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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.

By giving super powers to those who are usually considered powerless, "Superb" manages to tell a story of a generation that is able to battle evil that is literally right in their own neighborhood.

With offerings such as the television shows "Black Lightning" and "Luke Cage" and "Black Panther", it is clear that Black superheroes are having a bit of a renaissance right now. Not only are there popular Black superheroes in the mainstream, but there are also independent creators like Lion Forge Comics creating their own Black superheroes. In Volume 1 of their comic book series Superb, we have a rising Black female superhero and a superhero with Down's Syndrome teaming up.  Set in a fictionalized version of Youngstown, Ohio, the book takes place one year after the event in which five astronauts tried to save the world from an asteroid. The result of the event is a meteor shower that caused a generation to develop enhanced abilities. Since then, the global advanced tech corporation Foresight has been monitoring the town and quarantining enhanced teens for the town's safety. In the midst of all this, two teens named Jonah Watkins and Kayla Tate are trying to live some semblance of a regular life. However, the two soon find themselves caught up in the covert affairs of Jonah's superhero alter ego Cosmosis. In the process, they discover that in Foresight's intentions might not be as good as they appear and must face some hard truths about Foresight, their lives, and each other. One of the most thought-provoking aspects of "Superb" is how writers David F. Walker and Sheena Howard displayed the fictional world by drawing from the real world. The aftermath that the people of Youngstown are dealing with is similar to the aftermath of 9/11. Foresight has installed detectors for enhanced individuals in schools just like how metal detectors were installed in schools. Besides the world-building, the characters were also well-developed. Kayla Tate is a Black girl who wants a regular life despite her parents working for Foresight and her hiding the fact that she is enhanced and hasn't been detected. Her awareness is demonstrated through an online podcast that she uses to discuss the happenings of Foresight, the enhanced teens, and the town's local superhero Cosmosis. 

The conversation regarding school safety cannot start and stop with guns and shootings.

Since 2018 began, at least 8 school shootings have occurred in the US involving injury or death. In the days since the most recent widely publicized shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, several conversations have erupted regarding U.S. school safety. Similar to other shootings, gun control has re-emerged in the mainstream discourse. As well, there are discussions regarding arming teachers and increasing militarization of U.S. public schools. For example, in Broward County, Florida where the shooting took place, the police have reportedly stated that sheriff’s deputies will carry rifles on school grounds going forward. But amidst the growing discourse surrounding violence and guns, one particular discussion about school safety has been erased: that US students have been under threat and are under threat everyday. Understandably it is a worrisome and frightening and grave situation when a school shooting occurs, but “school safety” is more than just about school shootings. And this hyperfocus on the state of US schools only when widely publicized events happen, obscures that schools have been unsafe and that teachers and students are constantly threatened and in dangerous situations. In particular, the conversation on increasing police presence in schools or further incorporating metal detectors and other scanners or arming teachers, ignores that many schools are already militarized and policed in this way. Many schools already have policies in place for metal detectors and drug-sniffing dogs, especially among schools with a greater concentration poor students and students of color. The National Center for Education Statistics notes that up to 24% of U.S. schools have random drug-sniffs by dogs and almost 9% of high schools have random metal detector scans.

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