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Series review: Something “Special”

Series review: Something “Special”

I’ve just finished watching the second season of the dramedy “Special”, based on the memoir “I’m Special: And Other Lies We Tell Ourselves” (2015) by Ryan O’Connell, who also stars, writes and serves as executive producer on the series. The first season of “Special” debuted on Netflix on 12 April 2019, while the second and final season debuted on 20 May 2021. To those who haven’t seen the series I highly recommend it, because it’s something very special!

The plot revolves around Ryan Hayes, a millennium gay writer who was born with mild cerebral palsy, and therefore grew up insecure and codependent on his mother, Karen(Jessica Hecht), a woman who raised on her own a disabled child, he decides to seek independence, identity and his own acceptance, in this world where the minorities still need to fight for rights of equality, fraternity and respect. However, to find his empowerment, Ryan and Karen need to deal with the difficulties of cutting the umbilical cord. 

In season one, we watched Ryan landing an unpaid internship job at a clickbait online magazine called “Eggwoke” and attempting to reinvent his life by writing an article about his life. At the website’s office, Ryan meets Kim Laghari (Punam Patel), a plus-sized Indian-American woman Kim, who became a famous blogger and digital influencer more because of the weights she puts on than properly her marvelous talent as a content creator. Soon, they become close friends because they identify themselves as two outsiders working in that toxic environment full of prejudices, vanities and egos. Besides, the two must deal with the lunatic and sociopath boss Olivia (Marla Mindelle), a caricature version of Miranda Priestly, in “The Devil Wears Prada”.

The autobiographical series is one of the most original series created by the giant streaming platform in recent times and explores in a sweet, light, incisive, weird humour and sharp drama narrative, the conflicts experienced by a young man in his 20s, gay and disabled. Ryan O’Connell is the soul of the series, and although we don’t know how far the script is based on his factual stories or purely fictional storylines, it doesn’t matter, because the conception is natural, harmonic, daring, sensitive, entertaining and plausible. 

Although supporting roles are built with a lot of clichés and stereotypes like Olivia, Samantha (Gina Hughes), Ryan and Kim’s co-worker at Eggwoke, and Tanner (Max Jenkins),Ryan’s love interest, the main characters like Ryan, Karen and Kim are deep and feature many layers of humanity. Jessica Hecht as Karen Hayes and Punam Patel as Kim Laghari are astonishing in their performances.

The show openly discusses tokenism, which is the practice of making only a perfunctory or symbolic effort to be inclusive to members of minority groups, especially by recruiting people from underrepresented groups in order to give the appearance of racial or gender equality within a workplace through Olivia and her management at Eggwoke, especially when the magazine explores obesity stigma and disabilities. 

The series criticizes Digital Marketing, companies, media, brands and digital influencers that take advantage of the social struggles of minorities (LGBTQ+ community, foreigners, fat bodies, women and disabled people) to promote their businesses, engage their content and increase their traffic on websites and social networks and, consequently make profits. Although the script doesn’t go deep into the problem of tokenism as I think it should have done, it’s well explored and then elegantly answering it with the inclusion of complex, multi-dimensional characters, “Special” takes vital strides in authentic on-screen representation.

The biggest triumph of “Special” is to show everybody that we must normalise all sorts of differences. There’s no big transformative external dramatic arc at the end of the second and final season about overcoming ableism to be found here, but that’s not an issue, because the great achievement reached by Ryan was his internal transformation accepting he is simply a millennium gay writer living his ordinary life, who can be self-sufficient, and his cerebral palsy is a part of it. 

Unfortunately, Netflix decided not to renew “Special”, even the series has been receiving great rates and praises from viewers and critics.  

Watch the official trailer “Special” – 2nd season

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I am a script and creative writer, journalist, producer, and marketing content developer with over 9 years of experience in Media (TV / Film Production), Communication, Journalism and Marketing. I worked for companies such as MTV, Animal Planet, Band, Discovery and, Fremantle Media. I am from Brazil, but I've been living in Dublin, Ireland, since 2017. I am also maniac for entertainment and pop culture.
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