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Is Deaf Representation in the Media Getting Better?

Pictured: Millicent Simmonds & John Krasinski from the movie, A Quiet Place. Image from The Hollywood Reporter.

Representation of all types of people in the media helps expose us to lives and stories we may not be able to experience every day. These past few years, we have seen increased awareness for actors and actresses of color and those representing all genders. Another growing but quieter trend is the representation of Deaf culture and the lives of those who are hard of hearing.

With this trend, we can get a view of family life for Deaf people and mixed deaf families. For example, in the recent movie CODA, a teenage girl who is the only hearing person in her family receives pressure to live their way or choose her own life and pursue her music. Although it is an age-old and relatable theme, many of us can identify our differences with our families. The fact that it uses a deaf family setting allows us to relate to the theme and view the specific issues that come up in that context. For example, when the main character listens to music at the dinner table, her family considers that rude, but when they can gather around her brother’s phone to watch something that is ok at the table. Certainly, the opposite of some hearing families’ rules!

While it is essential to dive into cultural differences in media, it may be equally important to not address them as “differences” but just as “normal” to the characters. The very popular 2018 movie A Quiet Place featured a family who signs because of their deaf daughter, and in signing, they are saved by monsters who are hypersensitive to sound. The actress playing the daughter is deaf herself and teaches other characters how to enunciate so she can read their lips.

Mainstream media is getting better at representing the Deaf community. Another must-see is the Hulu show Only Murders In the Building starring Steve Martin. One entire episode is from the point of view of one of the characters who is deaf, making the entire episode silent. In this way, we can focus on the story being told while being exposed to a different way of telling it.

Inclusion and acceptance are best achieved when we can understand the perspective of others. Many of us only get that opportunity through movies and other media. It is so important that all people be represented and feel included in our society. Big steps are being taken now to represent the Deaf and hard of hearing communities, and hopefully, we’ll continue to see more.

Do you feel like the deaf community is properly represented in the media? Share your thoughts in the comments!

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