CODA Could Win Big at the Oscars Tonight, but It Has Already Made Massive Steps for Representation of the Deaf Community


CODA is a film that brims with love. 

It is also a project with a culture-shifting message: Deaf actors deserve the starring airtime on screen, just like every other actor out there.

“I don’t think we’ve ever seen three authentic deaf actors carrying a film like we do in this movie,” Oscar-winning actor Marlee Matlin told Maria and Hoda on TODAY recently. “Hopefully it will be this way forever.”

We hope so too—and if CODA’s success is any harbinger of this being true, it is looking good. The film, which tells the story of Rubi Rossi, the only hearing family member in a deaf family, is nominated for three Academy Awards, including Best Picture. CODA, which stands for child of deaf adults, has captivated audiences, made waves in Hollywood, and also broke ground for the deaf community, which has been marginalized and poorly represented on the silver screen. 

Writer and director Sian Heder wanted to honor and advocate for the deaf community and keep the storyline as authentic as possible. To do so, she cast Matlin alongside fellow deaf actors Daniel Durant and Troy Kotsur to carry the film. Emilia Jones, who is not deaf, plays the role of Ruby, the main hearing character.

“Hollywood is very fearful of doing things differently,” Heder told Variety about some of the presumed obstacles of working with deaf actors, writers, and other deaf creatives. Heder is adamant that there needs to be more willingness to adapt and change and grow to be more inclusive of all creatives. “There’s a lack of curiosity and there’s an unwillingness to be creative and think about how you can do things differently.”

Heder continues: “What we created on our set I hope is a model for other productions moving forward.”

Matlin, Durant, and Kotsur all agree—as do we at The Sunday Paper. CODA is a critical story of our time. The narrative cuts straight to the heart with strong messages of family pain and glory, dreams, identity, hardship, and the unbreakable bonds found with those you grow up with and raise. And the production and inclusive nature that Heder created sends a beautiful message to the world: There must be room at every table for everyone.

Matlin told it best to Maria and Hoda: “For so many years, I’ve been saying there are deaf actors out there; I’m not the only one!”

You can watch CODA here


A senior editor of The Sunday Paper, Stacey Lindsay is a multimedia journalist, editorial director, and writer based in San Francisco. She was previously a news anchor and reporter who covered veterans’ issues, healthcare, and breaking news. You can learn more and find her work here, and you can follow her here.


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