CODA, “Children of Deaf Adults'' was released in 2021, exclusively on Apple TV+. The movie tells the story of Ruby Rossi (Emilia Jones), a 17- year-old who is the only hearing member of her family. Ruby’s family, the Rossis, have worked on a fishing boat for several generations in Gloucester, Massachusetts. When the Rossi's family business is at risk of being shut down, Ruby considers sacrificing her own passion, which is singing, to help support her family during their difficult time.
CODA is one of the few movies that tells the story of individuals who are deaf. The lead actors in CODA are played by deaf individuals, which is a step in the right direction for the representation of the deaf and hard-of-hearing community, as well as the disabled community. Marlee Matlin (who plays Jackie Rossi), who starred in and won an Oscar for “Children of a Lesser God”, shares the screen with Troy Kotsure (who plays Frank Rossi) and Daniel Durant (who plays Leo Rossi) in CODA.
A review of CODA in USA Today interviews several people who talk about other ways CODA has excelled as a movie representing a community that is largely cut out of movies and screen time. The Vice-Chair of RespectAbility told the news outlet that it was nice to see individuals who are deaf as small business owners, “it is so refreshing to see a story with deaf characters that are small business owners and leaders in their fishing community, with depth and nuance that rival and even exceed that of their hearing counterparts in the story.” Jenna Beacom, a deaf activist, told USA Today, “Much of the interaction between the deaf actors is right on.” Rikki Poynter, who is an accessibility expert, told USA Today,
In CODA, the characters were sexual beings. Ruby gets the sex talk, in sign language. Her parents are overheard having sex at point too. CODA make indivudals who were deaf, real people, who had real experiences.Sara Novic told USA Today, “Sex is such a taboo topic in general but seems to be especially more so when it comes to disabled people,” she said. “I’m glad they did away with that ‘disabled people can’t be sexual or desirable’ nonsense.”
Though there were many aspects CODA has received praise for, there are still always ways that representation, inclusivity, and diversity can be reached. Jeanna Beacom, an activist, tweeted, “The centering of the hearing perspective at all times, for a movie that is about deafness, is often infuriating. As an example, when Ruby's departure is imminent, the Rossis finally learn to engage with the hearing community. It's because of her.” She continued, “Everything adds up - what we see on screen, what we read on the page. And the more successful it is, the more it will contribute to a hearing person's conception of deaf people and deafness. I just wish that what this movie contributes to that conception was more authentic.”
CODA shines a light on how a society can be albist and how there are countless social injustices that individuals with disabilities deal with on a daily basis. For example, forcing the Rossi’s to have a hearing person on board and not having interpreters at a court hearing. These are real experiences that occur across the nation. Though there is always room for improvement and representation of the deaf and disabled community, CODA managed to win over the hearts of many and took a step towards inclusivity.
CODA (2021) An Apple Original Film
Sundance Festival 2021 Winner (U.S. Dramatic: Grand Jury, Directing, Audience, and Special Jury Prize for Ensemble Cast)
2021 Academy Awards Winner (Best Picture, Best Adapted Screenplay, and Best Supporting Actor)
Director & Writer: Sian Hede
Stars: Emilia Jones, Marlee Matlin, Troy Kotsur, Daniel Durant, John Fiore