The western entertainment industry hasn’t always been known for its inclusivity and diversity, though in recent years, there has been a noticeable shift. Across various sub-industries — from music to movies, TV, streaming etc. — creators and executives are making more space for a range of diverse audiences, giving more people the freedom to enjoy their favorite content.
In this article, we’ll take a look at the entertainment industry’s relationship with the ASL community and culture — exploring the new types of content available and some of Hollywood’s must-watch stars.
New Streaming Content
The internet, and streaming specifically, have opened more doors for the ASL community than traditional media. Performers and content creators now have more spaces to showcase their talents and provide a safe space for their community to enjoy various types of short films and engaging video content.
When it comes to putting a new spin on the classics, series like SOUL (SIGNS) are paving the way with a modern, ASL-friendly take on classic songs and not only giving them new, diverse stories but working with hard-of-hearing actors and performers to create something truly unique.
Hollywood hasn’t been at the forefront of inclusivity but in recent years, there has been a slow progression of more diverse storytelling — particularly when it comes to stories about or incorporating the ASL community.
When the film Sound of Metal came out, it was praised for its layered storytelling. When its main character loses his hearing, his deafness wasn’t his main personality trait. Instead, they wrote him as a complex human being who went through a range of emotions while navigating his new life.
In 2022, the film CODA made headlines for its Oscar-winning performances and opened a new set of doors for deaf actors in Hollywood. With a predominantly deaf cast, the movie was the first of its kind to win the prestigious award. With the film’s success, there are so many opportunities for studios to invest in these stories because there is an audience and a desire for them.
If Hollywood can build on these stories, ASL performers can begin to see themselves in more roles and help improve the industry’s representation.
Supporting ASL Artists
When it comes to improving representation in Hollywood and other forms of the entertainment industry, one of the best ways to show support is by engaging with content and giving time and money towards the various films or streaming content available.
By showing up and supporting the community, whether it means going to the theater to see a new film or taking in a live play or performance, the support of the able-bodied community will help ensure more stories like these are invested in by studios, venues, and other benefactors.
It’s important for us as audiences to hold the industry accountable and encourage executives and scriptwriters to diversify their content and welcome the hard-of-hearing community into their storytelling — because these stories deserve to be told.