A couple of weeks ago we hosted our first Twitter chat! It was about tropes, which Merriam-Webster defines as, “a common or overused theme or device : CLICHÉ.” We focused on those themes or devices related to Deaf people that we see in the media again and again.
One trope kept coming up: The Magical Lipreader. You know, the character who is deaf but still manages to understand everything just fine via lipreading. Maybe see what’s happening across the street and fill in the hearing characters, too. Because lipreading is nbd and 100% accurate. Right?
We had some discussion about whether tropes are inherently bad. There was wide agreement that while tropes can be neutral or positive, that’s not the case with Deaf-related tropes, which are currently overwhelmingly negative.
One other thing that came up a few times is Deaf people being used as props rather than as full characters in their own right.
Some of the tropes that were identified in this conversation:
- The Magical Lipreader
- Deaf People are Quiet
- Deaf Person Obsessed with Music
- Deaf Person Obsessed with Getting Hearing Back
- Sign Language is Universal
- ASL IS SO BEAUTIFUL OMG
- Gorillas Sign (So How Hard Could It Be?)
- No Deaf People Ever Speak
- Isolated, Deaf From Birth, Nobody to Communicate With, But No Cognitive Language Issues
- The Grateful Deaf (so so so so so happy when anyone so much as fingerspells a single word to them)
- Proud to Be Deaf for PhILoSoPhIcAl ReAsOns (Not anything that might be logical or fact-based, obvs.)
- Magical Powers that Come From Being Deaf
- CIs are A Magical Cure
- Deaf Can’t. (Drive etc. etc. etc.)
- The Happy Amateur Interpreter (Non-Deaf characters who follow the main characters around and voice everything they say, etc.)
- Should I Stay or Should I Go? (Agonizing about whether to abandon their Deaf friends and culture to get a CI and be magically cured or not.)
- It’s Okay If Your ASL Sucks, I Still Understand Every Nuance of What You’re Trying to Say!
- I’ll Just Be Here In The Corner (Deaf person who’s left out of nearly everything but is fine with that and just shows up as needed)
- Hearing Aids Mean I Hear Perfectly Now
- The Deaf Person Who’s Oblivious To Their Surroundings
- The Heartwarming Moment When a Deaf Person Finally Speaks
Thanks so much to everyone who participated!! Looking forward to identifying more Deaf-related tropes and adding to the list. If you think of one, contact us or use the #DeafInMedia hashtag on Twitter!