Marvel’s first deaf superhero led to an increase in people learning sign language

Marvel’s Eternals was released over the weekend in theatres. The star power of Lauren Ridloff, who plays Marvel’s first deaf superhero, was clear throughout. Lauren played speedster Makkari and she filmed the movie under special circumstances, which you could not tell at all in her performance. I remember reading a story in September about how Lauren needed different< a href="">action cues on set. Due to Lauren in Eternals along with the success of movies with deaf protagonists like Coda and Sound of Metal, the interest in learning signed language has spiked by 250%. This is according to Preply, a language learning app. Below are a few more details from Collider:

Now, with the inclusion of The Walking Dead star Lauren Ridloff in Eternals, deaf representation has taken a cosmic leap into the realm of blockbusters. The effect? A rise in people wanting to learn sign language, a study shared by The Independent has found.

According to the research – by Preply, a digital language learning tool – there has been a 250 percent spike in searches for “learn sign language for beginners” this year. It serves to suggest that, given the film’s sizable platform, Eternals has had the most marked impact – but you would expect Coda and Sound of Metal, both of which have also been spotlighted in recent media, have too piqued interest. As The Independent further notes, searches for Ridloff herself have increased worldwide by 550 percent since 1 November, with “first deaf superhero” doubling its search since November 2020.

Ridloff is one of a few D/deaf performers in Hollywood pushing for greater visibility on screen. In August, The Hollywood Reporter profiled the majority-deaf central cast of Coda, with Oscar-winner Marlee Matlin – who broke through herself with 1986’s Children of a Lesser God – saying: “To have a hearing actor put on a deaf character as if it was a costume – we’ve moved beyond that point now.” And indeed, if the recent, markedly more inclusive wave of casting has been anything to go by, times are finally a-changin’.

[From Collider]

I watched the Eternals over the weekend with my friends. It was the first time I have been to a theater since The Avengers: End Game back in 2019 in Malaysia. I truly enjoyed seeing a female-focused Marvel film and do not think it deserved a 47% Rotten Tomatoes critics rating. I was impressed with how diverse the cast was as well. Angelina was kickass, and Lauren stole every scene she was in. Her character was really badass and seemed even more of a super heroine because she couldn’t hear. One of Makkari’s (Lauren’s character’s) super powers was being able to hear through air vibrations. I was intrigued with the sign language used and I can see why a lot of people are now interested in learning the language. A 250% spike is immense and it proves that movies do influence progress in how we see others.

I remember the first time that I saw Marlee Matlin in Children of a Lesser God. I was absolutely captivated by Marlee and the deaf community and I had the same experience of Lauren as I watched her in Eternals. I have always wanted to learn sign language but never found the time. Now is as good a time as any. It is nice to see Lauren representing the deaf community, and I hope to see more deaf actors in major productions in the future.

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17 Responses to “Marvel’s first deaf superhero led to an increase in people learning sign language”

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  1. Michelle Connolly says:

    This is great! Really inspiring to have more diversity on screen. I believe John Krasinski fought to have a deaf actor cast in A Quiet Place and she’s the best part of the film (and sequel). Looking forward to seeing this film.

  2. Red Dog says:

    I haven’t even seen the movie yet and I have a big old crush on Lauren just from watching her interviews and the cast panels. She’s just such a beautiful person, inside and out.

  3. fluffybunny says:

    This is awesome. My sister learned sign language in middle school when the school district decided to send all of the districts deaf students to my sisters school so they only needed to pay for one interpreter. My sister is a deaf/blind teacher now because of that experience and she still really good friends with all of the deaf students she met in middle school.

    • Lizzie Bathory says:

      Wow–such an interesting story, @fluffybunny! And good for your sister for taking that experience & going on to help others.

  4. North of Boston says:

    That’s great!

    I’m confused by her character’s super power though. Don’t most people hear through air vibrations? Maybe that will make sense when I see the film.

  5. Sally says:

    I’ve been pondering to learn ÖGS for a few years now, at least the basics and this puts me one step closer! Also isn’t she beautiful?! Seriously, what a face!

  6. Nanea says:

    I like Lauren a lot. She’s such a ray of sunshine, especially for the Deaf community.

    What’s more:
    Lauren, or rather Makkari, loves Loki!

  7. jo73c says:

    A simple but effective demonstration of why representation on screen matters.

  8. LovesitinNM says:

    I’m glad to read this! I signed with my babies and they learn ASL in preK here!

  9. jferber says:

    I can’t wait for tomorrow. Awkwafina (check out Nora from Queens on HBOMax), an amazing comedian, is in a superhero movie debuting tomorrow on Disney Plus (Asian themed). Do watch her show, too. She is SO frigging funny.

  10. Killfanora says:

    It’s the same in the UK. We have a deaf actress taking part in Strictly Come Dancing (I think you call it Dancing With the Stars.) Rose Arlington-Ellis is her name and her dancing it utterly phenomenal! Because of her, the interest in BSL (British Sign Language) has soared to unprecedented levels. Brilliant!

  11. SpankyB says:

    My friends and I learned ASL when we were in high school, many years ago. We were never that proficient in it but we knew enough to talk to each other in class without the teacher finding out. I still remember the alphabet. I keep thinking I’ll download an app to learn again but never do it. Maybe I should stop binging Netflix in my spare time and actually learn something.

  12. Songs (Or it didnt happen) says:

    My 4 year old got the Mekkari figure in her Happy Meal toy and wanted to learn all about her. We’re also reading the Squirrel Girl novels, where the super hero’s best friend us deaf and uses ASL. Those two Marvel products (plus Blues Clues) allowed us to have a good conversation about sign language and being deaf.

  13. JRenee says:

    Good idea!