CODA: And the Winner Is… Next Stop, Hollywood

Coda Has Been Made with Film Starring a Disability-Led Cast

Now it may not be a big deal for a lot of people but for others it certainly is, as of 28th February 2022, Troy Kotsur became the first deaf actor to win not one but two awards at Screen Actors Guild Award. This has led to further hope of winning an Oscar. 

Kotsur, an actor from Canada was born deaf and has recently been in an independent film called Coda which was shown on the tv streaming service, Apple TV. 

For those of you who have not yet seen the film, it is about a family in which nearly all of the family, apart from the daughter, are deaf and try to navigate through everyday aspects of their lives. From dating, casual life, and work to how each of the family interacts with each other. 

Now what I found to be absolutely incredible is that for the first time ever a film has been produced in which all the cast have got disabilities, though in their case obviously, they all have the same one. Another thing that I firmly believe to be absolutely fantastic is that everyone who has worked on the movie has brought more aspects of Deaf culture to the forefront of the mainstream psyche itself. 

Ironically, this was something which as everyone can recall happened over here in the UK in the recent series of Strictly Come Dancing as a deaf actress, Rose Ayling-Lee became the second deaf contestant to participate. And as you can recall she made history by becoming the first-ever contestant with a disability to win.

Remember that dance she did with Giovanni Pervice when the music was cut and they danced before both the crowd and viewers in total silence for 15 seconds? That was her showing an example of how deaf people interpret their dance routines. That was part of the culture that she was showing us and good on her I say.

This brings me right back up to the indie feature, Coda, and why it is proving to be such a game-changer, and in more ways than one. 

Here is why;

  1. We get to see deaf people perform and demonstrate their acting ability.
  2. As film viewers, we get to have an understanding of how deaf actors interact when it comes to making a film.
  3. Deaf culture is shown to us in a way that helps us to both understand it and enjoy it.
  4. Humanity is given back to the community as we get to see and visualise their world just that little bit more.
  5. Deaf actors finally get the chance for honest, open representation without going into typical negative stereotypes. 
  6. People within the community are provided a platform to tell their stories in a way that helps them to be able to do so.

CODA and the positive portrayal of people living with disabilities.

Now I am not deaf and neither have I seen Coda but as a fan of films, this is one that I would actually like to see. However, I do have a learning disability, Asperger Syndrome, which is a mild form of Autism, and as you can imagine that after putting up with many years of negative stereotyping it is a relief that there is now something positive. And that it is going mainstream where the biggest audiences are going to be seeing it. 

Going back to the double win that Canadian actor Troy Kotsur achieved, he commented in his winning speech that he actually felt as though he was now part of the family after 21 years of being a member. 

As dramatic as that could sound, I can understand why he did not feel like a member of any sort of family; though this is something that he did make light-hearted humour about. Though I can imagine that there are those in similar positions who probably would not quite feel the same way to varying degrees. 

CODA - SAG Awards

For anyone who is born with a disability, be it physical or learning as a result of illness, injury, or from birth, to be a part of something and to go through many years of contributions but to not receive any form of recognition even you would be asking whether continuation is even worth it. 

One such person who most certainly feels that her recognition was worth the struggle after so long was American actress, Marlee Matlin, who starred alongside Kotsur, and is the first person to win an Academy Award. 

In her acceptance speech, she thanked her peers within the entertainment industry for including deaf culture in the industry itself and that it shows everyone else that deaf performers can work within the business like everyone else.

That being said this can only pave the way for deaf performers to not only prove to the industry bigwigs that not only can it be done, but it can also be done well. Authentic casting can be managed and wins by Matlin and Kotsur have only further proved that this is achievable, but that also there is now officially no excuse for people with varying deafness as well as disability not to perform before the camera. 

There is no longer any defense for directors of both film and TV, as well as on stage to cast deaf people and those with disabilities for those very same parts, and to be able to do it well. 

I am actually proud of the achievements of these two, I mean winning SAG and Academy Award wins after so long just to show that it is possible and I wouldn’t be at all surprised if they ever asked themselves if it’d happen.

Marlee Matlin and Troy Kotsur, I salute you both for your achievements and hope it opens the door even wider for others in your position. Together, you two have proved that it can be done if you are given both the chance and the platform in which to do so.