Hey! Is that Sign Language? (Part 2)


Outlander, Rumbo al infiero (Hellbound) y Woo, una abogada extraordinaria (Extraordinary Attorney Woo)

In 2019 we published an article about movies and TV series in which Sign Language has a fleeting appearance (see part 1 here). In all cases these are American productions, where they know how to take good advantage of the potential of Sign Language to create surprising scenes or as elements that can give a twist to the story, either to communicate in a "secret" way, introduce a gag (=quick and unexpected comic effect) or simply to add a touch of realism. Here are some more series and movies.

Outlander (2014)

In episode 8 of season 1 of this acclaimed historical fantasy series, the main characters Jamie Fraser and Claire Randall meet with a friend of the first, named Munro, whose tongue was cut off, so he expresses himself in Sign Language. According to those responsible for the series, the Sign Language used was expressly invented for television fiction, since they knew that Sign Language was not used in the same way in the historical period in which the series takes place.

Munro, left, meets Outlander protagonists Fraser and Randall and speaks in a Sign Language specifically invented for the series

Anne with an E (2017-2019)

The last episode of the last season of this wonderful series (E10 T3) gives us two seconds of Sign Language in the face of one of the most resilient and feminist characters in the history of television series. We don't know exactly why at the time, but there it is. The series is available on Netflix.

The end of the last season of Anne with an E gives us two seconds of Sign Language

Code 8 (2019)

One of the characters in this sci-fi movie, available on Netflix, cannot speak and expresses himself in Sign Language, a role played by actor Vlad Alexis with small appearances throughout the story. It is one more of the many sad examples where a role could have been played by deaf professionals and thus give more credibility to the character.

Vlad Alexis, center, plays a character who speaks in Sign Language in the film Code 8

The Hustle (2019)

'Eat shit and die'. This is exactly what Anne Hathaway says to another person in Sign Language, she vents while the other person doesn't know what she is saying to her. It happens near the end of this comedy.

Anne Hathaway in The Hustle makes fun of another person thanks to Sign Language

A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood (2019)

The endearing main character in this movie, played by Tom Hanks, explains to another person that someone told him one of the most beautiful words that could exist in Sign Language. Can you guess which one? It happens at about the 48th minute and the movie is available on Netflix.

Tom Hanks reminds us, in the film, of the ASL sign that David Schwimmer also liked so much (see here)

100 Humans (2020)

The Netflix series recreates various psychological and social experiments with a group of 100 volunteer people, sprinkled with some silliness in between. Although the series comes across as original and even enlightening, there is something about the way it is presented that has caused critics to be unkind to it. At the end of season 1 and at the end of its last episode, two girls can be seen for two seconds communicating in Sign Language despite the fact that they do not make an appearance throughout the series

Two girls conversing in Sign Language at the end of season 1 of 100 Humans

Tales From the Loop (2020)

In episode 2 of season 1 in this fantastic Prime Video sci-fi series, two young men swap bodies. For a reason we can't reveal, one of the young men says something in Sign Language to the other young man's deaf sister. You need to watch the episode to understand how important it is to have the ability to give this message in Sign Language.

A young man needs to deliver a message in the Tales From the Loop series, and nothing better than doing it in Sign Language

Space Force (2020)

Absurd comedy series on Netflix that shows in its second episode, season 1, a monkey trapped in a spaceship that communicates with the base on Earth through Sign Language. Although it is a comic scene, the truth is that communication in Sign Language has long been experimented and in Unusualverse we already dedicated an article to two of the most famous primates who communicated in Sign Language: Washoe and Koko (article here).

Scene from the comic series Space Force in which a monkey in a spaceship communicates in Sign Language with the Earth

Dune (2021)

One of the surprises of this acclaimed adaptation of the novel was the use of a signed communication system, a "battle language" supposedly used only for military purposes (see source here). Once again, it proves that Sign Language can be an important creative element in cinematic stories. In the following video you can see all the scenes with this signed communication system (we recommend not to watch it if you haven't seen the movie yet).

Cry Macho (2021)

Who would have thought that the acclaimed actor and director Clint Eastwood would surprise us by understanding and expressing himself in Sign Language in one of his last films at the age of 90. It is a pity that Cry Macho is probably one of his worst films and that they have made cuts and camera shots that may have been intended to hide the fact that Mr. Eastwood must not be very good at Sign Language. It runs about 1 hour and 4 minutes of footage, you can watch it now on HBO Max.

Clint Eastwood in Cry Macho saying: 'He thinks...' (watch the movie for the rest)

Hellbound (2021)

Watching the first episode of this South Korean fantasy series, broadcasted on Netflix, one might think that the story is not very credible despite the good digital effects. However, it ends up hooking and arousing curiosity about its outcome. Episode 4 of season 1 begins with a television news broadcast that has a Sign Language interpreter.

Sign Language interpreter in a TV news scene in Heading for Hell

Minx (2022)

The main character, Joyce, goes to a meeting of a feminist club, where she is greeted with a round of applause in which the clapping makes no sound (it seems to be the form of welcome in the club), to which she responds with a 'thank you' in Sign Language, probably for not breaking the silence of the club. The series is on HBO Max and this scene can be seen in episode 6 of season 1.

Joyce, the main character of Minx, says thank you in Sign Language

The 355 (2022)

This film had great resources, top actresses and very good production, but it was not very applauded by the critics. We can see in several small scenes throughout the film the deaf actor and director Emilio Insolera . He hardly says anything in Sign Language in the film and it is even difficult to understand him (surely many hearing people have not even noticed), but the truth is that he has fit well in his scenes

Deaf actor Emilio Insolera, standing right, in the film The 355

Extraordinary Attorney Woo (2022)

We end with this South Korean series, which has received one of the highest ratings of 2022 on IMDB, with 8.8 points. Starring an autistic lawyer, who has aroused great sympathy among viewers, the character is based on an American scientist diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder. The stories told seem to be fiction but occur in a real and contemporary context, so that towards the end of episode 11 of the first season you can see some news on television interpreted into Sign Language. We could not tell if the interpreter is the same one who appears in the series Hellbound. The series is currently available on Netflix.

TV news in the series Extraordinary Attorney Woo, with Sign Language interpreter in the lower right corner

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