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"A Quiet Place" celebrates disability without tokenization.

[Content note: spoilers ahead] By Jazmine Joyner I was worried before seeing “A Quiet Place”, a new horror film directed by John Krasinski. It stars Emily Blunt,  Krasinski, Noah Jupe, and deaf actress Millicent Simmonds. The film is about a family in a post-apocalyptic world where the absence of sound is crucial to keeping themselves alive. I was worried because Hollywood has a terrible track record with shining a positive and humanizing light on people with disabilities, especially in the horror genre. We are often seen as the grotesque monster; our disabilities used to accentuate the horror—like the blind nurses in “Silent Hill”. If disabled people aren’t shown as the monster, then we are often portrayed as the head henchmen to the main villain. Our primary weapon is somehow associated with our ailment. Le Chiffre in the 2006 James Bond film “Casino Royale” was blind in his left eye—he murders, steals and plunders, giving more credence to the idea that evil people are even more corrupt or immoral when they have some type of physical disability. This tradition continues with films like “Don’t Breathe”, where the blind man whose house is broken into turns out to be a complete and total creep. And in “Kingsman: The Secret Service”, the double amputee, Gazelle, has swords for lower legs and likes to chop everyone in half at the order of her evil boss.    So, walking into the theater, I had genuine reservations about how Millicent’s character, Reagan, would be represented in the story. To say I was pleasantly shocked by “A Quiet Place” would be an understatement. I wasn’t expecting such a smart, nuanced horror film that was not only entertaining, but brilliant in the way it integrates sign language and Reagan’s deafness. Because the world around them has been taken over by otherworldly beings who hunt by the slightest sound, the only way to survive is to be quiet. They walk around barefoot on sand they pre-laid, the children don't play with noisy toys, and thanks to Reagan, who was born deaf, the family has the advantage of communicating through sign language. Sign language became an official and integral character of the film, so much so that when dialogue was spoken, it felt out of place in the world Krasinski created. In many films, Reagan’s deafness would probably be seen as a weakness, and to some extent, Reagan’s father, Lee, does see it as one. He refuses to take her on hunting expeditions, instead opting to take her extremely anxious and scared little brother; never the capable Reagan. But throughout the film, we are reminded that her disability is the real strength of this film. If she wasn’t deaf, her family would have no way of proper fluid communication because they wouldn’t have learned sign language. It is because of Reagan's disability that her family has a leg up in this soundless apocalypse. And throughout the film she proves how capable she is time and time again, gaining not only her father’s trust, but also banishing any doubts the audience might have.

Frida isn’t a commodity, she was a person who fought against materialistic consumerism.

As someone who has spent almost 20 years studying the life and art of Frida Kahlo, I’ve mused for hours over what her doll version would look. Here’s the Frida doll I’ve imagined: Since she spent so much time in a wheelchair due to illness and so many surgeries, her doll would have to come with one as an accessory. Accessories would also include a back brace, body cast, and washable paints so you could draw on her as she did herself. Her right foot to knee would be detachable, and modeled after the red boot prosthesis she designed and painted herself. Her clothing would be ethically sourced from the same villages she commissioned them in Mexico and would be an entire line all of its own to accompany the doll, as well as a variety of hairstyles and headdresses. The doll’s eyebrows would be thick and meet in the middle, and she would have a shadow above her upper lip. Underneath her elaborate outfit, Frida’s doll would be criss-crossed with a variety of scars across her legs, pelvis, belly, and back; Frida suffered her entire life and her avatar would need to represent all the physical pain that inspired and informed her art. The doll would come with a booklet explaining all of this, and would be written in a way that encourages people to go learn more about her rather than just consuming her image because she’s hip now.   But since we can’t have nice things (ever), Mattel created the exact opposite of a doll honoring Frida Kahlo. Instead of looking even a little like Frida, they have made her into an actual Barbie. Her unibrow is softened as are her striking features, and there is no evidence of her disabilities at all. In a nutshell, Frida has been grotesquely whitewashed.   Having been a fierce Communist until her death, she would despise this consumerist and capitalist "tribute" to her life and work on so many levels. Everything that Frida did in her self-presentation eschewed Western standards of beauty. She refused to pluck her brows or wax her face; she didn’t shave her underarms or legs. She rarely wore makeup and instead focused on layering away her pained body under handmade textiles from remote villages in Mexico, almost single-handedly bringing some of these traditional weaving methods back from cultural extinction.

Problems associated with tipping are seen throughout the country.

Tipping can be a great way to earn extra income. As you may often see on social media, people tip others for providing useful information, unique content, or when they need a little extra help financially. But living completely off tips like many waiters are forced to do comes from a system that has been in the United States for over 100 years, and it's actually a really problematic practice based on its history. The roots of the tipping system are racist, and low-wage workers who rely on tips tend to be disproportionately women and people of color today. According to Saru Jayaraman, writing for  University of California, Berkeley’s Labor Center, the American tipping system was used widely to keep freed slaves poor. According to Jayaraman's research, many white employers resented having to pay former slaves, and tipping was a legal way around providing actual wages. Jayaraman has written a book that further outlines what goes on in American restaurants. When the tipping system first began to take hold in the United States, it was almost exclusively used for Black people. John Speed, a journalist during this time, wrote, "Negroes take tips of course; one expects that of them — it is a token of their inferiority." This practice kept Black people poor, and provided white people with cheap labor. Aaron Ross Coleman, a New York University business and economic reporting Masters student tells Wear Your Voice, “The tipping system as constructed doesn’t benefit customers or employees. Patrons of restaurants regularly have to pay more money than advertised for their food because of gratuity. And waitresses and waiters often engage in performative and sometimes taxing emotional labor just to make a decent wage. And all of this is happening so employers don’t have to pay a living wage. If fast food restaurants and grocery stores can manage to pay the minimum wage, casual restaurants can too.”

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