Six Not-So-Great Messages Found in A Quiet Place

**SPOILER ALERT: The following contains some plot details about A Quiet Place.**

To start, let me say I am thrilled that A Quiet Place features the endearing young Deaf actress, Millicent Simmonds, in one of the lead roles. Too many Hollywood productions fail to cast Deaf actors for Deaf roles, so it is refreshing that producer and lead actor John Krasinski insisted on casting a Deaf actress in this movie. It is also wonderful to see ASL on the big screen. Even though I wasn’t able to watch an open-captioned showing of A Quiet Place, it is an easy movie to follow without much reliance on captioning devices.

If I didn’t want to think too deeply, I would agree with all of the positive reviews and comments about how novel and thrilling the movie is. It could be a blast to go and watch simply for the sake of getting scared. On a surface level, it is a fun horror movie.

I can’t in good conscience say nothing, however, about what I find problematic and exasperating about this movie.

Here are the six not-so-great messages found in A Quiet Place:

1. ASL is a last resort.

In the movie, ASL is portrayed as a last resort means of communication in a worst case scenario. ASL is not used by choice. It is a feature of the movie’s dystopian setting, the only option for survival in a very negative situation where people will get killed by terrifying creatures if they make noises. Luckily, the Abbott family already signs because their daughter is Deaf. In the framework of a dangerous and frightening world, ASL becomes a benefit to them.

Unfortunately, signing in a bad situation parallels the real life scenario that is all too common: ASL being presented as a communication option for Deaf babies and children only as a last resort. Medical professionals and so-called education experts usually discourage the use of ASL among Deaf babies and children. This is done out of the incorrect assumption that spoken language development will be impaired if ASL is used. Only when all other options fail, do many Deaf babies and children receive exposure to ASL. When they finally are allowed to sign, the effects of language deprivation have already made their mark.

The movie misses an opportunity to show ASL in a more positive light, as a chosen language with many benefits.

2. ASL is only good for basic communication.

The movie does not show ASL as a full language that is useful beyond crises. Most of the signing is limited to basic communication. Characters turn to speaking when their conversations become deeper. For instance, the father would sign “no”, “stay” or “be quiet” to his son, but they would speak to each other when  discussing whether the father has told his daughter he loves her. Even if this difference in language usage may have been unintentional, it subtly links ASL with primitive needs and voice with more abstract conversations. In the movie, the siblings play a board game in silence, suggesting that ASL does not allow for the interesting conversations people typically have while playing games. In reality, Deaf people carry on full and animated conversations in ASL.

3. It is awfully scary to be Deaf, to use ASL, and to live in a silent world.

Most hearing people are understandably afraid of not being able to hear or use their voices and of having to use other communication methods instead. A Quiet Place becomes a successful horror movie by taking advantage of this fear, incorporating it with other scary elements to ramp up the fright factor. This perpetuates hearing people’s fear of being Deaf and using ASL when neither is as scary in reality.

4. Deaf people are vulnerable, dependent and dumb.

The Deaf character in this movie is a young girl who, due to being Deaf, is particularly susceptible to being eaten alive by the terrifying creatures who lurk in the shadows, ready to pounce on anyone who makes a noise. In one scary scene, the camera follows her as she walks through a field, unaware that a creature is stalking her. She has to rely on her hearing family members to alert her to the creatures’ presence.  She is also the one who indirectly “caused” her younger brother’s death because she gave him the rocket toy that made noise and attracted one of the creatures who ate him. Even though she did not give him the batteries, had she not given him the toy in the first place, he would still be alive. Her brother might have contributed to his own death, but in the end she is still at fault.

The movie chose to focus on the Deaf girl’s missing sense completely and blow any perceived dangers out of proportion, while leaving out the unique benefits associated with being Deaf. Research shows that Deaf people have quicker reaction times to moving stimuli in the periphery and are more accurate when it comes to discriminating differences in angle of motion and direction than hearing people. These vision-related advantages could easily have translated into useful contributions made by the Deaf girl in helping her family outwit the creatures. Instead of making the whole movie about how the Deaf girl struggles to fit into a hearing-centric world, it would have been more enlightening to show the positive aspects of being Deaf.

The only time the Deaf girl actually makes a significant contribution is when she uses her squealing cochlear implant to outdo the creatures. In a bizarre twist, the cochlear implant functions as a miracle, even though it is defective. What a message: cochlear implants are great, whether they are broken or not. If the movie manages to pull off such an unrealistic presumption, it sure can do something similar to present the Deaf girl as a strong character who is more than capable of contributing to her family’s survival.

5. Deaf people need to be fixed.

Fixing the Deaf girl’s hearing with a cochlear implant is a huge theme throughout the movie. The father works in secret to repair broken implants for his daughter. These cochlear implants become a symbol of hope. Near the end of the story, the daughter finds her father’s workspace full of cochlear implant devices and tools, which illustrates how much he loved her. Of course, seeing the father’s love for his daughter is touching, but it comes at the expense of emphasizing the need to “cure” Deaf people.

It is important to acknowledge the fact that the Deaf girl’s parents sign also reflects their love for her through ensuring she acquires full language access. This, however, is not a point that is highlighted or used to evoke warm feelings from viewers like the cochlear implants succeed in doing. It is especially ironic, as language acquisition is a guarantee with ASL, and not so with cochlear implants.

6. Cochlear implants are instant lifesavers.

The movie implies cochlear implants save lives, whether through making Deaf people hear or acting as heroic destroyers of the creatures that are terrorizing the world. This romanticizes the idea of cochlear implants, framing them as quick, miraculous solutions to the perceived problem of being Deaf and the actual (in the movie) problem of fending off deadly creatures.

The reality is the opposite. Cochlear implants do not function as artificial ears that provide perfect hearing ability. They do not work like glasses do for most people who wear them. Deaf people who receive cochlear implants must endure long hours of auditory-verbal therapy and practice constantly before a minimal percentage finally benefit from them.

It is hard not to wonder why cochlear implants are portrayed in such a super-heroic way in this movie. The cochlear implant industry earns a great deal of money by exploiting hearing people’s, especially parents’, fears and ignorance about Deaf people. While the implants may work for some people, they most definitely do not work for many others. This movie, however, frames them otherwise.

The irony is that ASL is actually a valuable tool for early language acquisition, acting as a lifesaver for many Deaf individuals.

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Now that you know these not-so-great messages in A Quiet Place, you may not think they are major issues. However, they do shape what hearing people think of Deaf people. Some viewers may go on to have Deaf babies in the future. When they find out their baby is Deaf, their negative reactions, thoughts, and feelings may be subconsciously influenced by this movie. Having a Deaf baby does not have to be as terrifying, but unfortunately movies like A Quiet Place perpetuate this nightmare. Remembering this movie and its misleading messages, parents may react out of fear and do everything to make their child not Deaf, such as opting for cochlear implants and no ASL. This is never the best option for their Deaf child though, since every Deaf baby should be provided full access to ASL, a visual language that comes naturally to Deaf people.

Yes, we can be happy that A Quiet Place cast a Deaf talent and made ASL visible on the big screen. At the same time, we need to consider the other messages, both subtle and loud, that the movie sends about Deaf people.

Addendum: Many people who reacted to this post mentioned how ironic it is that while the movie captioned all conversations in ASL for non-signers, it did not caption any conversations in spoken English for Deaf individuals. I thought this is another point worth considering and bringing up in this post.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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DNC Journal Entry: Day Eleven

Note: I am currently in Philadelphia for the Democratic National Convention. I attended an academic seminar last week and am doing a fieldwork placement during the convention. I am writing a daily journal to reflect on my experience and will post my entries here. Enjoy! 

It was pouring rain outside when I walked to the Wells Fargo Center for the final time last Thursday. At the volunteer and security checkpoint tents, volunteers gave out clear plastic ponchos to us, as it was a long walk from the security tent to the Wells Fargo Center. The afternoon went by quickly and I checked people’s credentials on the club floor as I have been doing all week. Dolores Huerta, whom I met the night before, happened to be there! Before I knew she was around, she recognized me and made sure to say hello. I believe that was right after she gave her speech at the Democratic National Convention (DNC). As I was working on the club floor at that time, I was unable to see it in person or on television.

When it was nearly time for Hillary to speak, my supervisor who was responsible for security on our floor let me go, so I could watch Hillary’s speech. Since the firefighters were concerned about the number of people inside the stadium, I could not get inside and watch Hillary’s speech in person. Instead, I found a television in a hall right outside of the stadium and watched her speech there. It was still surreal, knowing that only one thin wall separated me from where all of it was happening!

Earlier that evening, I watched numerous prominent politicians, special guests, and staffers bring their little girls to watch Hillary accept the nomination. I am sure they wanted their daughters, granddaughters, and other special little girls in their lives to know that they are more than capable of becoming president one day. There were many more little girls than boys. For once, that night was for them. Many little girls whom I saw wore red, blue, and white patriotic outfits and donned either Hillary or some kind of female power shirt. They could not have looked more adorable.

I forgot to cover gender-neutral restrooms in one of my earlier posts. Both the Pennsylvania Convention Center and the Wells Fargo Center had big gender-neutral public restrooms. The first one I went to in the Wells Fargo Center was right outside of the hall that leads people to the floor, so it was extremely busy and often used by delegates or other people who have access to the floor. Before this week, I do not think I have ever gone to a big, busy gender-neutral restroom that has at least eight stalls. At one point while washing my hands there, I was the only female in the public section of the restroom with five other men. It felt weird and I had to assure myself that I was not in the wrong restroom. It also felt funny putting on my lipstick in front of men! That is not a bad thing though. Gender-neutral restroom is simply a new concept and may take some time before it becomes the norm. I love how progressive Democrats are with this issue. I went to my first public gender-neutral restroom at the DNC, after all. I hope I will see more restrooms like this one in other places later.

 

DNC Journal Entry: Day Ten

Note: I am currently in Philadelphia for the Democratic National Convention. I attended an academic seminar last week and am doing a fieldwork placement during the convention. I am writing a daily journal to reflect on my experience and will post my entries here. Enjoy! 

In my yesterday’s post, I said I would never forget last Tuesday. Well, this week keeps on getting better! I will not ever forget yesterday either, as it was the day when I saw our current President of the United States (POTUS)! Yes, Barack Obama. I am thrilled that I was finally able to see him in person before his second term ends this January. President Obama presented a magnificent case about why Americans should vote for Hillary and argued that this election is bigger than disputes between two parties because the outcome will reflect who we are as Americans overall. I loved the part when Obama commented that nobody else has ever been more qualified than Hillary to be president, not even himself or Bill. He also said he was ready to pass the baton to her.

When I thought my night could not have gotten any better, Hillary Clinton surprised us by coming on stage! This is my fourth time seeing Hillary in person and I swear it does not get any less amazing each time. I might have been less starstruck this time, but it was just as wonderful to see my number one role model in person again.

Before President Obama spoke last night, I worked at my usual post on the club floor near the suites and lounges where there often are sightings of prominent politicians and celebrities. This time, I spotted Joe Kennedy, another member of the political dynasty family, and Lynda Carter, the Original Wonder Woman! I also saw Bernie Sanders’ campaign manager, Jeffrey Weaver, briefly making a conversation with someone a few feet away from me. When it was almost time for Obama to come on stage, three Gallaudet students, including me, went inside the stadium with an interpreter to watch his speech. Obama’s speech was moving for me, as I went to his 2008 inauguration and now there I was during what probably was his last major speech as the president. I was there from the very beginning of his presidency to the very ending and it seems almost like a full circle now.

After this unforgettable moment, we headed to the closest Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority (SEPTA) rail station and were on our way back to Temple University, where we were staying. When we got off at one station to change trains, Dolores Huerta happened to be there and we met her. I nearly screamed when I realized that the lady next to us was actually Dolores herself. Yes, that famous Mexican-American civil rights activist who did numerous remarkable things, such as founding the National Farmworkers Association/United Farm Workers. Having the ultimate respect for her, I felt very fortunate to chat with her briefly. Out of all places in Philadelphia, I would never have thought to find her at a random SEPTA station at 1 o’clock in the morning. Dolores was very friendly and recalled how she knew a former Gallaudet student. I did not recognize the name, but that was still cool! The woman whom Dolores was traveling with also recognized me from Deaf People for Hillary. I believe we spoke earlier this week, but we finally exchanged our contact information that night. The hearing world can be small, indeed! From the Original Wonder Woman to Barack Obama to Hillary Clinton to Dolores Huerta, so many incredible people are at the DNC.

 

DNC Journal Entry: Day Nine

Note: I am currently in Philadelphia for the Democratic National Convention. I attended an academic seminar last week and am doing a fieldwork placement during the convention. I am writing a daily journal to reflect on my experience and will post my entries here. Enjoy! 

I will never forget yesterday. I had the opportunity to be on stage with about ten other people with disabilities for the gavel in, the Pledge of Allegiance, national anthem, and Senator Harkin’s remarks to the audience about the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) in honor of its 26th anniversary. Senator Harkin has a Deaf brother and always has been a prominent advocate for the disability community. It is too bad that he is not in the Senate anymore! He even taught the audience how to sign “America” and pointed out how fitting that sign is, describing how “we all are brought together and no one is left out in this circle of life that is America”. He went on to talk about how that is the America that Hillary Clinton and all of us want, where it does not matter whether or not one is disabled and everyone is still “respected, valued, and treated with dignity”.

It was very inspiring to stand on the stage at that time, watch thousands of people listen to Harkin about how important it is for our party to value people with disabilities, and see many in the audience applauding in agreement. I am very proud to belong to a party that strongly advocates for disability rights. I knew some other people who were on stage with me from our previous work for the Disability Action for Hillary. One individual even recognized me from Deaf People for Hillary Facebook page! After last night, I am sure all of us are more certain than ever that we are in the right party.

The people who made that ADA celebration happen and arranged for me to be on the stage gave me a floor pass, so I could be on stage during that moment. Afterwards, they told me I could stay on the floor for the rest of evening. I was free to walk around and sit wherever I want. I learned that individuals from Iowa, Ohio, and Virginia state delegations need sign language interpreters, so I assume they are Deaf delegates. I do not know much more though and plan to find out. It will be fantastic to meet and talk with Deaf delegates about their experiences later!

Last night’s speech line-up was terrific and featured people like Elizabeth Banks, Donna Brazile, Cecile Richards, Eric Holder Jr., Madeleine Albright, Meryl Streep, and Lena Dunham. The most emotional part of the night was when Mothers of the Movement came on stage and spoke about how important it is for us to elect Hillary. One mother said Hillary is not afraid to say black lives matter and another said she did not ask to be here or to have her child killed. It was also powerful when all Democratic Congresswomen took the stage and one by one, gave reasons why they are with Hillary. Of course, I cannot forget Bill Clinton. He delivered an eloquent, long speech about Hillary and started it with “In the spring of 1971, I met a girl”. Bill shared personal stories and emphasized how she is “the best darn change-maker” that he has ever known. At one point, he commented on how she has never been satisfied with the status quo and always wants to move forward. His speech was very effective in laying out Hillary’s dedication to public service.

I was there on the floor earlier when the roll call took place and Bernie Sanders moved to suspend the procedural rules and select Hillary as the Democratic nominee. She became the first female nominee of any major party in the United States. That is going down in history books. When it happened, I just stood there and had to take a moment to allow it to sink in. After 240 years of men winning major party nominations and holding the most powerful office in our country, we finally have a female nominee. It is time for us to take another step forward and make her the first female president this November!

Just before the convention was closed for the night, they showed a portrait of every single president of the United States. All 44 of them are males and showing all of their portraits took a while. It forced everyone in the audience to really think how we have never had any female president before. All the male presidents then were put together in a mosaic before it was cracked like a glass ceiling to show a live video of Hillary from New York. That sent chills up my spine. Hillary looked like a badass boss when she showed up. I simply love how she acted entitled to win this nomination after all these years, just like men did when they won theirs.

I will tell my children stories about this day and how I was there when Hillary made history! Some feel like she should not focus so much on this historic moment, but I think dedicating a portion of this night to its historic significance is worthwhile, especially as the rest of the night already was about highlighting other parts of Hillary like her commitment to public service.IMG_2506

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DNC Journal Entry: Day Eight

Note: I am currently in Philadelphia for the Democratic National Convention. I attended an academic seminar last week and am doing a fieldwork placement during the convention. I am writing a daily journal to reflect on my experience and will post my entries here. Enjoy! 

Day Eight

On the first day of the convention, I took a subway to the Pennsylvania Convention Center and attended the disability council meeting. Among the speakers at the meeting were people with whom I worked on Hillary’s campaign this year and got to know more from Disability Action for Hillary group. I had to see and talk with them before the meeting, as I only knew some of them through emails and finally met them in person for the first time yesterday. I might have only met them a day ago, but it does not feel that way. Because of the work we did together and the goal of electing Hillary as the next president that we share, they kind of feel like my Hillary family and I was super excited to connect with my beloved Hillary people.

One wonderful individual I know is blind and we never had any problem communicating through emails. We both are here for the convention and wanted to meet in person. Since I am Deaf and she is blind, I did have doubts about whether or not we would be able to communicate effectively in person yet I also knew we would find a way. With the use of technology, we ended up being able to communicate directly using Siri and an app that translates from text to speech. Technology is amazing, indeed. If it were not for our association with Disability Action for Hillary, we probably would never have attempted and found a way to chat in person. Campaigns certainly do bring people together! After hearing several powerful speeches, I left and headed over to the Wells Fargo Center for my 3 pm shift with other Gallaudet students and faculty members who are also assigned to the Democratic National Convention Committee (DNCC).

It was surreal to be inside the Wells Fargo Center when the DNC officially kicked off last night. As a political junkie, I could not get over the fact that I was actually here during this historic moment. With all the important speeches and protests taking place last night, it was like the epitome of American politics. I had the chance to see several speakers on the floor and I do not think I will ever forget that moment!

I have never ever met and seen so many prominent politicians and famous individuals in one day, as I did last night while screening attendees’ credentials and making sure they were in the right place. The first important people I met were Patrick Kennedy and his wife, Amy. John Fitzgerald Kennedy is his uncle. Patrick and Amy were quite friendly. Patrick mentioned how he remembers Gallaudet University very well from his time as a U.S. Congressman and commented about it fondly. I also spoke with Benjamin Jealous, a former National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) president, and Betty McCollum, a Congresswoman representing Minnesota. It turns out that she is friends with Bobbi Cordano, the new President of Gallaudet University. Sometimes we forget how small the world can be, even for hearing politicians and that many important politicians do have connections with Deaf people.

DNC Journal Entry: Day Seven

Note: I am currently in Philadelphia for the Democratic National Convention. I attended an academic seminar last week and am doing a fieldwork placement during the convention. I am writing a daily journal to reflect on my experience and will post my entries here. Enjoy! 

Day Seven

Last night, some of us who have fieldwork placements with the Democratic National Convention Committee (DNCC) and will work as Access Control volunteers went to the volunteer training at the Pennsylvania Convention Center. This is where caucus and council meetings will take place. During the training tonight, people in charge of the Access Control Team explained to us volunteers about our duties and other details about the convention. I will be working at the Wells Fargo Center everyday from Monday to Thursday. I will always need to show up at 2:30 pm and should be able to leave by 11:30 pm every night, but it depends on how late the convention ends each night.

Basically, I will be responsible for screening attendees’ credentials when they enter the specific area where I will be assigned to work. People will wear different types of credentials at the convention and all of them have different colors. Not all locations inside the Wells Fargo Center will be open to all attendees. I will have to check the colors and dates of people’s credentials and make sure that they have access to a certain area on that day before permitting them to pass and enter the location. The trainers showed us a diagram that indicated what areas people with each color have access to. I will receive more details about this during my first shift tomorrow when I know which area I will be assigned to, but this is the general idea of what I will be doing during the convention. I, along with two other Gallaudet students assigned to the same area, will have interpreters with us, so we can answer people’s questions about where to go. Our yellow volunteer shirts have huge ASK ME words on the back.

It is hard to believe that the first week is over and today is the last day before the DNC begins tomorrow! I used the free time that I had to finish up my first week’s essay, go to several other Political Fest exhibits, and see more parts of Philadelphia. I knew I probably would not have much time this week, so I did all of these things today. This week will be exciting. More to come soon!

DNC Journal Entry: Day Six

Note: I am currently in Philadelphia for the Democratic National Convention. I attended an academic seminar this week and will be doing a fieldwork placement during the convention. I am writing a daily journal to reflect on my experience and will post my entries here. Enjoy! 

Day Six

Last Thursday, I went to the Democratic National Convention (DNC) Volunteer Kickoff party at Penn’s Landing. I do not think I have ever seen so many American flags at one event before! I loved how patriotic the party was. They gave out a lot of free food, beers, and things for volunteers. There were even mini decorative American flags for us to bring home! I ended up bumping into the same woman I met a day earlier at the Hillary Clinton campaign office where some of us made official signs for the DNC. That woman loved our Deaf-related signs and asked if she could post pictures of us on her Facebook. It turns out that she is also a volunteer for the convention! Again, it is a small world. Perhaps, both Hillary and Deaf worlds are small!

As I had some free time today before my DNC training in the evening, I took the opportunity to go to different Political Fest exhibits around the city. Philadelphia is hosting numerous events during the DNC like Political Fest. It is a series of political-related events & exhibits in different parts of Philadelphia. With my credentials, I have free access to all Political Fest attractions. In one location near the Pennsylvania Convention Center, I saw the actual last “safe car” that John Fitzgerald Kennedy rode in only a few hours before he was fatally shot. I also saw a replica of the fuselage in Air Force One.

There was also a huge campaign button collection shop in the Political Fest and I loved seeing vintage campaign buttons of Walter Mondale and Geraldine Ferraro’s campaign. Ferraro was the first female vice-presidential nominee of a major party in the United States and I felt like it was fitting for me to see her buttons right before the first female is nominated for president by a major party. We cannot forget the strong women who blazed the trail for Hillary.

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