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And The Oscar Goes To

Did you watch the Academy Awards this year? As an avid movie-goer, it’s a show I never miss. Sitting in my favorite spot my couch with popcorn in hand, I watch from start to finish. I love the glitz and glamour of the red carpet. I thought Nicole Kidman’s blue Armani gown stole the show, although Beyonce certainly wowed in her yellow caped Valentino.  

Then of course there are the films. I make a point to see all the movies that are nominated, so I definitely have my favorites. This year I was thrilled when the Best Picture went to “CODA,” the story of a deaf family with one hearing child. (CODA stands for child of deaf adults.) Movies that examine deafness are not new. There was “Children of a Lesser God,” which focused on a deaf woman who falls in love with a hearing man. “Immortal Beloved” looked at how Beethoven dealt with his hearing loss, and “Sound of Metal” examined the life of a former drummer/drug addict who loses his hearing. The list goes on and on.

What’s different about “CODA” is that it focuses not on those who are deaf, but on Ruby, the hearing member of the family. A hardworking high-schooler in the coastal town of Gloucester, Massachusetts, she gets up at 3 a.m. every day to help her family—father Frank, brother Leo, and mother, Jackie Rossi—on their boat and at their new fish-selling business. She’s their sign-language interpreter, spending her days translating every scenario you can imagine. She goes to the town meetings, to the doctor’s office, and on the boat where a hearing person must be present to hear the signals and coastal announcements. It’s an exhausting job for such a young girl.

Things change when Ruby joins the school choir and discovers her talent for singing. It throws her off balance and puts her at odds with her family, especially when she decides to apply to Boston’s Berklee College of Music. Her new rehearsal schedule often clashes with her duties in the family business. Things are tense for a while, but Ruby does go off to Berklee with her family’s blessing. The final scene shows her signing “I love you” to her family as she pulls out of the driveway.  

I believe the movie shows us that deaf culture and issues are becoming much more prominent in our society. We get a candid look at a relatable family who just happens to be deaf. We believe in our heart of hearts that the Rossis are a real family with real chemistry, real bonds and trials of their own. They’re both unique and universal, just like any other family. In one scene all sound vanishes while Ruby sings in front of her family, making us perceive her act from a non-hearing point of view. In another scene, sound doesn’t matter at all. As Ruby auditions for Berklee, she begins to sign what she is singing to her family, who has sneaked up into the balcony. The love between her and her family is almost palpable.  

And if it wasn’t enough that the movie won the top award of the evening, Troy Kotsur, who plays Ruby’s father, Frank, won the award for best supporting actor. He is the first deaf man to win an academy award.

 In my humble opinion, I believe “Coda” has helped demystify and destigmatize deafness. To me, that marks a huge victory for 2022's Oscar season.