March 25, 2019

In Defense of Deaf Culture

“The big summer action movie “Baby Driver” made waves in the Deaf community — CJ Jones, a Deaf actor, plays the deaf foster father of the film’s protagonist, Baby. It’s exciting for two reasons: deaf characters rarely appear in big mainstream films, and it’s even rarer that deaf people play themselves.

But the fight for authentic representation is far from over.

Many in the Deaf community now have their eyes on the new Todd Haynes film, “Wonderstruck,” which makes its mainstream theater debut today. It spotlights the Deaf community, yet stars Julianne Moore as one of the deaf protagonists. Moore is only the latest in a long line of hearing actors playing deaf roles — most recently Chris Heyerdahl in the new Syfy-turned-Netflix series “Van Helsing.”

Filmmakers have offered many excuses for not casting deaf actors — everything from not knowing where to find a one, to asserting a deaf woman would get injured during the shooting of an action sequence.

More disappointing than Hollywood’s justifications, however, is the way the Deaf community’s critiques are portrayed as political correctness run amok.”

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