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Eternals Is Generating New Interest in Learning Sign Language

The latest entry in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Eternals, is now in theaters with the Chloe Zhao-directed film introducing a new set of characters and stories into the franchise. Among those characters is the MCU’s first deaf superhero, Lauren Ridloff’s Makkari, and not only has Ridloff’s performance been a stand-out for fans and critics alike, but it’s also inspiring new interest in sign language.

In the film, Makkari communicates with the other Eternals through sign language, and according to research from the online tutoring platform Preply (via The Independent), searches for “learn sign language for beginners” have seen a 250-percent spike over the past year as interest and excitement for Eternals built. There has also been a huge increase in interest in Ridloff, who is deaf in real life, as well, with searches related to her increasing by 550-percent since November 1st. Searches for “first deaf superhero” have also increased, doubling in the past year.

The importance of portraying Marvel’s first deaf superhero on the big screen isn’t lost on Ridloff. Recently, Ridloff had a chat with The New York Times about Eternals and shared some insights into what it’s like being a deaf performer on a film set.

“I got to set believing that I had to show how easy I am to work with as a deaf person,” Ridloff explained when asked if she was comfortable asking for what she needed while on set. “I was concerned about seeming too fragile. But after working with others, I realized everyone has their own unique set of challenges, and that I need to think about what I need to deliver as an actor, and don’t apologize for it.” She continued, “Hollywood is finally figuring out why it’s so important to have representation, and now it’s more about how. That’s the part that’s more tricky. We need to have deaf writers and creative talent involved in the process of planning film projects from the beginning. When you have deaf experts within and on the stage, from the crew to makeup artists, it feels like that naturally leads to more authentic representation onscreen.”

“Growing up, I didn’t dream about becoming an actor. I didn’t see myself on the screen. As a little girl, I thought I was one of only a few deaf people walking on this Earth. Now, as an adult, I’m aware there are at least 466 million deaf people and hard-of-hearing people out there. I’m not the only one. And that’s what it means to have a deaf superhero – a lot more people will see a lot more possibility,” Ridloff shared.

Eternals is in theaters now. 

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