Netflix’s The Silence is being criticised for Kiernan Shipka's "incorrect" sign language

11 April 2019, 14:49

Sam  Prance

By Sam Prance

Nyle DiMarco and others have called out Netflix for casting Kiernan Shipka in a deaf role...

The Silence is being called out for its portrayal of deaf people and casting Kiernan Shipka in a deaf role.

Netflix released The Silence yesterday (Apr 10) and it is already causing controversy. The brand new horror film stars Kiernan Shipka, Stanley Tucci and Miranda Otto as a family trying to survive after a species of old bat-like creatures (vesps) overruns Earth. Many viewers are taking issues with the film. It's been criticised for copying A Quiet Place and now people, including deaf model Nyle DiMarco, are criticising it for Kiernan's "incorrect" sign language.

Why are people criticising The Silence?

The Silence: Kiernan Shipka is being slated for her deaf acting in the Netflix film
The Silence: Kiernan Shipka is being slated for her deaf acting in the Netflix film. Picture: Netflix

In the film, Kiernan plays Ally Andrews. Ally is a 16-year-old girl, who lost her hearing in a car accident when she was 13. Her and her family's ability to use sign language is actually a key plot device in The Silence. The vesps kill anyone who makes a sound so Ally and her parents avoid the vesps by communicating via sign language. Deaf In Media have called it "gimmicky" and Nyle has since criticised Keirnan's performance.

Nyle tweeted: "If everybody knew sign language, The Silence on Netflix would be a comedy film." Ahead of the film's release its director John Leonetti told the Hollywood Reporter: "Kiernan learned to sign for the film and now she’s flawless like she’s been signing her entire life. She seems to have an almost innate sense of what it’s like being a deaf person". Now Nyle has debunked the claims of John, who isn't deaf.

First Nyle wrote: "Kiernan Shipka's ASL is not grammatically correct" and then posted videos explaining the many mistakes she made. He also pointed out plot holes like when Ally appears to hear her dog despite being deaf and her brother seems to understand her sign language despite not looking at her. All of these plot holes could have been avoided if deaf people were consulted and a deaf actress was cast.

Nyle's tweets and the other criticisms.

All of this goes to show why it's important to cast deaf people in deaf roles and work with deaf people if you're incorporating deafness into your art.

As it stands John, Kiernan and Netflix are yet to respond to the backlash. We shall update you if they do.