wallace.

I watched a few episodes, Berdy signed most of the times, but there were times that he used sim-com, or spoke for himself. Sam (Berdy’s character), in the TV show, seems to be the kind of person who tries to make peace with other teenagers during struggles. He is often with a small group of friends who sign with him occasionally. Sam does not seem like a leader, but more of a resilient and optimistic person and suffers a lot of rejection from his own brother, Campbell (in the show). From my observation based on the few episodes I watched, seems that Campbell is rejecting and oppressing Sam because perhaps he is deaf and gay.

This is a pretty big deal for our Deaf community that Berdy has a big role. This is also his big comeback after taking a long hiatus from acting. However, there is also a controversy about him having that role. The character, Sam, portrays as a gay teenager.

Deaf Queer Resource Center made a comment about this. DQRC said that it is incredibly rare for a deaf and gay character to be developed and mainstreamed in a major film. It is exciting, but also disappointing when a person who is not actually LGBTQ and is casted for this role. DQRC explained the importance of casting an actual LGBTQ and deaf actor for this kind of role because representation matters.

The Daily Moth reached out to Justin Jackerson, an actor, to explain about why representation matters.

JUSTIN JACKERSON: Lately, there’s been more improvement in representation in TV and movies when it comes to having LGBTQ characters. Many of those characters were depicted in positive light. Some of them were authentic. Now, we can identify a clear difference between two types of shows; there are shows where LGBTQ characters were taken on by actors who are not LGBTQ and there are shows where LGBTQ roles are taken on by authentic LGBTQ actors. We all can tell the difference between the two types of shows. Especially when the LGBTQ community watches, they can see the difference. The first type is much more real and comprehensive while the latter type is superficial. You know, LGBTQ people’s identities and life journeys have a multitude of layers of experiences. We have endured oppression, discrimination, repressed trauma and more. I could name a long list of things. So, to think you can just take on a role a LGBTQ person and act, it is not that simple. So, whenever you watch television and movies, authenticity matters. That’s my people. That’s who I’m being represented by. That’s why LGBTQ actors should be the ones taking on the LGBTQ roles.

Renca: We also reached out to Dickie Hearts, an openly gay actor, from “Tales of the City” TV show to share his thoughts.

[Image of Dickie Hearts]

”Congratulations to Sean Berdy for booking the role in Netflix’s The Society. That’s a huge deal and as a Deaf artist, I’m proud to support his work. That said, I do see a missed opportunity for authentic Deaf LGBTQ representation onscreen. The hearing LGBTQ community felt the same way when Disney cast a straight actor, Jack Whitehall, as its first major openly gay character in the upcoming film Jungle Cruise. And Darren Criss recently declared that as a straight actor, he would no longer take on gay roles. There is a reason for this: authenticity matters, now even more than before, and we all know there are great LGBTQ actors out there trying hard to find work. I will still be tuning in The Society and supporting Sean’s work.”

Thank you Justin and Dickie for sharing. We did try to reach out to Berdy's agent under IMDB and did not get an immediate response.

TIME magazine did an interview with Berdy and they followed up about Berdy’s bipolar disorder that he revealed on Twitter. He said he hid it for a long time and will not hide about it anymore.

TIME asked Berdy if there were any experiences of the character, Sam, that paralleled with his personal life. He explained that it did not as much because Berdy said that he can hear a little bit and have the ability to speak. He still did enjoy playing this role. Berdy mentioned that he appreciated the cast learning sign language quickly and immediately welcoming him in the group.

"The Society" is rated MA (Mature Adults) and it is available to watch on Netflix.

The Society: