The Great British Bake Off (GBBO) gets a Deaf baker – will it be powerful Deaf representation or a lost opportunity? On you marks, get set.. BAKE!
The Great British Bake Off is BACK this week with a brand new season and the moment Deaf fans like me have been waiting for is here. For the first time, GBBO will have a DEAF baker / contestant! Just like the new arrivals to the big white tent, I am giddy with excitement tying on my proverbial apron!
Introducing GBBO’s first Deaf Baking contestant is such a fitting way to recognize Deaf people worldwide. This season’s premiere caps off Deaf Awareness Week /Month.
Just as they manage to schedule Chocolate Week during a nice, scorch-y heat wave – it’s perfect timing!
So, how will the GBBO work with a Deaf baker? Their past handling of bakers with disabilities offers clues – and gives me hope for accurate Deaf representation.
GBBO’s portrayal of disabilities is subtle, but just right
As a Deaf person, I’m especially cognizant of how people with disabilities are treated. I can tell from a mi.. erhm a kilometer away if someone is being disingenuous or patronized. On TV, that’s only magnified for me since I get a bird’s eye view.
While this will be the first Deaf baker, GBBO has hosted several contestants with various disabilities over the series. If the Deaf baker is portrayed as respectfully, that’s a win in my book.
GBBO just needs to follow their own signature recipe.
Here’s what GBBO gets right with disabilities, and why I’m hopeful for the Deaf baker:
GBBO shows that people with disabilities excel at the highest levels of competition.
People with disabilities can have a hard time being taken seriously. Even when armed with mainstream achievements such advanced degrees or specialized skills, people with disabilities are often not seen as true competitors. Not so in the GBBO! This is the frickin’ home-baking olympics. To quote Breadmaster Extrordinaire Paul Hollywood, “you don’t get IN the tent unless you’re good.” Amen, brother. They’re here to play hardball.
GBBO shows people with disabilities as peers and friends.
As humankind evolves, children and adults alike are taught to Be Kind, Don’t Stare, Don’t Be Mean, etc. of course that’s all important but it can carry an element of pity or “othering” – although there may be kinder intentions, we’re still being treated differently. Do they get to know them? Do they invite those with disabilities over to their house, on a trip, to take a class together, hold hands? GBBO is a beautiful example of how easy it can be to do all those things.
GBBO doesn’t try to steer or even “narrate” the narrative on disabilities.
When it comes to bakers with disabilities, GBBO is very hands-off. Nothing is hidden from cameras. The visuals tell the story without elaboration. Unless a baker brings it up, they’ll listen and chat with them. But they don’t talk about someone’s disability or ask them prying questions. That’s pretty rude, it’s like asking someone about their teeth or deodorant scent. Kinda personal. GBBO seems to let the bakers tell their own story, even if it means not saying a word. There’s been a couple of bakers with visible disabilities – with no mention of it through their entire series (and I’m following suit). No click-bait in the tent!
GBBO gives a platform to those with disabilities, if they want it.
It’s not anyone’s job to educate anyone on one of their body parts/functions/culture/language. It’s quite enough to show up and kick ass on the world stage, right?! No PSA necessary. BUT, sometimes people want to talk about it. If that’s the case, GBBO includes what the person wants to reveal and how it infuses into their life. Mark from 2021 is an amputee and shared how losing his leg led him to Buddhism – which was the inspiration for one of his signature designs. Lizzie from the same season explained her SEN (Special Education Needs) background and how her neurodiversity inspired her showstopper cake. In both cases, they related how overcoming challenges led to their life-view. That was cool.
GBBO does their homework on disabilities.
How do I know? Wha-la: The inspiration to write this list.
Final thoughts on The Great British Bake Off introducing its first Deaf Baker
So, GBBO introduces a Deaf baker this week and Deaf people are hopeful. Authentic, respectful representation on popular shows can be a wonderful way for hearing people to understand us Deaf folks better and therefore connect in real life. GBBO’s recipe for including those with disabilities has been spot on thus far, so I’ve got all my fingers and toes crossed for our “Star” Deaf Baker!
Like a good bake, Deaf representation is worth the wait.. (and the calories too, Dame Prue)!
The Great British Baking Show Collection 11 premieres in the US on Friday, September 29th. It can be seen on Netflix.