Apple TV ‘See’ can shape depiction of visually challenged in popular culture with its blind and low-vision cast
Apple hasn't been coy about comparing 'See', starring Jason Momoa and Alfre Woodard, to the landmark 'Game of Thrones' and has reportedly shelled out around $15 million on the pilot alone. We'll know whether this confidence is hard-sell or grounded in reality once the show premieres on November 1. But the unique premise of the show could mean that the visually challenged could find a platform to publicize the challenges they face to a larger audience.
On 'See', decades have passed after a deadly virus killed most of the human population (and modern civilization) and left only a few blind survivors. Six hundred years later, a new technology-free, tribal society of blind humans has emerged that considers "vision" and "sight" as a myth and an abomination. Given that the show had to create a believable 'blind' civilization and its corresponding culture, the series featured people who are blind or have low vision in both the cast and crew.
This meant there were many innovations in how the show was shot and the avoidance of annoying tropes like blind people feeling each others' faces to "see." Momoa and Woodard have already spoken about how they trained with "low-vision" consultants wearing sleep shades continuously to understand how to function in a sightless world. Woodard remarked that it was like "learning a new language." Director–executive producer Francis Lawrence has said that "sightless navigation" was a big part of the show.
"[Jason] was constantly devising new ways to move. He might be wearing a long robe and throw it out almost like a whip in front of him to guide him. Sometimes he might be carrying an axe, and he’d slide it out in front like a walking stick. If he was walking by water, he’d kick some so others could follow the splash”, Lawrence told Emmy Magazine. Associate producer and blindness consultant Joe Strechay said the sighted actors were open to suggestions like Momoa giving up an outfit with a hood because it restricted hearing which a sightless person would never do. "He learned very quickly how much his actions mattered to [low-vision and blind] people", said Strechay, underlining the importance the show could have in providing a voice and representation to those who are visually challenged.
Lawrence also said that a lot of attention was paid to the sets, costumes and even blocking in scenes. They were all "reinvented" after brainstorming with blindness consultants, evolutionary biologists and even survivalists to determine the look of the new world. This led to smart details like the creaky floor in the home of the show's villain, Queen Kane (Sylvia Hoeks). A believable 'blind world' and publicity around this mainstream show could mean the kind of mainstream awareness and empathy that John Krasinski's 'A Quiet Place' brought to those who are hearing-impaired by featuring a "heroine" just like them.
'See' premieres on Apple TV Plus on November 1.