A lot of people reportedly seem to be interested in learning sign language after Marvel’s first deaf superhero in Eternals, effectively proving that representation matters.
In the film, hearing-impaired actress Lauren Ridloff plays Makkari, a deaf member of the Eternals team who can move at superhuman speeds. One of the best parts of her story is how her disability doesn’t define her and how her fellow teammates – costars Angelina Jolie, Kumail Nanjiani, Barry Keoghan, and more – communicate with her in American Sign Language.
According to research from an online language tutor service called Preply, via Independent, search results for learning the language have skyrocketed since the film was released.
Specifically, the term “learn sign language for beginners” has increased by 250%. Search results for “Lauren Ridloff” globally increased by 550%, too, while searches for “first deaf superhero” doubled since November 2020, when the film was first announced.
To make this all even sweeter, Harry Styles, who appears in a cheeky post-credits scene, invited the Eternals cast on stage during a concert this week in Sign Language.
In an interview with Variety, Ridloff gushed over the experience of seeing herself truly represented on screen and being the representation she and other hearing-impaired people needed.
“It felt like a lifetime of waiting,” she told the outlet, via an ASL interpreter.
“I didn’t really see anyone like myself ever represented on the screen.”
“…From the deaf and hard of hearing community, the response has been very positive. I feel like a lot of people are thrilled just to see a deaf person of color in the movie.
“But also what I’m seeing is deaf and hard of hearing people are really taking this opportunity to push for more [movie] subtitling, and I’m just thrilled that that’s happening,” she continued.
“I think it is an important conversation that we need to continue to have. We just need to normalize subtitles.”
Similar to the other minorities represented in Eternals, none of her teammates comment on the fact she’s deaf. Director Chloé Zhao doesn’t take a moment to explain why Makkari is hearing-impaired which, in doing so, fantastically normalises it to its audience. Just like it should be in real life, her disability is merely an extension of her that they all embrace.
That experience, Ridloff said in the interview, left her crying “tears of joy” at the premiere.
“What I love most about Chloé and this movie is there’s diversity on the screen without actually having that become the point of the story,” she said.
“It just is. It’s just like the real world. I think that was what was so exciting to see, people who were just different. They have different interests, different abilities.”
While we’re talking about Lauren Ridloff, my brain is malfunctioning at the idea that this woman is 43-years-old. Are we sure she’s not an Eternal living among us?
Eternals isn’t the only recently-released blockbuster project to embrace the hearing-impaired community. Disney’s Only Murders in the Building had an entire episode in American Sign Language and subtitles, and The Quiet Place is a horror film centered around the absence of noise and stars a deaf teen.
You can catch Lauren Ridloff and the hugely progressive step towards hearing-impaired inclusivity in Eternals in theatres now.Image: Disney