Makkari Of The Eternals May Be The MCU's First Deaf Hero, But She Won't Be The Only One
Hearing issues for Hawkeye?
We are growing close to the release date of Eternals, a film being lauded as a great step forward in diversity for the MCU. Aside from the film's notable effort towards gender and racial diversity, and the appearance of Phastos, the MCU's first gay major character, the film will also include the MCU's first Deaf hero in the form of Makkari, a speedster played by Lauren Ridloff, a real-life member of the deaf community.
While Makkari may be the MCU's first deaf hero, she definitely won't be the last. On November 24, just a couple of weeks after Eternals hits theatres, the first two episodes of Marvel's Hawkeye series will debut on Disney Plus. The Hawkeye trailer appears to show the title character wearing hearing aids, and in a recent interview, star Jeremy Renner revealed that Clint Barton, will grapple with hearing loss during the series. Hawkeye will also introduce Echo, a deaf super-heroine with the ability to perfectly mimic others' movements.
Clint's hearing loss is a storyline lifted directly from the comics
In the comics, deafness becomes a defining trait for multiple versions of Clint Barton's character across various MCU universes. However, exactly how this deafness came about varies between stories. The origin of the handicap occurs in a 1983 Hawkeye story. While captured by the villain Crossfire, Clint bursts his own eardrum with a sonic arrowhead to avoid being affected by an ultrasonic mind-control device that would have forced him to attack his partner, Mockingbird. Unfortunately, his actions leave him with 80% hearing loss. In the 2001 Avengers Annual, when the young but very powerful mutant Franklin Richards rebuilds the universe, he restores Clint's hearing.
He would lose it again in 2012, at the beginning of Matt Fraction and David Aja's popular Hawkeye run, from which the upcoming TV series is said to take inspiration. During a battle between Clint and The Clown, the villain stabs Clint in the ears with his arrows, shattering his eardrums and rendering him almost completely deaf. Thankfully, Tony Stark is able to build him special hearing aids.
Later. it was revealed that Clint's hearing issues actually began a lot earlier, when he was rendered partially deaf in childhood due to an injury caused by his abusive Father. So, when Clint suffered permanent hearing loss as an adult, he was more easily able to adjust.
Clint's hearing loss is often used as an advantage, or a unique way of having him relate to other characters.
Clint's hearing loss is rarely seen to put him at a real disadvantage in the comics. In fact, it is often seen as a strength, as Clint's major advantage, his good aim, comes from his sight. Clint will often turn down his hearing aid intentionally, to remove the distraction of sound and therefore increase his focus when taking particularly important shots. The fact that Clint's hearing loss is not seen as an inherently bad thing has made the character something of an icon to real-life Deaf and Hard-of-Hearing communities.
Clint's deafness is also used to have him connect to other characters in unique ways that wouldn't be possible if his hearing was intact. For example, it has been used to help show the softer side of Deadpool. Deadpool hates removing his mask and exposing his disfigured face underneath, but when working with Clint, he will willingly lift it enough for Clint to read his lips.
On the other hand, Clint sometimes unintentionally annoys Daredevil, as his need to have things slightly louder to compensate his hearing loss irritates Daredevil’s own highly advanced hearing.
So, how will Clint lose his hearing in the MCU?
Well, he might not lose it entirely. Jeremy Renner describes Clint as being Hard of Hearing rather than entirely deaf. The most likely explanation for his hearing loss is likely his close proximity to his own exploding arrows while fleeing Thanos’s forces with the gauntlet in Endgame.
Some fans believe his hearing issues will prompt Clint to retire for the final time and pass the Hawkeye mantle to Kate Bishop at the conclusion of the series. However, fans of the comic version of Clint Barton hope that Clint sticks around a little longer in the MCU now that his deafness has come into play. If not, there is still another Deaf hero on the way for children to look up to.
As mentioned earlier, another deaf character, Echo, will make her MCU debut in Hawkeye. In the comics, Echo, aka Maya Lopez, is raised by the villainous Kingpin after he kills her Father, Willie 'Crazy Horse' Lincoln. At first assumed to have a learning disability due to her deafness, it is later discovered that she is a prodigy, playing a piano piece perfectly despite being unable to hear it, because she could perfectly mimic the Teacher's movements. This ability to mimic movement becomes a key factor of her eventually becoming a hero, once Daredevil convinces her of Kingpin's true villainous nature.
Like Makkari, Echo will be played by a real-life deaf actress, Alaqua Cox, in Hawkeye. Fans speculate that she may initially be working with Yelena Belova, who was hired by Valentina Allegra de Fontaine to assassinate Clint in the post-credits scene of Black Widow. A series starring Echo is said to be in early development for Disney Plus.
Big film companies are becoming less afraid to use differently-abled characters in major projects, and more importantly, to have these characters played by actors who can accurately represent them.
That is something we should all be celebrating.
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