Random Thoughts and Musings by moi

Musings by a feisty, opinionated Deaf gal who wants nothing but the best for her community and her people

jeudi 6 juillet 2006

The Family Stone

Just watched The Family Stone and all the bonus features. What a treat to have everything captioned! (Note to self: write the company, thanking them.) This may be the first silver screen production since Mr. Holland’s Opus that had a deaf character with more than a cameo appearance yet the character’s state of being deaf was simply incidental to the plotline. This is important because for many people who know someone who is deaf, it is merely part of their life rather than the sole focus. Hence, this is a more accurate portrayal of reality and we need more shows like this.

The movie was wonderfully put together and wonderfully acted. It was a quirky story, yet it had elements that all of us could relate to. They did a fabulous job of weaving Thad’s deaf state into the story. Diane Keaton was perfect as the hearing mother who signs better than anyone in the family, even if that’s not saying much, and who tries to keep the deaf kid involved to an extent, all the while dropping signs and not signing many things she says out loud. Craig T. Nelson barely signed, which is so typical of most fathers of deaf children, and the few signs he did he clearly had difficulty with. I have to confess I could hardly imagine the man signing before I saw him sign. The siblings all did a good job of being busy hearing siblings that have some sensitivity to their deaf brother by signing some things, not signing others, and signing snatches of what they were saying. It was also refreshing not to have an army of interpreters voicing what Thad was saying, though that was mostly resolved by Thad voicing for himself. Here’s a bold idea - open caption what the deaf person says so that voicing is not present. What’s wrong with that? Why is Hollywood afraid of something without voice? But I digress. As a whole, the movie was a very accurate portrayal of how a hearing family with one deaf member operates and relates to one other.

While I am so impressed with the movie and the time and care the writer/director, producer, and cast members took to ensure Ty Giordano’s inclusion and to be true to the deaf experience in the movie, I found myself bitterly disappointed by something. I hesitate to pen what I’m thinking, because I want nothing more than to support this movie. I’m not into crabbing. But the feeling is there. So here goes... I’m disappointed that yet again the deafie can speak for him/herself. Have we not been able to move away from this yet? Ty clearly did his job of making sure the film’s portrayal was true to life. A lot of thought and effort went into this. Kudos to Ty! But again, a role goes to a deaf person that speaks for himself and the role requires voicing. What message does this send? It reinforces the idea that in order to succeed in Hollywood, one must have/use some hearing and be able to speak for yourself. When will the day come that a plum role goes to a deaf person who does not voice and no voicing of the signs seen onscreen occurs? Until we see this on a regular basis, not all parts of the deaf spectrum are properly reflected onscreen.

The bonus features were a source of pleasure this time, and not only because they were captioned for a change. They were well-done and genuinely enjoyable. Again, Ty’s being deaf was simply incidental and the actors talked about it in the same way they talked about everything else. It colored their experience and needed to be remarked upon, but it was not a big deal at the same time. It was not a surprise to learn that Craig T. Nelson had the most difficulty learning to sign, but my heart went out to him when he talked about nearly poking his eye out more than once. An interpeter is clearly visible during one cast interview, but I did wonder why Ty’s face was one of the faces shown most often during that group interview. *shrug* Anyway, love, love, loved the bonus features.

While I was enthralled by the bonus features, I found myself squirming with a definite sense of disquiet. Ty chose to speak and sign for himself during interviews, and this did not sit well with me. I have mixed feelings about his simcoming during interviews. His voice was choppier than it would’ve been without signing, in my opinion, and his sign quality degraded. But it was unquestionably positive to see him signing, yes. I have to concede that Ty was in a tough position. No matter how he chose to communicate for himself, someone would be upset. If he voiced only, a certain segment of the community would’ve been all over that choice. If he signed only, he ran the risk of having his words mangled in translation and of upsetting other people. His choice to simcom resulted in awkward voicing and signing and in upsetting yet another portion of the community. I do not envy him the position he was in, and I have no desire to criticize him nor to pull him down. Heck, I’m proud of him for representing part of us accurately and for showing what it really is like to be deaf in a hearing family for those of us who depend on signs yet use our voices.

While this was a wonderful film in many ways, I was saddened. I just wish that we could see more plum roles go to those who choose not to use their voices, rather than have Hollywood be an option solely for those who speak.