Casting rumour augurs new high-profile deaf character in the collective imagination

 

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A rumoured Marvel casting call is driving speculation in the superhero cinema sphere that at least one new deaf mass-culture fantasy figure might soon be boosting awareness—in some fantastic way—of hearing loss.

The call, by Marvel Cinematic Universe casting director Sarah Finn, has been reported and echoed in at least a dozen media sources that regularly ruminate on superhero or Disney news. It does not specify the character to be played but does solicit the following qualities, according to one such superhero film forums, Murphy's Multiverse: "Deaf female, Native American, First Nations, Indigenous or Latinx, 18 or older, to play the role of “Malia” in an upcoming Disney Plus series set to shoot this Fall." The site matches the characteristics to a deaf Marvel character called Maya Lopez, aka Echo, and speculates that this is the role for which the young actress is being sought.

Rippling around similar cult fantasy figure sites is the possibility that this casting call might connect to a much-anticipated Disney Plus series Hawkeye. This is based on a character from The Avengers comic, who was introduced by Marvel in 1964, later losing 80% of his hearing for 14 years of his illustrious publishing run when the character slipped a sonic arrowhead into his mouth (don't try this at home, and don't expect the WHO to list it under common causes of hypoacusis). This same casting rumour has prompted movie forum CinemaBlend to ask: "Is Disney +'s Hawkeye show finally going to Address the character's deafness?"

The specialists underline that casting rumours will often use fake character names as a tactic to avoid show spoilers during the casting process. So, the plot thickens, but we will have to wait to find out more; Hawkeye is not scheduled to start filming until autumn 2020, but like all other productions it is subject to delays because of pandemic restrictions. For other production reasons, the series idea has already been shelved and revived.

If, as speculated, the casting call is for the deaf female superhero, Echo, CinemaBlend points out the unlikelihood of this character being given her own film or series, speculating that being introduced to either Hawkeye or the Daredevil series (about a blind superhero, the rights to which Marvel Studios is shortly to regain from Netflix) is more likely.

Over the years, Marvel stories have introduced a number of characters with significant hearing loss. In addition to Hawkeye and Echo, Nyla Skin has partial deafness from listening to too much rock 'n' roll, and Gustav Krueger (aka Rattler) has 85% hearing loss and wears "electronic" hearing aids under his cowl. There are others from Marvel, and from other comic publishing houses, such as DC's Shriek, who suffers from tinnitus.

So there we have it: a possible boost to awareness of hearing disability though, as so often, in the form of technologically well-connected fictional persons with powers heightened in all other faculties, and qutie unlikely to resort to wearing hearing aids available in the marketplace for folk without the ability to walk up walls or get around thanks to the doppler-enhanced senses of a bat. While we assume that having deafness highlighted by cool mass culture figures can boost social awareness of hearing issues and help people look differently at the hearing disabled, what is missing is something more academically rigorous to tell us that this is a measurable social phenomenon. What about you, Doctor Strange? Got a peer-reviewed study in your magic satchel?

Source: CinemaBlend/Murphy's Multiverse

P.W.