The portrait of deaf people and deaf community in media, 493 words essay example
Very rarely in the media is there a viewpoint from a person who is actually Deaf. There are portrayals of deaf people and the deaf community in many different forms of media including movies, television, sports, and civil rights movements, among others. When deafness is portrayed in the media, it is usually shown from a hearing persons perspective. The main question is whether these portrayals of deafness are positive or negative.
In the first twenty years of talking pictures, filmmakers portrayed deaf characters as mutes, with no significant signed dialogue, or as naturally speaking heroes or heroines who read lips (Schuchman, 7). However, before there were talking films, there was the era of the silent film. Even when the films did not have any speaking in them, deaf people were very rarely cast in the films, even if the role was for a deaf character. From the beginning of film, deaf people have not been seriously considered for roles, even if they were a good fit for the character.
Even when the silent film era ended and movies began to have sound, deaf people still had the same stereotypical perception as before. Anyone that watched a movie with a deaf character saw a person that could not hear, but was the perfect speaker. This was because hearing actors continued to be cast for the roles of deaf characters, and these roles sometimes included speaking, so it portrayed that deaf people as a whole could speak well, when that was not necessarily the case. Deaf people felt that these portrayals reinforced stereotypes of deaf people as limited human beings (Leigh, 100).
Since 1902, more than one hundred and fifty movies and network television entertainment programs have included deaf characters and so have influenced our perceptions of deafness and deaf people (Schuchman, 3). While the idea of adding a deaf character might make the film or television show different from the rest, the portrayal of the deaf character was not always in a positive light. In his book, Deaf Sport, Stewart noted that giving disabilities to villainous characters reflects and reinforces, albeit in exaggerated fashion, three common prejudices against handicapped people disability is a punishment for evil disabled people are embittered by their fate disabled people resent the nondisabled and would, if they could, destroy them (105).
For the most part, people that watch movies and television in the United States have never seen a deaf person in real life. This, in turn, means that they do not know what an active and healthy Deaf community looks like. Instead, they rely on Hollywoods depictions of what that looks like, and they are usually shown as victims, and usually dependent on people that hear in order to survive in the hearing community. Recently, there has been more exposure to Deaf people in films and television. Johnny Belinda and The Miracle Worker among others initiated the use of sign language and a more positive portrayal of deaf people in entertainments media (Leigh, 101).
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