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Eternals: Lauren Ridloff’s role leads to rise in people wanting to learn sign language, study finds

‘Walking Dead’ star plays MCU’s first deaf superhero

Jacob Stolworthy
Tuesday 09 November 2021 09:03 GMT

New film Eternals has led to a rise in people wanting to learn sign language, it’s been found.

The superhero film, which introduces a new set of characters to the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU), was released on Friday (5 November), and made $161m (£118m) in its opening weekend.

Angelina Jolie, Gemma Chan and Richard Madden lead the ensemble cast, which also includes Kumail Nanjiani, Brian Tyree Henry, Salma Hayek and Barry Keoghan.

But it is Lauren Ridloff, best known for playing Connie in The Walking Dead, that has inspired the spike in sign language searches.

Ridloff, who was born deaf to hearing parents, plays Makkari, the MCU’s first deaf superhero. In the film, she communicates with her fellow characters using sign.

According to research by Preply, there has been a 250 per cent spike in searches for “learn sign language for beginners” as excitement surrounding Chloé Zhao’s film grew in the last year.

Search for Ridloff herself has increased worldwide by 550 per cent since 1 November, with “first deaf superhero” doubling its search since November 2020.

Preply, an online platform that connects students with independent tutors via video chat, analysed various search terms relating to sign language using Keyword Tool.

Ridloff’s breakthrough role came after she was cast in a Broadway revival of Children of a Lesser God, for which she was nominated for several awards, including a Tony Award for Best Actress in a Play. 

Lauren Ridloff’s role in ‘Eternals’ has led to rising interest in sign language (Gareth Cattermole/Getty Images f)

The 43-year-old is married to Douglas Ridloff, a poet and visual storyteller who creates original works in American Sign Language. He joined Ridloff on the Eternals press tour. The couple have two children, who are seven and nine.

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Speaking about what her role in the film means for them, she told The New York Times: “It means my two boys, who are also deaf, will grow up in a world where there are superheroes who are deaf. It means they’ll be able to dream a bit more wildly.”

Eternals has divided audiences since its release. However, its fans believe it to be far superior to other MCU films featuring well-known characters, including Thor and Black Widow.

Viewers, however, have been left excited by the film’s post-credits sequences, which introduces not one, but two huge stars to the MCU.

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