Marlee Matlin Oscars Speech Incident – Why It Matters

By hissign|May 19, 2021|Blogs|0 comments

Broadcasted on April 25, the 2021 Academy Awards stood out for both good and bad reasons. Among these: the producers invited Deaf starlet Marlee Matlin to present two awards but botched her presentation and the recognition it entailed. As a provider of professional ASL Interpreters and Translators, we want to unpack this controversy and why it matters.


Built from a community of interpreters and based in Washington, DC, HIS Sign Interpreting provides diverse ASL services. We offer onsite and virtual ASL Interpreting, Typewell, and CART services to individuals and organizations across the DMV. In all our daily interactions, we try to emphasize the importance of inclusion for the hard of hearing/Deaf community. If you’re interested, reach out and request our services to support all members of your community.


Below, we describe the Marlee Matlin incident in detail then explain why it carries such importance:


Marlee Matlin Cut Short – What Happened?

Matlin – the only Deaf person to ever win an Oscar – presented the 2021 Best Documentary Feature and Short Subject awards. Even before it occurred, her presentation was bound to stand out because she would deliver it in ASL.


However, during one winner announcement, producers cut away from her and–instead–let a narrator share that winner’s name. The jarring shift obscured Matlin’s ASL and gave the evening an element of inaccessibility.


Why This Provoked Such Controversy

By cutting away from Matlin at that moment, the announcement became out of reach for hard of hearing/Deaf viewers. The symbolic reason for Matlin’s appearance that night was thus undermined and the ceremony made exclusionary.


To be fair, the broadcast offered live captioning for anyone who wanted it. However, captions do not provide the same substance that ASL does – the two systems differ in structure and syntax. True accessibility arises when hard of hearing/Deaf viewers can choose the option they prefer: captioning or ASL.


But Why Is This Important?

While this event rankled many in the hard of hearing/Deaf community, it can appear trivial to outsiders. They may find it disappointing but, ultimately, label it a minor faux pas and inconsequential. However, this mix-up indicates much more.


Over the past few decades, Hollywood has sought to increase diversity. To their credit, they have made progress in boosting racial representation. Moreover, one of this year’s major Oscar contenders–Sound of Metal–revolves around a character adjusting to sudden hearing loss.


However, the Matlin controversy indicates that Hollywood still struggles with accessibility. And despite their inclusive strides, they have a long way to go. While Matlin’s appearance signals promise, her shortened presentation frustrates that promise.


ASL Interpreter and Translator Services Available Now in Washington, DC

Hearing culture must continue to work towards increased accessibility, and HIS Sign Interpreting encourages that process along. Our professional ASL Interpreters and Translators and other services are available to organizations and individuals throughout the Washington, DC, area. We’ve established relationships with Deaf community members and freelance interpreters across the region to better serve our customers. Call us today at (877) 458-7408 or fill out our online form for more information.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>