Case Study: Ryan O’Connell, Special [SPOILERS]
Special is a semi-autobiographical tv series by creator Ryan O’Connell. It follows the journey of a gay man with cerebral palsy who’s seeking connections with others and acceptance of himself. Special explores the themes of identity, romance, friendship, and work with humor and honesty.
The main character, Ryan (played by O’Connell) is relatable and flawed. As this review points out:
Special avoids the pitfalls of most representations of disability – of unflawed, bland cardboard-cutouts for characters. Ryan’s insensitive, he’s forgetful, he’s selfish, and plain obnoxious at times. He’s a real human being who happens to have a disability.
The other characters on the show are equally well represented. We follow Ryan’s single-parent mother, Kate Hayes, as she learns in her fifties to finally prioritize herself and we examine the life complexities of Indian-American, social media influencer Kim Laghari (Ryan’s best friend).
These characters are not caricatures. They make mistakes, they learn, they avoid, they dream and hope. We cry when they lose, cheer when they succeed, and want them to be fulfilled and happy. As Variety stated in its review, Special is a show about … love and joy, heartbreak and pain, fun and laughter that all just has to do with living a life.
And if that isn’t the hallmark of an authentic, meaningful story, I don’t know what is.