CODA winning Best Picture and the inclusion of the Deaf Community

Published: Mar. 29, 2022 at 5:45 PM CDT
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PEORIA (25 NEws) - CODA, the 2021 film surrounding the only hearing member in a deaf family, won Best Picture at the 2022 Academy Awards. Along with that prestigious accolade, Troy Kotsur won the Oscar for Best Supporting Actor and the writer and director won the award for Best Adapted Screenplay. Kotsur also is the first Deaf man to win an Oscar for Acting and the second Deaf individual overall to win an Oscar, the first being Marlee Matlin in 1986. The critical acclaim this movie has received has also shined a light on a community that often goes ignored in popular culture, the Deaf Community.

The name of the film, “CODA,” is also an acronym standing for “child of deaf adult.” The film was widely viewed as very positive for the deaf community, including by many in the community, believing that the movie was a good depiction of deaf characters as self-sufficient and active, compared to past depictions.

For other CODAs, this film is more relatable than pretty much any other film as it tells the story from a perspective that often gets untold in popular culture.

“As a CODA, I think that I felt actually represented by the movie really well. And it’s such a weird niche of people that are typically not represented. And when I say coda, like I’m talking about my experience of growing up in Deaf culture, but as a part of hearing society.” Said Brenda Nedved, CODA, and Special Education Teacher.

Dr. Stephanie Gardiner-Walsh is an Assistant Professor of Dead Education at Illinois State University and she is a CODA. She also has a progressive genetic hearing loss, so her children are also CODA. She discussed the film with us today and how it is viewed in the Deaf Community both positively and negatively.

“I really feel like the Deaf community has just loved seeing Sign Language present on the screen and on the stage of the Oscars and being able to communicate directly without having to go through a facilitator or an interpreter.” Said Dr. Gardiner-Walsh.

She compared the representation of the Deaf Community to a few years ago when there was a significant outcry from the public when the Academy Awards seemingly snubbed prominent black roles from the Awards and believes that representation and inclusion are deeply important.

“I think it’s really important to include deaf people and people with disabilities in our pop culture because we have a different experience in life but we are part of the population.” Said Dr. Gardiner-Walsh.

As mentioned earlier, the critique is not all positive. The Deaf Community has some significant criticisms of the film, specifically the way it was written, from the hearing perspective.

“There’s a lot of people who are criticizing because they say you know it shows Deaf people as not enjoying and not understanding and not experience music but deaf people love music.” Said Dr. Gardiner-Walsh. She went on to talk about how a great majority of the Deaf Community love music, they just experience it in a different way. She said that watching Marching Band was so interesting because the music was told through movements.

She has heard from others in the Deaf Community discussing CODA and despite being positive and proud that Troy Kotsure won his Award, it still isn’t quite enough, not quite full inclusion.

“I’m so happy that the deaf actor got the award and like yes this is like power for us but like it’s still not our story.” Dr. Gardiner-Walsh said regarding the feedback she has heard from the Community.

Despite the seemingly mixed reaction from the Deaf Community, Dr. Gardiner-Walsh still believes this is generally positive, and a great step in the right direction in including the Deaf Community along with other disabilities.

“Being able to look at that stage and see that is who I can be? Power...power.”

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