Special is a significant autobiographical Netflix show by Ryan O’Connell (played by Ryan Hayes) and it lives up to its name. We loved the show for its crisp and short episodes. Nothing about Special feels exaggerated or unnecessary.
If we could describe Special in one line it is an intersectional take on disability and homosexuality. Ryan, the lead protagonist, deals with Cerebral Palsy and lives with his mother. He is on the path to become independent so he joins as a content intern and meets Kim (played by Punam Patel), another protagonist, who finds it difficult to live upto a white and male dominated world. As we progress with the show we see how she has exemplary confidence about who she is and she is also seen instilling the same into Ryan too. The show isn’t preachy and talks about the issues at hand in a very smooth format.
Ryan is also seen being introduced to anal sex with a sex worker and that normalises the fact that a sex worker is just doing their job. His disability becomes a topic to be written about for his boss who wants to profit out of his oppression. He writes his story and it does wonders. Ryan is also seen dating a guy who is already in a relationship with another man. He feels he deserves an exclusive relationship and chooses to walk away. We love how proudly he does that. Don’t settle for anything less, darling is the vibe he gave us and we love it. Kim, on the other hand, is shown being desired by a lot of men, actually a lot of hot men because well, she herself is a diamond; precious. In a world where we see lean, white women as ‘hot’ and ‘desirable’, Kim breaks all the stereotypes and how.
There’s the scene where Ryan finds himself Googling “internalized ableism.” There are also all of the conversations with his mother (played by Jessica Hecht), which circle through loving support, self-centeredness, condescension, and back and forth codependence before winding their way back to love. The casting is apt and very sublime satire on people profiting out from someone’s oppression unfolds. As Ryan O’Connell often tells it, the first season of “Special” was a tough sell. Based on his own experiences as a gay man with cerebral palsy, “getting the show made has been a f*cking journey,” as he told Variety in 2019. “This might shock you, but putting a gay disabled lead on TV isn’t an instant sell. It takes time, perseverance and a sprinkle of delusion.”
The series is directed by Anna Dokoza and is spread across two seasons on Netflix.