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Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

The R-word leaves Ray Speechless on prom night

Photo: ABC
Photo: ABC
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Speechless is really killing it lately. The show has been solid all season, but the last three episodes have really been firing on all cylinders.

In “P-R— PROM,” it’s prom night (duh) at school and all three DiMeo kids are in attendance, which is a little weird, but we’ll let it slide—the episode more than makes up for nit-picks like that.


The thrust of the episode is that Ray finally has a girl interested in him, but right before he’s about to get what I’m assuming is his first kiss, she calls herself the R-word in a self-deprecating manner. He spends the rest of the episode wrestling with his conscience, his siblings and his hormones in trying to decide what to do.

Like the kind soul that Ray is, he first tries to talk to Riley about what she said, assuming she’ll realize he was offended and apologize. Unfortunately, Riley is one of those “being PC is un-American” people and she doesn’t back down.

Riley’s argument is that she didn’t mean it in an offensive way, people shouldn’t be so sensitive and we shouldn’t have to censor ourselves because of the Politically Correct Police. And that’s certainly one argument.

But I’m firmly in the camp of “there are ways to be self-deprecating or talk about someone you don’t like without using speech that applies to a person’s race, creed, gender, sexual orientation or disability.”


At best, it’s lazy and hurtful; at worst, it’s hate speech. And no, it doesn’t matter one whit that it doesn’t apply to J.J.’s condition. As Ray sums up nicely when he finally forms his own argument: “What about people who do think a different way or at a different pace? Should we reference them in a nasty way when we do something dumb because we think it’s cute?”

Exactly, Speechless. Exactly.

It’s not about being politically correct, it’s about just being a decent person. It’s about having manners and common courtesy. You don’t have to like everybody, nor do you have to only say nice things about people (though wouldn’t this world just generally be a better place if that happened?). But it is about expressing yourself in a way that’s not marginalizing someone for what makes them different from you.


Anyway, so Speechless tackled another big subject in the world of raising a special needs child, and did so with its typical humor and grace. What was a nice surprise was J.J.’s reaction, supporting his little brother’s quest to get some smoochies, because let’s be honest—with a lot of teenage boys, hormones are totally going to trump… almost anything a girl could do that’s offensive. That’s a good big brother right there.

Speaking of J.J., his night with the prom-hating misfits was delightful. Is it to much to hope for that the thing with Caroline turns into something bigger than a dance at prom? Because she was adorable and J.J. deserves some lovin’ too.


In other news, Maya and Jimmy spent the night at home working through their “fight jar,” i.e. having fights about things they write down on pieces of paper, put in a jar and then hash out when their kids aren’t around. I applaud the idea of not fighting in front of your kids, but I do have issue with putting off disagreements like that. Bottling up grievances and anger is not healthy, even if it’s hilarious to listen to them argue over some fireworks that apparently go back 15 years.

Kenneth standing in as the judge this time around was a fun touch, especially when it veers off into his own issues about not quite feeling like part of the family yet. My big question is what happens when J.J. graduates? Does Kenneth go to college with him? But that’s a bridge to cross next season, presumably.


Stray observations

  • “Ooh, wagging his finger. I wish I had that.”
    Yeah, Jimmy probably can’t pull off a good finger wag, but he did pull off some incredible physical reactions to Kenneth’s rant about defining his DiMeo relationship.
  • “How do you make out?!”
    “Think of your tongue as a toothbrush and just brush her teeth.”
    Umm, EWWW. That actually made me gag a little. Please don’t do that, anybody. Ever.
  • I just have to ask, isn’t Ray a freshman? How did he get to go to prom? At my high school, prom was juniors and seniors only—underclassmen only got to go if they were invited as someone’s date. Maybe he’s there as J.J.’s aide? But then why is Riley there? She’s clearly also an underclassman. Is that a smaller school thing, where all four grades were allowed to attend prom? I’m genuinely curious, I didn’t know that was a thing.
  • Speaking as a very tall woman, I can say from first-hand experience that people think “how’s the weather up there?” and jokes of that ilk are the funniest things and it’s like—really? Can you not do any better than that? I took to reacting thusly: looking down, screaming in terror and shouting, “Oh my god, I’m so far from the ground!” and then giving them my best withering look.

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