I honestly cannot believe I have been taking American Sign Language classes for close to four years, yet I have never watched Sound and Fury. Before it was assigned to me I had only ever heard of it. The film was very eye-opening and, more than anything else, it helped me to see the perspectives of both the hearing and the Deaf regarding the issue of cochlear implants and the definition of what exactly it means to be Deaf.
As far as I can tell, the hearing community is—and always has been—extremely ethnocentric. The hearing community believes that to be hearing is to be the closest that one can possibly be to “perfection,” and in a world where the vast majority of the population is hearing, to be deaf is to be less than “perfect.” I believe this discriminatory concept stems from lack of knowledge regarding Deafness and what it really means to be Deaf. When someone is Deaf, THAT is his or her identity, THAT is what he or she relates to, THAT is what he or she is. It is the same concept as someone being Hispanic, Italian, Finnish, or African instead of being white. What most people don’t realize is that being Deaf is philosophically the same thing as being from a specific heritage, and therefore culture. Deafness has its own culture and heritage, and forcing a deaf person to be hearing (or vice-versa) is robbing that person of his or her heritage and culture and ripping away what that person is in order to replace it with something that is more socially acceptable.
Discrimination has always been a problem, and it is very likely that it always will be. The stigmatization of Deafness is very closely correlated to the issue of what is referred to as “white supremacy.” The idea that prejudice and discrimination both stem from the “white is right” concept has been widely debated for years. If one replaces the word “white” with the word “hearing,” the similarity between the two topics is clearly evident. The idea that “white is right” implies that anything other than white—brown, red, black, red, etc.—is simply “wrong”; the idea that “hearing is right” implies that anything other than hearing—Deafness, or any measure of considerable hearing loss—is also “wrong.” Sound and Fury addresses the topic of why it is generally considered exponentially “better” for someone to be hearing than it is to be Deaf.
The most common argument as to why it is “better” to be hearing than it is to be Deaf is that it is simply more convenient because the world we live in is primarily hearing. However, convenience is not really the issue here. Hearing people don’t just see Deaf people as “imperfect,” they see them as broken and in need of repair. But Deaf people are not broken. Deafness, unlike other handicaps, does not actually handicap the deaf person. A deaf person can do everything that a hearing person can do and sometimes he or she can even do it better because of his or her deafness.
The topic of cochlear implants is discussed throughout the entire movie. A Deaf girl with Deaf parents and a Deaf brother is influenced by her grandmother to get a cochlear implant so she can talk and be “normal.” If Deafness were not seen as something negative and bad in the first place, then undergoing major surgery to become “normal” would not even be an issue. I personally think that the majority of parents who force cochlear implants on their deaf children (who are, more often than not, hearing) do not weigh the positives and negatives before making the final decision—and considering the surgery is irreversible, even if a more advanced technology is introduced in the future, it is literally a final decision—to have their child surgically implanted with a cochlear implant. These hearing parents do not want to have to deal with their child’s deafness, so they get the child “fixed.” At the end of Sound and Fury, the hearing couple decides to get the cochlear implant for the child because they feel that it is the easier route for the child (or for them?), and the Deaf couple decides to wait for their daughter to grow older before making this lasting decision for her based on an idea put into her head by her discriminatory grandmother. Whereas the hearing parents had trouble accepting the deafness of their newborn baby, the Deaf parents had an open mind about their daughter getting a cochlear implant, just as long as she knew what she was doing and understood that no matter how advanced the surgery was she would always be Deaf.