My Perspective on “A Quiet Place”
Today felt like a good day for a solo, matinee-movie experience. It has been hot as all hell here in Managua so it seemed right to take a break, immerse into the arctic chills of a movie theater and watch a movie. Now, I don’t often go to movies alone nor during the day so I wanted to “aprovechar” the opportunity and see a movie I would not necessarily be excited to see at night or in the company of my peers. This left me with the grand idea of seeing A Quiet Place, a new horror movie starring the likes of Jim Halpert, oops I mean John Krasinski, Emily Blunt, Millicent Simmonds, and Noah Jupe. They comprise the central family around which this movie revolves.
Now let me begin by saying I hate, nay abhor horror. Mainly because the genre scares me and feeds into my night terror tendencies but also many of them show a really dark, twisted side of humanity that I think need not be sensationalized. Nevertheless, I chose that this scary movie, A Quiet Place, was one I wanted to see. As if it weren’t enough to just support the work of John Krasinki and Emily Blunt, a beautiful Hollywood couple I would hope to emulate one day (albeit on a smaller platform), they cast a deaf actress to play the deaf character in the movie, Regan played by Millicent. I had two main draws: the fact that a deaf character was scripted in a movie that would use mainly American Sign Language (ASL) to communicate. And furthermore, the creators of this film made it a point to cast Millicent Simmonds, a deaf actress and advocate. That’s what sealed the deal for me. I wanted to support a movie that chose to cast in this way because too often it’s not the case.
So that’s why I chose to see the movie, now let’s chat about how I got to the theater.
…You may be thinking “dang, Anna really likes the sounds of her own voice. Couldn’t she be more concise, wrap this up.” To which, I respond: yes I could write less, embrace quality over quantity but to be perfectly frank I write these more for me, to help me process, than for a greater audience. If I wanted to be famous I would be a model already, but I choose a humble life of many words…
Anyway, I decided to walk to the movie today. A bus or a taxi just didn’t feel good to me, and I felt the walk would give me time to mentally prepare for what I was about to experience. Whenever I am traveling from point A to point B, I always think of the accessibility of it all. The taxis roaming around Managua aren’t accessible, and even if they were the majority of the taxistas want to get as many people in and out of their taxis as possible so they don’t generally stop for people with disabilities (according to many conversations I have had with disabled folks around Managua). Buses are equally difficult. Most of the buses are not equipt with lifts and in many of the ones that do have lifts, the drivers will have removed the lift function and or won’t stop or wait for someone with a disability to get on the bus. This leaves the next most common mode of transport, one’s own body, individual ground transport, be that walking or rolling or moving with another assistive device like crutches. Many wheel-chair users unfortunately, roll on the road alongside cars, a dangerous endeavor especially in heavy traffic, because the sidewalks are utterly inaccessible.
I witnessed this today. As I made my way to the theater, I took stock of the inaccessible streets and ramps (yes inaccessible ramps) around me. The illogical and often unsafe placement of ramps and how so often the ramps are too steep and lead directly into a hole. This inaccessibility has led to an invisibilization of people with disabilities in Nicaragua and an assumption that people with disabilities are pobrecitos (poor little thing, I have been called this) or limosneros (beggars/bums, I have not personally been called this but several taxistas I have been with have pointed them out to me in the middle of the calle). This is why representation is so important, not just in Nicaragua but everywhere!
Millicent is a deaf advocate and believes representation is critical in the movie industry, in particular the importance of deaf actors and actresses portraying deaf characters. She says in an article entitled Millicent Simmonds: Why My “A Quiet Place” Character Matters in TeenVogue:
“Growing up, I never thought about becoming an actress because I never saw deaf people in TV or movies. I didn’t think it was possible. When I was in 2nd or 3rd grade, the drama teacher at my deaf school noticed that I liked to tell stories and had really good expression…I still love entertaining people with stories. And if it gives hope to other deaf kids to see someone like them on the TV or in movies, that makes me happy too.”
It is so important for people, most importantly kids and young adults, to see diversity and to see themselves in the media they consume. Media is such a powerful tool and we ought to be using it as one for positive change. For representation of people with disabilities it is not only that characters with disabilities are portrayed by people with disabilities, but that characters with disabilities are scripted in a way that allows them to be more than “the disabled character.” Eventually, it would be great if those characters didn’t even need to be specifically scripted, so that an actor with a disability could go out for a role and have it not be about his or her disability, because believe it or not every disabled person I know, myself included, has a life and personality and experiences that don’t all revolve around their disability 100% of the time. Disability is an important part of my identity, as it is for many, but it is not the entirety of it.
Okay, now more to the movie (shhhh…no spoilers! Don’t worry this post is less about plot and more about how this movie is situated in the Hollywood movie “scene”). I thoroughly enjoyed this movie, which I am surprised at. I thought I would just have to bear it and be happy that I supported a film that contributed to the representation of people with disabilities in Hollywood but that was not the case. This is because it did the opposite of what I hate about most horror movies. It showed the love of family, the love of parents and the capacity for humanity even in the face of inhuman situations. Even writing this, my eyes are starting to well up. Yes, this is a scary movie but it is more about the lengths parents will go to, to protect their children. After watching this movie, I’ve realized a theme in my horror movie watching experiences; I tend to cry…quite a bit. Not from fear but from heartache and genuine sadness. The last horror movie I remember watching was the Exorcist (the old one) my first year in university. I remember at the end of the movie being freaked the f*** out but also being so sad for the young possessed girl, also named Regan.
It’s easy in horror movies to be scared and forget that the characters represent humans going through these horrific things. Both of these Regans were thrust into situations that they did not deserve, and yet they had to persist. They both had to hang on and fight. Now the plot trajectories were quite different in these films, but in both I am left with an intense empathy for what the characters went through.
I have said this before and I’ll say it again, our world needs a little more love and a bit more empathy and it makes me happy that even a horror movie can show the ways that love finds the light in times of darkness and sacrifice.