Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Silent Night

Ultra-cool. CSI:NY's Christmas episode (aptly titled Silent Night) has a storyline built around a murder in a deaf family, and guest-stars Marlee Matlin.

I have come to love Matlin's work (with the exception of the ridiculous scene in an episode of "Seinfeld" where she is supposed to have mis-lip-read "swept" for "slept" - a mistake the newest lip-reader could not make) because it is consistently so genuinely reflective of the way real deaf people communicate, interact and behave. Whether that's due to Matlin herself insisting on authenticity or whether it's due to good judgment in the people she chooses to work with, the result is very satisfying to a deaf viewer.

Tonight's CSI was no exception. (Warning: major plot spoilers follow.)

The selective uses of silent scenes was particularly effective, I would guess, in bringing a hearing audience's understanding of the character's world to life. The special effects showing how a sound wave from a shotgun blast would rush through a home and be picked up by a deaf person in another room as a vibration, were interesting and intriguing; the scene where Matlin's character identifies the type of murder weapon by feeling the vibrations of many different firearms in the same setting as the original crime is inspired.

The turning of the plot around cochlear implants, and their controversial status among the deaf, was brilliant, if superficially handled (superficially because the deaf family's plot was one of two murders the team was solving in the episode). And the scene where Matlin snatches the CI processor from the ear of a bad guy and throws it out a car window in a hostage situation, rendering her captor deaf, was a brilliant stroke which brought cheers from viewers in the ronniecat household. Clearly, the episode was written by someone who not only understands the technology, but saw the dramatic potential in it.

I also love watching sign in any context. Matlin signs beautifully (as did the actor who played her husband) and has an incredibly expressive face, so important to ASL. She's a joy to watch.

Compare this to "Sue Thomas, FB Eye", a series based on a real person of the same name who is a deaf FBI agent. Or, as many deaf people I know refer to it, "the breakthrough series starring a deaf person playing a deaf lead character who was shown to magically read lips perfectly and speak almost perfectly and who, after the first episode, rarely showed any evidence of being deaf. Whatsoever."

Anyway, nice treat there for CSI fans, CI wearers and deaf peeps, all of which I am. Throw in Gary Sinese, a good murder mystery and a Very Special Christmas Episode and I'm in ho-ho-heaven.

(Incidentally, Matlin's breakthrough movie, Children of a Lesser God, was filmed in Saint John, NB, and my ASL teacher was an extra in it as a little guy. :) )




Anonymous Anonymous said...

I saw the episode and thought of you as I watched. :)

12:07 p.m.  
Blogger Brent McKee said...

I've been a fan of Marlee Matlin's TV work for a long time, starting with a series she did with Mark Harmon called Reasonable Doubts in which she played an Assistant District Attorney who happened to be deaf. Then there was Picket Fences as Laurie Bey, the Dancing Bandit who gets sentenced to be mayor of Rome Wisconsin, and of course The West Wing. The thing that I've loved about all of these roles is the way that Matlin makes her character's deafness simply a part of a whole rather than the central part. Obviously a lot of this is the work of the writer, but I'm convinced that she does a lot to make sure that what the writers come up with for her character works.

2:07 p.m.  
Blogger Unknown said...

We lovvvve Gary Sinise. Saw him on Broadway in One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest and got pix of him afterwards. Sigh. I'll see if I can find the rerun.

Love Children of A Lesser God. We were supposed to do that play the spring semester of my senior year in high school, back when I looked just like her with the long permed hair and all, and after my triumph of stealing scenes in the fall play and crying for real every night on stage.

I spent my whole Christmas vacation with an ASL book on my lap, got back to school and found out BS politics invade high school casting as well...the drama teacher cancelled the play that should have clearly been mine, and picked one that would be a lead for his junior-year pet instead.

Then he cast me as a role with about four lines, and was shocked when I quit drama class. Shocked. The only real shock is I left quietly instead of telling him to eff off.

Anyway, still have the movie memorized. It's beautiful. Disappointing the female director's barely been hired since.

8:29 p.m.  

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