Children of a Lesser God is the story of James Leeds (William Hurt) who is a new speech teacher at a school for the Deaf. He falls for Sarah Norman (Marlee Matlin) a former student of the school who now serves as the janitor. James (who is only like a 7 at best) woos Sarah (who is a bombshell 9) and continues to throw a rail spike in their relationship by trying to get her to communicate through speaking. She pushes him away in anger and then in typical star crossed lover fashion they get back together at the high school dance.
Everything happens so fast in this film. They jump from strangers to cohabitating lovers in the blink of an eye. I mean did James really think she would just be happy living with him and off his support? The power dynamic is already off because he can communicate with her in her language, but she can’t in his, to then couple that with her having no means to support herself it’s bound to explode. The poker scene also brought this point home by everyone addressing James and the works he’s done when they were complaining about getting taken at the table by a Deaf person and how successful James has been with her. She knows something is up, but they’re both dressed up and feeling a little saucy so they go home and have sex which James ruins, RUINS, by wanting her to speak. She was rising above the people in that room because what they thought didn’t matter, but to then go home to it adds injury to their insult. She knows things like that will happen like that in social situation and she’s used to it, but now she has to deal with it at home? Not even her home I might add, but James’ home. James assumed this would be ok? He’s lucky she didn’t burn down his house. The scene where he’s introducing himself is telling because he really does get things after the fact. Ask women to do things James don’t tell them to do thing; if anyone needs to learn anything its James on how to talk to women.
Sound and Fury is a documentary about the struggle of Deaf families over the use of controversial cochlear implants community vs. quality of life. I mean we’re all born a lot of things that we assume will never change gender, sexual identity, face, ability, ethnicity, etc. It’s quite an undertaking to have an operation to change a defining characteristic and family all have opinions on what is best for you. I mean if you can “fix” something about yourself should you?
Society comes into play heavily on matters of identity. People are proud of their identity and those that share it, but what happens to that feeling when you have a choice in the matter? This is big with appearance now such as cosmetic surgery. Unattractive bust get implants, small lips get injections, weak chin get an implant. Your family may question the logic behind it but they don’t feel you’re rejecting them when you do it. To want a cochlear implant also seems to mean rejecting the Deaf World rejecting your Deaf family. I hate to use these analogies because they don’t exactly fit, but it’s like turning off your race.
When it comes to something like hearing it’s easy to see an argument for hearing because it’s a useful, but not essential sense. I can’t smell anything and I would gladly have an operation to gain that back, but if I was born this way I probably wouldn’t care much. I mean as long as choice is involved I think families should be able to choose for themselves, but I would hate to see the cochlear implant pushed as a necessary operation for deaf children. I also would hate to see Deaf-World viewed as a hindrance to those that want to use the implant or that ASL is a crutch for them.
I have a hard time arguing with children when it comes to their desires. If the little girl wants to talk then let her talk. People spend too much time making choices for children and not listening to what the child wants. Granted they usually want candy and to avoid bath time (again they have piercing insight), but if the tech and money are available why can’t they use it? On the flip side is the implant isn’t a miracle it doesn’t just flip a hearing switch. You could have a hole drilled in your kids head and they still aren’t any better off. It’s an option, but not a “cure.” Children need stimulation, love, food, and shelter. I don’t think that includes a childhood spent in doctors offices, with audiologists, and then at home having every activity be speech training.
I love how hearing people want to “fix” the child with an implant and not fix the conditions of deaf schools or the involvement of Deaf people in the hearing world. If Deaf kids are graduating with 4th grade reading levels then that is a problem we need to fix not the ability for them to hear. If we made the world easier for Deaf people to navigate and made hearing be able to communicate through ASL the implant wouldn’t really matter. The implant is the quick fix though, but how to the children fair long term? What will children say about their implants when they are adults? I found this documentary fascinating, but it raised more questions than it answered for me.