Joshua Feldman and Lauren Ridloff are modelling the change they want to see in the entertainment industry. The creative team told Deadline how crucial it is to work with deaf and disabled creatives on both sides of the camera in order to tell genuine tales, and they hope the rest of the industry will follow their example.
“Authenticity should always be the aim when we tell stories about people, so to speak, and this is the most crucial thing to remember. At SDCC, after speaking on the Inevitable Foundations’ “Disability Representation On and Off Screen” panel, which also included Feldman, Ridloff told Deadline, “Tell true, real stories that resonate with people with disabilities, as well as people who live within the world of people with disabilities.
She continued, “I think we can get into the dangerous area of stereotyping when there are only actors in front of the camera and that’s the only person with a handicap that’s involved [in a production]. How do you determine the type of story you’re actually telling? That is a truth whose? On presumptions about what the ‘other’ experience might be, the fiction is built. Because that’s when we actually leave that risky region of stereotyping and tell authentic tales, I believe it’s imperative that we keep advocating for greater representation in front of the camera.
Recently, Ridloff played the deaf superhero Makkari in the 2021 Marvel film Eternals and Connie in the AMC television series The Walking Dead. Together with Ava DuVernay and Joshua Jackson, she is currently slated to executive produce and star in an as-yet-untitled Starz project about two polar opposites (Ridloff and Jackson) whose love affair upends their worlds as well as everyone else’s.
“I believe that simply illustrating the multiplicity of characters within the Marvel universe is quite effective since the MCU is essentially inventing a modern-day mythology. That, in and of itself, is how we view Marvel—at least, that’s how I see it,” she said. “I believe that when kids are watching this on the television, they see people that are not often thought of as superhero representations. Children gain optimism from seeing people of varied backgrounds. I can be a superhero if that person can be one, right? I am significant. I am a powerful and strong person.
When asked if Makkari fans will see more of the character in the future, Ridloff was cautious, responding, “I would love to see more of her too. All I have to say is that.
In addition, Feldman is collaborating with Team Marvel as a writer on the new series Echo. This Hawkeye spinoff will centre on the deaf Native American Tracksuit Mafia leader Maya Lopez (Alaqua Cox), who is also deaf and has excellent imitation skills.
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Feldman added, “I am fortunate to be one of the writers of the Marvel television series Echo, which contains a deaf character as well as many other characters who are not deaf. As a result, I thought, “Ahhhh, I can rest. Often when I’m writing, it’s for a deaf character, and it feels like such a big amount of duty to ensure that the character is well portrayed and accurately represents our community. That’s a significant duty. But don’t misunderstand, it’s also entertaining. I therefore don’t frequently write for characters to hear when I’m writing. When I’m not writing for a character other than Maya, for instance, writing for Echo is a lot of fun because I can really let my imagination run wild.
“I was already a big Marvel fan but never in my wildest thoughts did I believe I would be watching a deaf Marvel superhero on the big screen,” he continued of seeing Ridloff in The Eternals. It was very incredible. As a deaf writer currently employed by Marvel, my goal is to inspire many people in the coming generations as well as to have fun. We can all be superheroes, of course. Obviously, we can.
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Feldman urges individuals in authority in Hollywood to continue recruiting deaf and disabled creatives in order to maintain this momentum.
Keep using us, he commanded. “I am aware that every new group of people I work with is working with a deaf professional for the first time. I thus expect that they will already have this background knowledge when they work with a deaf professional in the future. They are aware that an interpreter will be available. They are aware that deaf people are visual and that communication with us requires a constant line of sight. Yes, keep hiring us because experience is how we learn. Going to a panel, sitting down and taking notes, is insufficient. That is insufficient. You must put in the effort; cooperate with us.