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Bionic blithering of the discontented kind

Once again I'm a couple weeks late to the party. (I need another July to recover from this one! %-} ) On the upside, though, lots of stuff is now googleable for my convenience.

shadowmaat's comment on the "ten shows" meme the other day was my first inkling that the tinkering with the new Bionic Woman included scrapping kid sister Becca, at least as she was seen in the clip that was posted online a couple months ago. (Which is, alas, no longer available on the Trib's website. Also, for the record, I'm not saying I've seen any more of Becca than that. Not saying that at all. Nopenopenope. Because That Would Be Wrong.)

In that clip, which IIRC was about two minutes long, we found out that Becca Sommers was fifteen, living with big sis Jaime, possessed of an attitude and fashion sense borrowed wholesale from Kelly Osbourne, and oh, yeah, deaf.

In other words, she was one of the more interesting elements in any of the clips.

Granted, she was also played by a hearing actress, Mae Whitman, who is delightfully expressive, oozed pitch-perfect bad-girl-wannabe energy, and couldn't sign her way out of a wet paper bag. The mostly useless random signs punctuating her high-clarity speech weren't unrationalizable -- I could buy her as a mainstreamed, probably postlingual-deaf kid coming to ASL late and clumsily. Jaime's rudimentary-but-still-better signing fit into that picture too -- if Becca is rebelling against her deaf identity along with everything else, Jaime could easily be a better signer. There was a lot of potential with that, offering Whitman plausible wiggle room to improve her language skills as she went along.

Only that opportunity won't happen now, because she's out of the picture. The explanation offered by producer Jason Smilovic tells us why Becca was deaf in the first place, but not why they've thrown the baby out with the chimps' bathwater.

Especially because, while I can't find anything about it right now precisely because Google is clogged with hits on the Becca topic, I'm positive I remember a storyline in the original series where Jaime's bionic ear was malfunctioning and it looked like she was going to lose her hearing altogether. I swear I remember something with cute deaf kids and some awkward signing from Lindsay Wagner, because I swear it was one of the roots of my wanting to learn to sign (which I didn't actually get around to -- apart from fingerspelling, at which I now rather suck -- until adulthood). If I had to guess Becca's genesis, I would have figured it was that. (Someone please tell me I'm not the only one who remembers this?)

But in any case, I wouldn't mind (okay, not much) if they just admitted to sheer laziness in not wanting to take on those story possibilities. But all this vague "lots of creative decisions happen at this stage" non-information is annoying.

Now, mention in various places that the decision was motivated by fear of catching flak from the deaf community for casting a hearing actress is borne out to some extent by a sampling of deaf bloggers' reactions. Totally understandable (albeit something they should have thought of before). But if that were all there is to it, there would be two obvious solutions:

  • Recast the role with a deaf actress. Seriously, people, the talent pool isn't dry just because Marlee Matlin and Shoshannah Stern are already working (and, y'know, adults). Duh.
  • Rewrite the role for the hearing actress they already had.


Neither of those is what they've done. Oh, there's still a Becca, and she has been rewritten as hearing. With the oh-so-innovative character hook of being a "budding computer hacker." *eyeroll* But Mae Whitman is still out, in favor of Lucy Hale.

And therein lies the rub. See, there was one other observation about Whitman's Becca that I omitted from my list above: She wasn't a size-zero WB-ready cover girl. And lest one be inclined to chalk that up to coincidence, back on July 9 we have this report indicating that the casting breakdown for the replacement called for "Caucasian and sexy." Because we all know sexy (for, needless to say, quite specific values of the term) is what's REALLY important in a teenage girl. *snarl*

I'm still holding out hope for a good show. But my inner six-year-old is seriously wanting to kick some suit-clad kneecaps right now. :-PPPP

Comments

( 21 comments — Leave a comment )
mrv3000
Jul. 31st, 2007 09:36 pm (UTC)
Shame - that character seemed interesting from what I saw in the promo. (I was completely clueless about her being an actress that wasn't deaf, or her lack of signing ability.)

On paper, "budding computer hacker teen" is dull as dirt and twice as lazy. Hopefully what's actually onscreen will be decent.
wiliqueen
Jul. 31st, 2007 09:52 pm (UTC)
Hopefully what's actually onscreen will be decent.

Here's hoping. 'Cause there's nothing like homegenizing a good idea to death. :-/
(Anonymous)
Sep. 19th, 2007 02:47 am (UTC)
New bionic woman Michelle Ryan
Doesnt she look a lot like gillian anderson i downloaded a photo of each and put them side by side and they look like sisters only one's a red head in the photo's
(Deleted comment)
wiliqueen
Jul. 31st, 2007 09:50 pm (UTC)
I babbled about seeing the pilot here.

:: runs off to check it out :: (Even though it will be spoilery. Because I haven't seen it. Because I wasn't where you saw it, so That Would Be Wrong. *nodnodnodnod*)

because the network asked to un-deaf her.

Yeah, I ran across that in a few places. Too bad it doesn't explaning replacing one hearing actress with another. :-P
lyssie
Jul. 31st, 2007 11:21 pm (UTC)
...ugh. I'm just wishing they'd trash the kid sister all-together, since they can't seem to do anything but make her a collection of annoying cliches, anyway.

I'm not sad to see this one gone, but I'm not impressed with their re-write in the least.

That's ok, though. I won't be watching it, anyway. *g*
wiliqueen
Aug. 1st, 2007 01:26 pm (UTC)
....ugh. I'm just wishing they'd trash the kid sister all-together, since they can't seem to do anything but make her a collection of annoying cliches, anyway.

I'm tending to agree at this point. I did think the first iteration had potential, but with so many string-pullers wanting them to mess with her, it's just not worth it. :-P
shadowmaat
Aug. 1st, 2007 03:19 am (UTC)
It sucketh. I wasn't sure if the original actress was deaf or not (I'm lucky if I can sign the alphabet, forget words), but I liked the look and feel of her either way and I think it would have been nicer to keep the original actress.

As for her not really being deaf? *shrug* Like you said, they probably should have thought of that before, but why not simply get a deaf actress for the part? I liked Mae well enough, but if it was a case of going for accuracy I'd be all for it. ;)

Instead we're getting Yet Another Waifish Actress. Gods. I just have this vision of our television shows reaching some alien planet who decides to pool all their resources to mount a rescue effort since we're obviously starving. ;)

That might make a pretty hilarious story, actually. Earth all in a panic thinking aliens have invaded and instead they're air-dropping crates of food...
wiliqueen
Aug. 1st, 2007 01:31 pm (UTC)
Quite a few people are commenting that they didn't know whether the actress was deaf or not, which amounts in and of itself to a reason she really should be. As with any minority, when the general public can't tell, it's because they haven't had enough exposure to what that minority really looks like.

That might make a pretty hilarious story, actually. Earth all in a panic thinking aliens have invaded and instead they're air-dropping crates of food...

Oh, man. If I had the ambition to do an indie film... *snerk*
studiesinlight
Aug. 1st, 2007 04:24 am (UTC)
I keep forgetting that the networks don't actually want us to watch their shows.

You'd think I would have learned this lesson by now, but I keep sliding back into thinking that one pair of eyes is worth the same as any other, when of course networks want men to watch their shows, not women, and teenagers, not adults, because advertisers hunger for gullibility.

Doctor Quinn, Medicine Woman won its timeslot every year it was on, but was canceled for the sin of skewing the CBS demographics female.
wiliqueen
Aug. 1st, 2007 01:33 pm (UTC)
Yeah. The gender landscape has changed somewhat, as the advertisers finally got the belated clue about women's buying power. But the programming people still have some wonky ideas of what constitutes "what will get women to watch." *eyeroll*
evil_overlord
Aug. 1st, 2007 05:01 am (UTC)
uhhh......

Well, *that's* just...just...well, stupid comes to mind. I can understand there being a problem with a non-deaf actress playing a deaf character [at least from the perspective of the deaf community], and we won't get into the portrayal of *other* handicaps [though most people do "blind"...well, as well as they can, considering]. Obviously network admins don't have the sense that Deity gave a Newt.

1)rewriting character...like *that's* not been done before. Recasting...that's been done too. But to go from "more normal" to "waif #335" is just moronic. I for one am getting a bit tired of seeing only women that look like you could break 'em in half if you bent them over your knee.

2)it's a good thing that hackers...or computer people in general...don't tend to be overly fannish, or you might here as much uproar over the "budding hacker" as was apparently made over Becca being deaf. [living with a computer geek, *trust* me, I hear that. It's *normal* to hear "you can't do that!" while watching something in *my* house. Although you're also talking about the guy who was, while watching an episode of 'Knight Rider' blurted out "that keyboard and monitor can't talk to each other.". LOL] As it is, *I'm* probably going to sit on the couch making fun of her, and I don't know as much as the hubby does, because they *rarely* get that sort of thing right.

3)if the problem was just the actress not being deaf...and you're going to recast anyway...then DUH, hire a deaf actress! But that might be...I dunno...a COMMON SENSE thing or something.... bleh

I too, think some suit-clad kneecaps are just asking for a kicking.
wiliqueen
Aug. 1st, 2007 01:40 pm (UTC)
It's *normal* to hear "you can't do that!" while watching something in *my* house.

Heck, I'm enough of a computer geek to say that on a regular basis. Especially when they get into "enhancing" graphics. *snerk*

if the problem was just the actress not being deaf...and you're going to recast anyway...then DUH, hire a deaf actress!

And if the network told them to ditch the deafness (which I completely believe), then why not keep the hearing actress they already had? That's what irks me -- it's the question nobody is answering, because one look at the two girls side-by-side tell you they can't be honest about it.

The really frustrating thing is that Mae Whitman -- in or out of Becca's emo-kid aesthetic armor -- is nothing if not adorable by any sane (i.e. non-Hollywood) standard.
evil_overlord
Aug. 2nd, 2007 04:57 am (UTC)
Heck, I'm enough of a computer geek to say that on a regular basis. Especially when they get into "enhancing" graphics. *snerk* I know pretty much *all* of the "video enhancers" they've shown just plain don't work. As *both* have been fond of saying "you can't enhance information that just ISN'T there!"

That's what irks me -- it's the question nobody is answering, because one look at the two girls side-by-side tell you they can't be honest about it.

And see, even if they *did* say anything, if nothing else they could use the old "the actress just wasn't meshing with the rest of the crew" saw. 'cause yeah, they sure *aren't* going to want to be honest about why they replaced the perfectly good actress they already have.

[oh, and as an aside, I was telling the hubby about it earlier, and he said "well, so long as it doesn't get as bad as their hacker-wannabe in 'Jurassic Park'...." **snickers** He did, however, agree with my assessment that if computer geeks and/or hackers were more fannishly inclined, we'd be hearing an uproar about *that*. heh]
wiliqueen
Aug. 2nd, 2007 01:22 pm (UTC)
"well, so long as it doesn't get as bad as their hacker-wannabe in 'Jurassic Park'

Um, yeah.

LEXI: This is a UNIX system! I know this!

EVERYONE I KNOW: :: ruptures something laughing ::
evil_overlord
Aug. 3rd, 2007 09:46 am (UTC)
LOL yeah. I think the hubby was "uhmm...*first* of all, UNIX doesn't have a graphical interface...*none* of them have *that* graphical interface." [if I remember his comments precisely...it's been awhile since we saw 'Jurassic Park' for the first time...LOL]

It's kind of amusing, in a way, to have to constantly remind him that not *everyone* knows things like, for example, when a monitor and keyboard won't talk to each other. [hee. Although watching people "type" is always funny too...hehehh...and we won't *even* bring up knitting....]
krf13
Aug. 1st, 2007 10:10 am (UTC)
My memory is telling me that your're right about Lindsay Wagner going temporarily deaf because of the misfiring bionics. There was some sign language in there, but I don't remember the details, only that I had the same reaction as you.

I used to watch it every Saturday morning - I think it was ITV rather than BBC because I think I remember commercials too but that's really pushing.
wiliqueen
Aug. 1st, 2007 01:43 pm (UTC)
Yep, it was on ITV. I remember because the whole thing with only one channel having commercials was so new to me. ITV carried most of the American shows I watched.

You're doing better than I am remembering the day, although I do remember The Six Million Dollar Man being on Friday nights, because once I wanted to stay home from square dancing to watch the second part of a two-parter even though I'd already seen it when we were still Stateside, and my mom was annoyed. :-)
(Anonymous)
Aug. 2nd, 2007 11:29 am (UTC)
Lette
I there i found my way here through Myrel.net and Banjos blog. Im deaf, and It would be really nice to see some deaf characters and actors getting the parts who are deaf, what show these days has that?? im dissapointed the character has been dropped, but id rather her be dropped than have a hearing actor do her!!
wiliqueen
Aug. 2nd, 2007 01:27 pm (UTC)
Re: Lette
Hi, Lette! (I'm guessing that's your name?) Welcome!

I agree that they should have cast a deaf actress in the first place.

I'm a signing hearing actor, and it's very frustrating to me, because I know the talent is out there and they should use it!

The entertainment industry is very slow to learn. I keep hoping...
(Anonymous)
Aug. 2nd, 2007 02:52 pm (UTC)
:)
My names Colette, But Lette is what everyone calls me :) Yeha its a pity because the talent is there, heres hoping they will wake up soon! :)
( 21 comments — Leave a comment )

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