Monday, November 27, 2017

Review: Speechless 2x05 "N-I--NIGHTMARE ON D-I--DIMEO STREET"

On the Halloween episode of Speechless, JJ, Ray and Dylan are all looking for the Halloween candy, while their parents are out.  In a moment of positive representation, we see JJ finding the candy with the help of a Gopher type tool.

[Image is: a pumpkin-shaped bowl full of candy corn beside jack-o-lantern stencils for eyes and a smile]

It turns out, though, that the candy JJ finds is ancient and despite knowing this, he eats a whole bunch.  He has a few funny lines where he thinks he's in a diner and keeps trying to order a patty melt and curly fries.  

Mom asks which movie he'd like to watch to get him through his illness.  JJ says no (three times) to a movie because all the Halloween ones portray disabled people as angels or victims and he wants to be the bad guy for once because "they'd never see it coming."  Mom settles on The Exorcist because JJ saying no three times clearly has no bearing on whether or not she will actually pick a movie.


JJ has a nightmare which starts out with a man on a ladder in the high school hallway, hanging puzzle piece signs about disability.  He won't move out of the way.  Meanwhile, Kenneth (JJ's aide) tells JJ that "When you say 'Don't karate chop my board in half!'  It means I'm gonna karate chop your board in half!"

Yep.  In JJ's nightmare, his aide destroys his communication device just because he can.  

They go on to try and find a replacement board, and Kenneth thinks a Ouija board will do the trick, even though it makes his hands tingle when he touches it.  He sets it down in front of JJ and it's clear something happens to him instantly.  His eyes glow red, and he starts hurting and killing people.

The demon inside JJ talks to the family all about how much it's learning about disability issues.  (Mom's on the phone with insurance to replace JJ's board and she gets through right away.  First try.  They say it will be three weeks until he can get a new one.  The demon is surprised.)  

For most of the rest of the time, JJ is on screen, the demon is speaking for him.  For a few moments that JJ communicates for himself in the nightmare, he tells his mom not to have him exorcised because he's feeling empowered.

But JJ doesn't really say much at all.  And meanwhile Ray and Dylan are trying to stop the demon's rampage - which is possible because Principal Sea Slug has made the school "too accessible."  ("You're welcome," Principal Sea Slug says, just in case JJ and fam aren't grateful enough.)  Ray and Dylan are making the school less accessible to stop demon!JJ from wreaking anymore havoc.  The demon leaves JJ because JJ's mom asks it to, and it tells her she's a great mom and it has learned a lot today.


People as props, anyone?


The sibs dream that they get body-swapped a la Freaky Friday.  

When Ray tries to tell Dad he "feels different" and "not like himself" it goes over like a lead balloon.  But when he tries to tell Mom?  She calls the doctor, who puts Ray in a straitjacket and carts him out of the house as his parents smile and wave.  As Ray tries to tell them what's wrong, Mom talks to him like he is suddenly an infant.  ("That's RIGHT, Ray!  It IS a bowl!")

I'd seriously like to know why it's funny to have a nightmare-sequence that involves parents happily sending one kid off to an institution, when history shows, not too long ago?  Kids like JJ were institutionalized.  Not to mention the completely disrespectful way it portrays people with mental health disabilities as needing to be restrained and carted off.  As not being worth listening to once a professional has deemed them "crazy."

By the end of the episode, we do learn the entire thing was Kenneth's Halloween dream, which may actually explain some of the terrible ableism and saneism that was going on here.

Next week's episode looks intriguing, too, so I may have to get back on the Speechless-reviewing train...

FOR THOSE WHO ARE WONDERING: The following episode was the worst I have ever seen.  Too much ableism to even begin to process and/or write about.  Not intriguing in any way.  Will not be reviewing anymore of these.


  1. I wonder what would really happen if demons existed and they knew everything about disability and used their power that way?

    And in Philip Pullman stories there are daemons which are forms of our animals.

    Kenneth and his subconscious must have been working hard for this episode, Tonia.

    And the school is too accessible for demons?

    The part where it is told to leave by the mother...

    1. I agree that Kenneth and his subconscious must have been working hard for this episode LOL...