Eternals may not have received critical acclaim, but one thing that’s undeniable is that the movie is a big win for representation. Not only does the cast include people of colour in lead roles, but it also features Marvel’s first deaf superhero — Makkari, played by Lauren Ridloff.
Makkari is shown using American Sign Language to communicate with the other Eternals, and since the film’s release, there’s been a 250% increase in searches for “learn sign language for beginners”.
But that’s not all, searches for Ridloff herself have seen a 550% increase since November 1, and the search query “first deaf superhero” has doubled since November last year.
Speaking to The New York Times, Ridloff, who has been deaf since birth, opened up about her character, and what it means for those who are hard of hearing.
“It means my two boys, who are also deaf, will grow up in a world where there are superheroes who are deaf. It means they’ll be able to dream a bit more wildly,” she said.
We often talk about the representation on screen when it comes to minority groups, which is important and is a conversation that needs to be had. But rarely do we mention people with disabilities.
In an interview with Variety, Ridloff gushed over the experience of seeing herself on screen and how it made her feel.
“It felt like a lifetime of waiting,” she told the publication, via an ASL interpreter. “I didn’t really see anyone like myself ever represented on the screen.”
“…From the deaf and hard of hearing community, the response has been very positive. I feel like a lot of people are thrilled just to see a deaf person of colour in the movie.
“But also what I’m seeing is deaf and hard of hearing people are really taking this opportunity to push for more [movie] subtitling, and I’m just thrilled that that’s happening,” she continued.
“I think it is an important conversation that we need to continue to have. We just need to normalise subtitles.”
But what makes Ridloff’s character so revolutionary is that not one of her teammates commented on the fact that she’s deaf. Director Chloé Zhao didn’t find the need to explain Makkari’s deafness, normalising it to those watching.
It’s this sort of change we not only need to see within Hollywood but also in real life. Makkari’s deafness is simply something she lives with, but she’s such a multi-faceted character that her other qualities were far more focused on.
“What I love most about Chloé and this movie is there’s diversity on the screen without actually having that become the point of the story,” Ridloff said. “It just is. It’s just like the real world. I think that was what was so exciting to see, people who were just different. They have different interests, different abilities.”
In Eternals, Makkari stole every scene that she was in. Her fiercely independent nature and mischievous spirit was celebrated rather than dehumanised, and we can’t wait to see where Lauren Ridloff’s career takes her next.