A new ad from Hormel featuring sign language and a deaf character has problems but gets a lot right.

We love the representation, we love the cute kids, and we love that even in this short of a time the ad gets across both that learning ASL takes time and practice, and that learning enough ASL to make a connection is eminently achievable.

But there is an underlying conceptual problem here. This commercial is part of a campaign called “Good Feeds Us All,” which was created “to inspire people to choose good whether it’s in the food they eat or the actions they take.” So this is clearly framed as Joey going above and beyond, rather than exhibiting just baseline human decency.

The campaign is built on the premise that there can never be too much good in our world, and encourages others to not only celebrate good, but let good guide the choices we make. To bring this to life, the heartwarming spot tells the story of a young boy learning sign language to connect over lunch with a deaf classmate.

And as part of that, the Unnamed Deaf Girl is portrayed as isolated and lonely. It’s not as “heartwarming” for him to reach out to her if she is already thriving!  Imagine if she was with a cute li’l posse of other signing kids, instead. That would make Joey’s gesture a little more brave, and Unnamed Deaf Girl a little less pitiful, less a damsel in distress who needs to be rescued.

It’s good to see how the deaf actress brings a little vinegar to this set-up, though. She’s not overwhelmed with big-eyed gratitude towards her hearing savior. She’s a little skeptical, but cool with it. Sure, a sandwich, why not?

So, this could be better, but gets a lot right.  At the top of the list is the fact that they cast a deaf actress for a deaf role. More of that, please!

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