This post may contain spoilers.
‘A Quiet Place’ from writer and director John Krasinski, was released in 2018 with its much-anticipated sequel ‘A Quiet Place Part II” released in May 2021. Both films follow Deaf protagonist Regan Abbott and her family’s attempt to survive alien creatures that hunt by sound. Many in the Deaf Community praised the movie for its portrayal of deafness and the casting of Millicent Simmonds, a Deaf teen actress.
In the Write interviewed three Deaf people to learn more about their perspectives on ‘A Quiet Place’ film, and the importance of Deaf representation in the media.
We interviewed Kellina, Elisa Prell (38), and Kelly Acevedo (23). Here are their perspectives:
What did the movie A Quiet Place mean to you as a Deaf person? Why do you think it was so important to the Deaf community?
Kelly: “It was significant to me as a deaf person since it was representation and more importantly, acknowledgment. I believe the Deaf Community can agree for the most part that it is nice to accurately see a deaf person depicted in a movie. Lately, there has been a rise in representation of ethnicities, genders, and religions, but disabilities have still yet to be more represented. ‘A Quiet Place’ was a step in the positive direction.”
Elisa: “As a deaf person this movie meant to me that we were finally being seen and acknowledged. I think it was so important for my Deaf Community because we felt supported and portrayed in a good light where we could feel more comfortable to show our deafness.”
Regan, the movie’s protagonist, is played by Deaf actress Millicent Simmonds. Do you find it important for Deaf characters to be portrayed by Deaf actors and if so, why is it so important for Deaf actors to play these roles?
Elisa: “I find it very important that she was Deaf in real life because it gave us credibility that we could be taken seriously, and that we too can act with a lead role just like anyone else. Also as a Deaf person, I could relate to her on a deeper, more genuine level.”
Kelly: “I love the fact that the deaf protagonist was actually played by Millicent Simmonds, a young deaf actress. She was able to embody her character perfectly. While a hearing person can learn sign language for a role, it does not compare to the authenticity of a deaf person’s use of sign language or speech. This is why it is very important for deaf actors to play these roles, since they understand and are actually part of the Deaf culture.”
There are very few major films with Deaf actors, but A Quiet Place made a Deaf person the main character. What was this like for you as a Deaf person? Did you feel represented or proud that the Deaf community was being showcased in the film?
Kelly: “As a deaf person seeing a deaf protagonist, it was surreal for me since I grew up very mainstream with no Deaf culture. I did not have access to sign language as a child. There were many scenes within the movie where I greatly empathized with Regan and felt her struggles. I used to feel alone in this ‘hearing world’.”
Elisa: “I felt emotional about it in a good way. At times I feel the need to hide my deafness, but when I see a major film lead with a Deaf actor, it gives me hope and bravery to showcase my deafness without feeling ashamed.”
Regan’s cochlear implant in the movie plays a large role in the film and is actually used to deter the ‘creatures’. Some have interpreted this as Regan’s deafness and cochlear implant being her superpower. What are your thoughts on this? Did you appreciate that Regan’s cochlear implant was so integral to the plot and symbolic for those in the Deaf community who have cochlear implants?
Elisa: “I could see the cochlear implant being her superpower. I know not the entire Deaf community uses a cochlear implant and some may look down on it, but in the movie when they showed her using it and not using it, I think it portrayed it as a powerful tool you could use if you wanted to but didn’t have to. I love how it showed her using sign language as well with her family when she couldn’t use the cochlear implant. I think so many people misinterpret the cochlear implant as a hearing aid but when you get to see it closely you see it’s more than that, which it is.”
Kelly: “While I am a cochlear implant user, I cannot speak for the validity of Regan’s cochlear implants deterring the creatures (they are fake creatures after all), I do appreciate the directors making her cochlear implant an integral part of their survival in the end. It was symbolic to me because you can visually see Regan’s moods throughout the movie change for the better. You see how her self esteem and confidence grows. In the early scenes, she dislikes putting her implant on and blames herself for her little brother’s death. It was beautiful to watch how Regan discovers her implants actually save not only her life but the ones of her mother and brothers, and proudly use them to save her family after the death of her father.”
What was your favorite part of the film’s portrayal of Deafness? Do you think they presented Deafness and the Deaf community in an authentic way?
Kelly: “My favorite part of how they portrayed deafness was by actually muting the movie during certain scenes in order for viewers to see Regan’s side. In all honesty, I at first thought there was something wrong with my implants because I couldn’t hear a thing! It was also an eye opener for my family who watched the movie with me.”
Some people in the Deaf community mentioned that they enjoyed that the American Sign Language parts of the film provided captions, because everyone in the theatre had to rely on reading the captions, not just Deaf individuals. This is also why certain films like Parasite were received well by the Deaf community. Do you wish more content creators and films provided adequate closed captions?
Elisa: “Yes I definitely feel all content creators should provide closed captions everywhere. We still have trouble seeing closed captions on social media like Instagram. On Youtube, you have to choose closed captions to create your videos and at times many creators don’t because they don’t realize how much it is needed for Deaf viewers. During the pandemic, closed captions were a great need in conference calls like Zoom. Even calls from your cell phone I believe should have automatic closed captions.”
Kelly: “I really appreciated the use of captions in the movie since I rely on them heavily. I believe captions should be included in all movies and videos in order for all audiences, both deaf and hearing, to enjoy them to the fullest. Captions are necessary for deaf people as well as people learning a language. I never watch YouTube videos and do not follow content creators since they fail to provide adequate captions for the most part. In my household, nothing gets viewed without captions, and it’s not just because of me. My parents are Mexican immigrants who learned English after coming to the United States 25 years ago. Up to this day, they like learning new words and understanding the script. Due to all of this, I never go to movie theaters and I wish they could provide captions on the screen instead of handheld devices that never work.“
To further discuss the importance of Deaf representation in TV and film, we talked with Kellina, a young Deaf woman, to learn about her perspective on Deaf U and Switched at Birth.
When thinking of TV shows or movies that include or aim to represent the Deaf community, what shows or films come to mind?
Kellina: I think of Switched at Birth and Deaf U.
Out of these shows and films, did you feel that they accurately portrayed the Deaf community or provided an authentic portrayal?
Kellina: On Deaf U, one intersection that felt abandoned by this series was race. There wasn’t diversity [in the students’ backgrounds].
A common issue is TV shows and movies casting hearing actors as Deaf characters. What is your opinion on this?
Kellina: This is something that needs to change in the film industry. I notice that a lot of actors can’t act well for deaf characters.
What would you like to see filmmakers do better in films/TV shows that include Deaf characters?
Kellina: I want them to do more reality TV shows and become more involved in the Deaf community instead of making it up. I want filmmakers to go out there and find someone new in the film instead of finding the same actor. I get tired of seeing the same actor in multiple movies.
What are some ways that hearing people could make films and shows more accessible for the Deaf community and better represent the Deaf community in media?
Kellina: I am not an actor but I know eye contact and touching are important for accurate Deaf representation and making sure that the filmmakers are educated enough to create a show about the Deaf community. I highly suggested the filmmaker be part of the Deaf community and ask a lot of questions.
You can learn more about Kellina and her mental health business she is launching in the fall of 2021, at her website kellinaempowerment.com.
This article and interview was written and conducted by Tiffany Leveille.
Graphics by Rakshitha Raghunandan.
Share your thoughts on ‘A Quiet Place’ and ‘A Quiet Place Part II’ with us on Instagram @inthewriteblog.