BIPOC Voices, Entertainment

4 times Hollywood nailed Deaf Representation

Winning awards and a seal of authenticity is worth a thousand words.

words by: Alee Kwong
May 10, 2022

This past year has been one tremendous win for the deaf community. Representation in media doesn’t stop at race, gender, or sexual orientation. For a long period of time, people with disabilities have been pushed aside and ignored in the media — almost as if they don’t exist. We still have a long way to go, but this year has been a bright and shining North Star for people with disabilities with two deaf comic book characters coming to life, the very first deaf actor winning an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor, and a film about children of deaf adults (CODA) winning an Academy Award for Best Picture.


Let’s review the instances when Hollywood nailed dead representation recently.


1. Eternals


Last November we were introduced to a new kind of Marvel supergroup, the Eternals. In the comics, Makkari is an able-bodied male character. The film’s character was played by deaf actor, Lauren Ridloff. This was the mark of a huge win for the deaf community. While Marvel Comics has two canonically deaf characters, Clint Barton (aka Hawkeye) and Echo, Makkari is the very first to appear on-screen. Lauren Ridloff’s husband, Douglas Ridloff (who is also deaf), also played a part in this history-making moment as an on-site deaf consultant and interpreter for his wife.


2. Hawkeye


Right on the tail of EternalsHawkeye premiered in December and introduced us to a newly hard-of-hearing Clint Barton/Hawkeye (played by Jeremy Renner) and deaf Maya Lopez/Echo (played by Alaqua Cox). Both projects were recently honored with the Seal of Authentic Representation from the Ruderman Family Foundation, which is awarded to television or feature film projects featuring actors with disabilities in substantial speaking roles.


While Barton wears a hearing aid, he still has a a handful of signs in his pocket that he uses when he communicates with Echo. If you can’t get enough Maya Lopez, she is set to return in her very own series, Echo, which will most likely be the bridge that Daredevil will cross to officially become a part of the MCU.


3. CODA 


This isn’t for certain but it’s safe to assume that CODA (Children of Deaf Adults) winning an Academy Award for Best Picture rocked Netflix’s world, being the first streaming film to win the highest accolade in the industry. This film not only carved out space for deaf representation but also shined a light on the difficulties that the children of deaf parents experience as well.


With nearly the entire main cast being deaf, CODA blew the doors wide open and proved to everyone that a film revolving around being a part of a deaf family can compete side-by-side without issue against films with able-bodied people.


4. Troy Kotsur and his Oscar win


Speaking of CODA, deaf actor Troy Kotsur won an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor, becoming the first male actor to win an Academy Award. The only other deaf actor to win an Academy Award is, coincidentally, his CODA co-star Marlee Matlin. She won the Best Actress award for her performance in 1986 film Children of a Lesser God.


Matlin said she hopes Kotsur’s win in particular “opens the floodgates” for fellow deaf actors. “I’m so happy because finally, this validates that everyone is respecting our work as actors in every way,” Matlin told ABC News’ Lara Spencer backstage after CODA won for Best Picture. “It’s been 35 years and I’ve been waiting for another deaf actor to join me.”


It seems like Marvel is definitely trending in the right direction now for diversity and inclusion.


Photo via AP News