Because three is one of my favorite numbers, I like to do things in threes. Thus this is my third and final post on the CSI episode featuring the Deaf actors and actresses. Overkill? Maybe – but there are a number of different topics from that show that one can focus on, and I’ve chosen to do so in separate posts. Anyone who knows me knows I’m famous for long and rambling writings. I figured I would take pity on my readers and cut them into three nice and more readable pieces. So enjoy this final post wrapping up my thoughts…
In my second post I shared a Facebook comment made by “Deaf Dude” in response to my inquiry to friends on what they thought about this episode.
Now it’s the lady’s turn. “Deaf Dudette” had some thoughts to share as well:
Things that irritated me:
1) the appearance of a TTY
2) interpreters being everywhere — the PD would usually supply these
3) a printed transcript of a voicemail for a deaf character found in the trashcan as evidence. REALLY?
4) I got so excited about finally having a show with deafies in it that is just about them being people… and then in the end it ended up going back to being the hearing/deaf thing that fueled the crime.
5) a CODA with an ASL mom who can barely sign
6) Marlee Matlin’s atrocious melodramatic acting. I actually like Marlee but this wasn’t her best, and she certainly wasn’t helped by the triteness of the script.
7) The weird slow signing deaf people do on TV. It just never looks natural.
7) like you said Osh, ignoring the NUMBER ONE thing deaf people do when they meet each other: where you from, where’d you go to school, who do we both know? But then again, if a deaf person consulted on this script the episode would probably have fallen through… and ok, I’ll shut up now.
I would never tell you to shut up, Dudette. Actually, I think you’ve made some valid points here.
Let’s start with addressing your first complaint – the TTY thing.
I agree with you. In today’s day and age, for a television program to still show these antiquated telecommunication devices was a pretty bad judgment call.
Now, while I am sure most members of the Deaf Community were probably rolling their eyes, groaning, and thinking “what the heck are those things doing in this show?” my hearing readers are likely wondering why we’re so irritated about such. So let me explain this here and now…
TTYs are pretty much obsolete, folks.
I can’t remember the last time I used one. I don’t even have one any more, and neither do a lot of my Deaf friends. At my last Deaf Services position out in California, while I did have a TTY in the office it usually just sat around in the corner of my desk gathering dust. You might find the occasional Deaf Senior who still uses one. Perhaps the individual living out in the boonies where there’s no cable or high-speed internet available, or maybe the Deaf person who although living in the big city, doesn’t have the funds to afford such service.
Nowadays most Deaf people prefer to communicate via a VideoPhone – a system much like using a webcam or Skype… which allows for visual communication utilizing American Sign Language (ASL) – the natural language of the Deaf Community. In addition, we use such a device to contact Video Relay Services, which allows us to make telephone calls via a sign language interpreter who appears on the screen to translate the call for us. Most Deaf people can get such a device at no cost, and make phone calls free of charge. The devices do work over high speed internet lines, thus the need to have such service available – which the Deaf person does have to pay for. Hence the reason why some folks don’t have one…although my experience is that they would still prefer to use a public one at the Deaf Services agency or in the library or similar location rather than resort to typing on a TTY.
Like I said…TTYs belong in the stone age.
Now to discuss the comment about the CODA’s poor signing skills.
For those of you who do not know…CODA stands for “Child of Deaf Adults” – the hearing son or daughter of Deaf parents. It usually refers to an adult, while KODA with a K means “Kid”…a juvenile child.
While I do understand where “Deaf Dudette” is coming from, and can appreciate her irritation, I would like to offer up some thoughts of my own on this subject…
I feel we need to get away from the thought that all CODAs have great ASL skills.
Yes, I realize that it’s a common expectation. I think it’s fueled to a certain extent from the fact that the majority of CODAs that we come in contact with do in fact have that high level of proficiency – because they have chosen to maintain such. They have taken their background and utilized it to their (and our) advantage by going into professions within the Deaf Community – such as interpreting, teaching, etc.
But in my experience of working in the Deaf Community, I have met family members of Deaf individuals who did not sign any better than Gil did in this program…and that included some children of ASL parents. For every CODA who does grow up to become a certified interpreter, there are others who choose to go to college and study some other profession, and then may end up getting a job and moving away to another area, where they don’t interact with Deaf people. As the saying goes… “if you don’t use it, you lose it.”
So were Gil’s signing skills poor? Yes. Were they unrealistic? Not necessarily. Considering that he only sees his wife once a month, can you expect that he sees his Deaf mother (who is probably the only person he uses his signing skills with) any more often?
Okay…yes, he could call her on one of those above-mentioned videophones, and thus be able to keep in touch and practice his signing skills at the same time. But we have to remember that such visual telecommunication devices are a fairly new thing… and Gil isn’t a young man – he’s in his fifties, so he’s probably been on his own for thirty years or more. Actually his skills were not that horrible. While not the greatest, they weren’t the worst either. I’ve seen some pretty atrocious signing in my lifetime – not only on television, but in real life. At least Gil was comprehensible, even if he wasn’t very fluent.
The hearing/deaf thing? I don’t think you’re ever going to get rid of that. As long as most of society continues to be woefully ignorant about Deaf Culture and the Deaf Community, it’s always going to be about the hearing/deaf thing. Yes, I think television exploits it and exaggerates it, but that’s the nature of the beast.
Overall, I think the episode did have its strengths and its weaknesses. I’ve discussed some of those weaknesses in my three posts. The strengths are perhaps a little more subtle and not as obvious. I did think Phyllis Frelich did an excellent job with her role. I liked what fellow blogger Deaf Pundit had to say:
Phyllis Frelich particularly shone in this episode – she was perfectly cast. The character was a vibrant, brilliant and opinionated woman who knew exactly what she’s doing and made sure everyone else knew it too!
Yup…gotta admire a woman like that.
I also agree with Deaf Pundit that this episode was educational for those who have had little exposure to the Deaf Community. It was a chance for them to learn a little about American Sign Language, about Deaf Culture, and about the fact that Deaf people can and do live normal lives as happy, intelligent, productive members of society. We work and we play. We laugh and we cry. We love and we hate. We enjoy music, sex, and going out for dinner with family members – just like the majority of folks do.
Yes, we have our differences…
but those differences don’t have to make any difference.