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Netflix’s latest horror flick The Silence has only been out for 24 hours, but it’s already racked up a fair share of online criticism, and not just for being a lesser A Quiet Place. Viewers claim the film poorly portrays the deaf community—probably because its sole deaf character is played by actress Kiernan Shipka, who can hear just fine, according to PopBuzz.
The film follows a family trying to survive in a world that’s been taken over by bat-like creatures attacking anything that makes noise. Fortunately for them, the whole family knows sign language. That’s because the 16-year-old in the family, played by Shipka, lost her hearing three years prior.
And, according to the deaf community, the sign language used throughout the film is laughably inaccurate.
“If everybody knew sign language, The Silence on Netflix would be a comedy film,” deaf activist and model Nyle DiMarco wrote on Twitter.
If everybody knew sign language, The Silence on Netflix would be a comedy film.— Nyle DiMarco (@NyleDiMarco) April 10, 2019
Director John Leonetti previously called Shipka’s portrayal “flawless, like she’s been signing her entire life” and that she has “an almost innate sense of what it’s like being a deaf person.” Actual deaf people beg to differ.
DiMarco said Shipka uses incorrect grammar throughout the movie and tweeted several clips of her signing alongside videos detailing her mistakes.
"I know how to live in silence." in ASL pic.twitter.com/FaLxhbTOLg— Nyle DiMarco (@NyleDiMarco) April 11, 2019
"No I walked with Rob." in ASL pic.twitter.com/aIwSFtTYiJ— Nyle DiMarco (@NyleDiMarco) April 11, 2019
"He's weird" in ASL pic.twitter.com/IB6k9MKGRz— Nyle DiMarco (@NyleDiMarco) April 11, 2019
Many also pointed out the film’s obvious plot holes. For example, Shipka appears to hear a dog growl, and family members manage to understand her without seeing her signing. Critics argue the flubs could have been avoided by reaching out to deaf consultants or hiring a deaf actress.
Netflix has not yet released a statement regarding the film’s backlash. But here’s to hoping all the negative press coverage will save us from being subjected to a new version of the Bird Box.
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Alyse Stanley is a video game and culture reporter based in Virginia with words at Polygon and USGamer. When she’s not writing about memes, she edits Unwinnable’s monthly magazine. You can follow her on Twitter @pithyalyse.