“A Quiet Place” hits theaters with a not so “quiet” reaction

The horror movie that not only scares, but sends a message

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Directed by “The Office” star John Krasinski, “A Quiet Place” hit theaters on April 6, 2018. Grossing more than $75 million more than its original budget, the film has earned a special place in pop culture. The movie is the most recent piece of deaf culture to be in a spotlight, but definitely not the first. ASL, or American Sign Language, has been used in the U.S. since as early as the early 1800s, but was not always accepted. With the rise of entertainment involving ASL and deaf talent, the stigma around Deaf culture could be changed forever.

“A Quiet Place” follows the story of a family of four, including one deaf child, in an apocalypse-like universe due to an unearthly monster that tracks people based on sound. The family has to go to extreme lengths to remain quiet, such as not speaking and almost exclusively using ASL to communicate. The ending of the film seems to showcase the power of being deaf, with the deaf child leading the fight against the monsters. The deaf child, Regan, is played by Millicent Simmonds, who is deaf in real life. In an interview with “Now This”, Simmonds said, “I think it’s important in the deaf community to advocate for and be a representative for this story. A story that might inspire directors and other screenwriters to include more deaf talent and be more creative in the way you use deaf talent.”

However, not every review of the film was positive. One grievance of deaf and hearing audiences alike was the fact that the signed dialogue had subtitles, but the spoken dialogue did not. In an interview with Joshua Castille of Deaf West Theatre, when asked about this issue, he said, “Just because you [hearing audiences] understand t [sic] all doesn’t mean everyone else shouldn’t have access.” However, in the same interview, Castille said that he loved the film and that, “The signing was impressive because it seemed natural.” He also said that he loved “the strength they gave Millicent.” Clearly the movie had its pros and cons for viewers, but it has overall been seen as a hit.

This film comes after a wave of deaf culture in the past few years, such as Deaf West Theatre, have created an outlet for deaf talent. Deaf West is a theater company that adapts plays and musicals for deaf casts and audiences, from classics like “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest” to more contemporary works like “Spring Awakening,” starring the aforementioned Joshua Castille. The “Spring Awakening” production was especially impactful, making it from a 99 seat theater in California to Broadway. Half of the actors in the musical were deaf with speaking counterparts. For deaf actors Sandra Mae Frank, Daniel Durant, and many others, this was their Broadway debut. When speaking about the experience, Daniel said, “A lot of times, Deaf people might think, ‘It’s all for hearing people.’ But, [with] this, they realize what’s possible. There’s a sense of the visuality and the musicality in the signs that is exciting for them.”

Besides ASL and deaf performers, the incredible television show “Switched at Birth” also has the actress Marlee Matlin in common with “Spring Awakening.” Matlin starred in the ABC Family show from 2011 to 2017. Every episode and almost every scene has ASL in it, offering the rare opportunity for deaf audiences to enjoy. Matlin’s involvement in projects that proudly display ASL just shows her passion for the language. In an interview with CBC Radio, Matlin was asked about an episode of the television show that used only sign and no speaking and said, “It was one of my proudest moments on television. It really opened up everyone’s eyes. People who had never even thought what it would be like to communicate in sign language or what it would be like to watch subtitles for a whole show.” This quote highlights the importance of ASL to deaf actors like Matlin, and shows how important exposure to the language is for not only the deaf community, but hearing individuals.

The rise of entertainment accessible to a deaf or hard of hearing audience is undoubtedly positive. With an increase in opportunities for deaf performers, this may open the door for more marginalized groups to participate in and see themselves in mainstream media. Things that many thought could never be done, like deaf actors in movies in musicals, are becoming more popular and hopefully, someday, there won’t be stigma around people with disabilities in society.

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