Two deaf characters, one in Eternals and one in Hawkeye, were portrayed by deaf actors.
Marvel Studios has collected a new honor: the Seal of Authentic Representation from the Ruderman Family Foundation. The Foundation advocates for more visibility for people with disabilities within the entertainment industry, and tracks movies and television that feature actors with disabilities who have at least five lines of dialogue. The film Eternals and the Disney+ limited series Hawkeye both earned recognition for their employment of actors Lauren Ridloff and Alaqua Cox, respectively, who played the characters of Makkari and Echo. Both actors are deaf, matching their characters, and Cox is also an amputee who uses a prosthetic leg.
Per the Hollywood Reporter, Eternals director and co-writer Zhao said in a statement, “Makkari is full of heart and wisdom. She is strong, charismatic, mysterious, and mischievous. We are very lucky to have found Lauren Ridloff, who is our real-life Makkari! She has brought this character to life with love and conviction and has taught us so much in the process.” Additionally, the head of casting for the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Sarah Finn, said, “Not only was [Ridloff] overly qualified to join an already high-level cast, she elevated the ensemble with her unique spirit, talents, and charisma. It’s been a privilege getting to know her through the process and seeing what a real-life hero she has become to so many.” Of Cox, Finn said, “Alaqua Cox’s character, Maya Lopez/Echo, is based off an existing Marvel character who is deaf and Native American. In casting the role, we wanted to celebrate and honor both Deaf and Native American cultures. We couldn’t be more delighted by Alaqua Cox’s performance. She is phenomenal and part of a new culture in film and television, where authentic representation not only matters but is paramount to the kind of stories we want to tell and how we shape them.”
Ruderman Foundation president Jay Ruderman said in a statement, “We are gratified to witness this latest group of studio productions implement the crucial values of inclusion and authentic representation in their casting decisions. ... These practices are increasingly becoming the norm in Hollywood, with the authentic casting of Lauren Ridloff in Eternals and Alaqua Cox in Hawkeye marking a particularly high-profile and momentous milestone for Marvel and the entire entertainment industry. Each time a casting director or other executive makes such a decision, it facilitates the industry’s broader journey towards fulfilling its full potential as a beacon of all forms of diversity and social justice.”
Eternals and Hawkeye join the ranks of several other major hits to recently become recipients of the Seal. HBO Max’s And Just Like That featured Ali Stroker, who is in a wheelchair, as Chloe, and also gave the character Steve Brady a narrative arch dealing with hearing loss. NBC’s Ordinary Joe showcased actor John Gluck, who has collagen VI muscular dystrophy and played three versions of the same character, Christopher, Lucas, and Zeke, all of whom had the disease. Hulu’s Only Murders In The Building devoted an entire episode to the experience of one of its deaf characters, Theo, played by James Caverly.
It’s so important that the television and movies we consume represent the diverse experiences lived in the world, and more inclusion of actors and characters with disabilities is a huge step forward in that crucial representation. Marvel’s inclusion of Cox and Ridloff will surely encourage more visibility in the large world of comics turned into TV and film, an arena that historically has very little representation of the disabled community.