Home Posts Netflix's 'Special' Still Has A Lot To Say About Disabled People And Gay Sex
Netflix's 'Special' Still Has A Lot To Say About Disabled People And Gay Sex
Netflix

Netflix's 'Special' Still Has A Lot To Say About Disabled People And Gay Sex


The second and final season of Netflix's "Special" reaches an emotional high point after two characters' romantic getaway is ruined by literal poop.

The intentionally cringeworthy scene, which takes place in the series' penultimate episode, exemplifies what makes "Special" so, well, special. The show, which is based on creator Ryan O'Connell's experiences as a gay man with cerebral palsy, is best known for its candid portrayal of sex as a sometimes less-than-satisfactory experience.

“I want gay sex and ‘Special’ to be synonymous,” O’Connell told Stardia. “I want my show to be known for topping, bottoming, top anxiety, lube, all of that. I want to take the mystery and shame out of gay sex by depicting it as I’ve experienced it: erotic, humiliating, empowering, funny, and intense, all within the same thrust.”

“Hopefully, I’ve removed some stigma and made nondisabled viewers less skittish and uncomfortable around disability,” he added. “That’s what I hope to do: lube and disabled awareness.”

Season 2 of “Special,” which premieres on Thursday, contains many provocative and subtly inclusive moments. The show follows Ryan (played by O’Connell), who is now living apart from his estranged, if well-meaning, mother (Jessica Hecht), but his newfound independence is offset by his perceived inability to find a boyfriend.

However, things begin to improve when Ryan meets Tanner (Max Jenkins of "Dead to Me"), a dance instructor who is handsome, charismatic, and frustratingly evasive about his own relationship baggage. Meanwhile, Ryan's gal pal, Kim (Punam Patel), is enjoying nights out on the town with the handsome Harrison (Charlie Barnett), but she is also dealing with her own intimacy issues.

Season 2 of “Special” is a bittersweet triumph for O’Connell. In December 2019, eight months after Season 1 premiered to critical acclaim, he received word that the series had not only been renewed, but that each episode’s running time would be increased from 15 minutes to half an hour. However, there was one major caveat: Season 2 would also be the show’s final season.

In retrospect, O'Connell is relieved that he was able to process the cancellation of his show before Season 2 production began last year.

“Netflix renewed and canceled us in the same phone call, which was definitely a roller coaster,” he explained, “but I’m grateful they told me in advance because it would have felt like creative blue balls if I’d made this season hoping for Season 3. It allowed me to really, really think, because I want the audience to feel good about where we leave these characters.”

The show's longer runtime also allowed O'Connell to bring on a number of high-profile guest stars, including Lauren Weedman of HBO's "Looking" and Leslie Jordan, as well as more disabled actors like Buck Andrews, who plays an autistic gay man.

Production was temporarily halted in 2020 due to COVID-19, but when production resumed earlier this year, O'Connell was adamant that the show avoid addressing the pandemic on-screen.

“I don’t need to see that,” he said, adding, “Right now, there’s such a desire for human connection. ‘Special’ is a show that confronts real issues, but I like to cover my vegetables in sugar. We need pleasure. We need joy. We need escapism.”

Before making his television acting debut in Season 1 of "Special," O'Connell was best known for his behind-the-scenes work on NBC's "Will & Grace" revival and MTV's "Awkward." In 2015, he published a memoir, "I'm Special: And Other Lies We Tell Ourselves," which piqued the interest of actor Jim Parsons and director Craig Johnson, who signed a deal with digital content company Stage 13.

If everything goes as planned, the end of “Special” will mark the beginning of a new professional chapter for O’Connell, who is set to publish his debut novel, “Just By Looking at Him,” next year. A film adaptation of the book is also in the works, with O’Connell as its star. Meanwhile, he’s working on the HBO Max series “Accessible,” which takes place at a boarding school for disabled teens.

Finally, O'Connell will be grateful if viewers leave "Special" with an open mind as well as a renewed sense of optimism about the world.

“I hope people see it as a sort of balm for these times, bringing them happiness while also progressing their own thinking about disability, queerness, or whatever,” he said, adding, “We need that now more than ever.”

Season 2 of "Special" premieres on Netflix on May 20; watch the trailer below.

0 Comments
Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published, Required fields are marked with *.