Netflix’s The Silence is being criticised for Kiernan Shipka's "incorrect" sign language
11 April 2019, 14:49
Nyle DiMarco and others have called out Netflix for casting Kiernan Shipka in a deaf role...
The Silence is being called out for its portrayal of deaf people and casting Kiernan Shipka in a deaf role.
Netflix released The Silence yesterday (Apr 10) and it is already causing controversy. The brand new horror film stars Kiernan Shipka, Stanley Tucci and Miranda Otto as a family trying to survive after a species of old bat-like creatures (vesps) overruns Earth. Many viewers are taking issues with the film. It's been criticised for copying A Quiet Place and now people, including deaf model Nyle DiMarco, are criticising it for Kiernan's "incorrect" sign language.
Why are people criticising The Silence?
In the film, Kiernan plays Ally Andrews. Ally is a 16-year-old girl, who lost her hearing in a car accident when she was 13. Her and her family's ability to use sign language is actually a key plot device in The Silence. The vesps kill anyone who makes a sound so Ally and her parents avoid the vesps by communicating via sign language. Deaf In Media have called it "gimmicky" and Nyle has since criticised Keirnan's performance.
Nyle tweeted: "If everybody knew sign language, The Silence on Netflix would be a comedy film." Ahead of the film's release its director John Leonetti told the Hollywood Reporter: "Kiernan learned to sign for the film and now she’s flawless like she’s been signing her entire life. She seems to have an almost innate sense of what it’s like being a deaf person". Now Nyle has debunked the claims of John, who isn't deaf.
First Nyle wrote: "Kiernan Shipka's ASL is not grammatically correct" and then posted videos explaining the many mistakes she made. He also pointed out plot holes like when Ally appears to hear her dog despite being deaf and her brother seems to understand her sign language despite not looking at her. All of these plot holes could have been avoided if deaf people were consulted and a deaf actress was cast.
Nyle's tweets and the other criticisms.
If everybody knew sign language, The Silence on Netflix would be a comedy film.— Nyle DiMarco (@NyleDiMarco) April 10, 2019
1) @kiernanshipka's ASL is not grammatically correct. (see next tweet for my ASL translation)— Nyle DiMarco (@NyleDiMarco) April 11, 2019
2) The part when she looks from left to right TWICE... just makes me laugh.
2) The boy did not even look at her, how is he supposed to understand what he's saying. pic.twitter.com/mV60aGnsEq
How did @kiernanshipka know the dog was growling?— Nyle DiMarco (@NyleDiMarco) April 11, 2019
I thought she lost her hearing?
Or like Director Leonetti mentioned, I thought she had innate sense of what it is like being a Deaf person? pic.twitter.com/q8UXeGiuzM
"No I walked with Rob." in ASL pic.twitter.com/aIwSFtTYiJ— Nyle DiMarco (@NyleDiMarco) April 11, 2019
We watched #THESILENCE! It was bad in ways we expected it to be and bad in a lot of other ways too! (Spoiler alert: Kiernan Shipka's signing IS NOT AT ALL "flawless, like she’s been signing her entire life.*") #THESILENCE #DeafInMedia https://t.co/oSIU16FD9T— DeafInMedia (@DeafInMedia) April 10, 2019
Yeah, no. Not even close.— Tyrone Giordano (@TyGiordano) April 10, 2019
"She learned to sign for the film, and now she’s flawless, like she’s been signing her entire life. She seems to have an almost innate sense of what it’s like being a deaf person." --director John Leonetti on Kiernan Shipka. #TheSilence #DeafInMedia
All of this goes to show why it's important to cast deaf people in deaf roles and work with deaf people if you're incorporating deafness into your art.
As it stands John, Kiernan and Netflix are yet to respond to the backlash. We shall update you if they do.