Movies and dance are visual expressions of language

By Meredith Tucker, Contributor

There is an old saying that says, “A picture paints a thousand words.” If that statement is true, then a movie paints millions of words, bringing them into a full Technicolor life for a Deaf person.

Many people are surprised that I love movies so much. Until recently, most were not closed-captioned. I recall my mom taking a tiny flashlight and signing low under the seat the gist of what was going on. The first movie I remember being a curly-haired, red headed girl dancing and singing as Mom’s hands raced to keep up. I was hooked! My silent world had been filled with fast action, color, dancing and interest.

As I grew older, I read books and then later saw their movie adaptations. The movies made the books “live” for me and gave me a broader comprehension of things I was incapable of understanding like “cannon blasting,” “a thunderous gallop,” or “a bloody scream.” Thousands of these terms were near meaningless until I was able to visualize them on the screen and connect them with the words I had read.

When I saw words associated with feelings and emotion connected with expression on faces I was more able to comprehend the story. I especially get more out of comedy if I can see faces.

Music used to be a bit of a mystery to me—something reserved for hearing people. When I saw people dance and studied their movements and felt the powerful vibration flow through my body from the speakers, I began to understand that music is a language in itself and that dance has a visual expression. It is just like sign language and it is a visual expression of a spoken language. By watching dance I too can share in music.

Before we had a closed-captioned television, Mom would interpret television shows and the movies that we would rent. I’ll never forget her renting the movie Stella when I was in high school, and she told me it was a very important movie about how much mothers loved their daughters.

I sat and watched the movie, and I couldn’t control my laughter at her when she cried her eyes out at the end. She then signed to me, “Just wait until you have a daughter,” which made me laugh even more, and she ended up being hurt.

I now have a daughter of my own, and Stella is one of my favorite movies. It makes me think of my own mom, how much she loves me, how much I love my own daughter, how there are no limits to a mother’s love and the sacrifices moms make.

Now I can share a list of my favorite movies in a variety of genres: 1. Blade Runner; 2. Gone With the Wind; 3. Elizabeth; 4. There’s Something About Mary; 5. Top Gun; 6. The Family Stone; 7. Tin Cup; 8. Vital Signs (a short film created by two deaf filmmakers, Wayne Betts, Jr. and Chad W. Taylor, owners of Mosdeux).