The importance of visibility in entertainment
Characters with disabilities are becoming more common in TV shows and movies. Most of the time, they play a small part, a friend, or background passerby. Lately, however, we’ve seen an influx of shows telling stories of people with disabilities. Netflix’s latest release, “The Healing Power of Dude” is now included on this growing list.
The Healing Power of Dude follows Noah Ferris, a sixth-grader with social anxiety disorder, returning to school after being homeschooled for several years. As Noah begins the school year, he struggles with completing simple activities because of his disorder. His anxiety prevents him from entering the building on the first day, and he runs right back to his parent’s car.
To help him with his anxiety attacks, his parents get him an emotional support dog, Dude. Dude is a cute (and sarcastic) mutt who has his own internal dialogue throughout the show. Dude guides Noah through his various anxiety episodes and helps him learn to calm himself down.
As Noah becomes more comfortable in school, he makes two new friends, Amara and Simon, also known as Turbo. With the help of Dude, Amara, and Simon, Noah starts to navigate the world of middle school a little easier. Unfortunately, the cat-loving Principal Meyers is not as fascinated with Dude as the rest of the school and tries to cause problems throughout the series.
During each episode, we get a glimpse into what goes through Noah’s head when his attacks happen. His anxiety is depicted in various ways, such as sinking into the floor like quicksand, goblins picking on his friends or his head getting bigger and bigger. He often comments about what is happening to him, but those around him obviously do not see what he is experiencing. When Dude senses this happening, he jumps into action and helps Noah calm down.
One of the issues brought up with the show is that it does not give an accurate depiction of Emotional Service Animals or a properly trained service dog. Dude sometimes behaves unlike a properly trained service animal, leaving Noah and causing problems. Although he acts this way for comedic effect, this has made a few viewers unhappy.
Overall, the show is an entertaining comedy that helps break down barriers for more diverse casting and stories. The young actress who plays Amara has Ullrich Congenital Muscular Dystrophy and uses a power wheelchair. The show is great for kids and adults alike. In fact, my whole family enjoyed watching the show. I would give this show 3/4 stars.
The Healing Power of Dude is a very cute show that opens up the world to both visible and invisible disabilities.
Kelly Beaubien | Writer
Kelly Beaubien has been a member of the Ability360 family for over five years as a caregiver. Kelly has a bachelor’s in education from Arizona State University and teaches English to ESL students. She is the mother of two boys and wife to Ability360 graphic designer, John Beaubien. In her free time, she enjoys crafting and the occasional live 5k or virtual race.
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