15th Jun2021

‘Special: Season 2’ Review (Netflix)

by Rhys Payne

Just over a year ago, Adele stunned the world by posting a picture on Instagram for her 32nd birthday which showed off her incredible seven stone weight loss in a black mini-dress. She was not the only celeb/person who has taken the time over lockdown to go on a fitness journey. Rebel Wilson (most known for playing Fat Amy in Pitch Perfect) also showed off an amazing 60-pound weight loss and achieve her ideal weight. The latter of which did a series of interviews where she talked about how she feels shunned by the Hollywood comedy scene after losing all the weight as there seems to be this idea that skinny people can’t be funny and fat people can’t be the love interest. As someone who has had their struggles with body image/weight loss journey (a subject on which I was interviewed by Britain’s longest-serving TV breakfast show host, the one and only Lorraine Kelly) this has led to many conversations, arguments and even an interview about my thoughts on this matter. In short… I think that the television industry and Hollywood, in general, need to work harder to make TV reflect what we experience in real everyday life! We need to see bigger people being at the centre of love stories, disabled characters not overcoming their illnesses and not just an addition to main characters but being just as important as everyone else etc.

Which leads us to Netflix’s Special

Special is a Netflix original series that both stars and is written by Ryan O’Connell. The show documents a semi-autobiographical story of him dealing with Cerebral Palsy. Due to this being based on actual experiences it is one of the best reflections of modern-day, millennial, life. The firstly and most obvious thing about this show is that the lead character (conveniently also called Ryan) is a gay man who suffers from Cerebral Palsy who navigates the gay scene with the limitations of their disability but not in a tokenistic manner but an honest and real way. The show discusses how disabilities can be fetishised by some people (especially those within the LGBT+ community) and how this can affect the people behind the so-called fetishes. We need to keep in mind that phrases such as “your pretty for a disabled boy/girl” is not the compliment you think it is. There are real people behind their size, background, disability etc., and they deserved to be who they are beyond external appearances!

One of the main storylines on this season of Special is how Ryan’s mother deals with having to deal with her son’s additional needs and the frustrations this can cause but still loving them unconditionally. This very real and honest depiction will definitely resonate with viewers and give hope to those who are experiencing a very similar thing. I am also amazed that this season showcases a plus-size Indian woman (played by Punam Patel) who is the centre of a love story, which is such a sharp contrast to what we have come to expect from Hollywood and other television shows. On top of this, the show also exposes the ideas surrounding internet influencers/bloggers. Ryan writes a blog that discusses his disability and instead of being encouraged to look at something else is simply told to just do that same thing again. There is also a scene where characters are go told to take a photo with a product to share on social media but do not try the product as it’s full of bacteria. Having to promote products that are not safe/practical but still pretending to love it is a side of influencers that we don’t tend to see or hear about!

The latest season of Special has a very clear focus on creating a show that is an honest and real reflection of modern-day millennial life, which is influenced by Ryan’s own personal experiences. This is a very emotionally driven series that many people will be moved by, and will be able to relate to, which makes for a fantastic watch!

***** 5/5

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