This was written in 2010.
Film casts Deaf individuals in a consistent and exploitative manner. This exploitation is evident when juxtaposed with the short film that accompanies the informative elements of the film “Re-defining Deaf”. The film opens with a beautiful woman walking down a street. It is not immediately evident that she is deaf but can be implied based on the subject matter of the piece. She enters a bar in which ASL is the common language spoken and a romance or at the very least, an attraction unfolds between herself and a handsome poet. The focus, just like any other movie with romantic inclinations, is on their attraction and appeal to each other, conveyed by ASL but not in a way that is exploitative.
Exploitation in the media is the act of having aspects of a person represent the whole and profiting from it. The majority of films portraying Deaf individuals deal with their struggle with assimilation. One instance that was reviewed in this course, “Children of a Lesser God” was used as an example. For those in the hearing community, this movie could be viewed as progressive, but in the Deaf community, it is simply an archetype of previously produced works. “Re-defining Deaf” seeks to take the human subconscious and conscious and put it in front of the viewer. It seeks to have them pick apart their thought processes and identify the foundation of their rationale and whether it is based in fact or ideology.
“Re-defining Deaf” likens how Deaf individuals are represented to how Blacks are represented in the media. It is interesting when a person who is of the majority is used to depict someone who is Deaf or Black. The interest lies in the ability to portray someone of another culture and an interesting point was raised. In order to do this, individuals generally use data that they have accumulated from experiences and past information. If this information is flawed and inaccurate, then the portrayal is also flawed and inaccurate and allows for a perpetuation of stereotypes.
Dumb, infirm, expert, lipreader, beggar, isolated, illiterate, naïve. These are a few stereotypes that have been used to depict Deaf people and personify Deaf culture in literature and film. Yet, it was not always this way. At one point, ASL was considered a progressive language and being deaf was not considered something that needed to be fixed. To be general, ones comes away from this film realizing in a methodical way that a focus needs to be put on the facts surrounding cultures and that an effective way to do this is through the media.
Copyright © Jason Tozier
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