Over the past few years, the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) has drastically improved diversity and representation in its films and TV shows. Now they show that heroes come from any cultural background, can be any gender, and are not limited to being able-bodied men. The MCU has dramatically improved its representation and appreciation of those with disabilities, making sure to cast actors/actresses that share the same qualities as the characters they are cast as. The best example of this is Lauren Ridloff, who plays Makkari in the 2021 film Eternals.
Eternals is a film that follows ten immortal superhumans who anonymously live among humans and band together to fight Deviants, a species of beings created to invade and exterminate other species. Makkari is one of the ten superhumans living on Earth and her ability of superspeed helps her fight and aid her counterparts throughout the film. On top of her supersonic speed, Makkari is deaf. She communicates through American Sign Language (ASL) throughout the film, her disability is a proud part of who she is. The movie does a good job of showcasing it as a strength and emphasizing the importance of the group being able to understand and communicate with her.
The actress who plays Makkari, Lauren Ridloff, is also deaf, and did all of her promotion for the film using ASL and an interpreter. During one of her many interviews, Ridloff stated, “I hope that this has the same impact on different communities, people who have been marginalized or are underrepresented in this industry.” Ridloff uses her platform to encourage representation for everybody but especially hopes that seeing more deaf actors/actresses in films and TV shows will encourage her sons (who are also deaf) to dream a bit bigger and not feel restricted by their disabilities.
While the MCU still has a long way to go in representing and appreciating other disabilities, Eternals definitely paved the way for other characters. We see this in the Disney+ show Hawkeye as Echo, played by Alaqua Cox, is deaf and uses a prosthetic leg, and Clint Barton, played by Jeremy Renner, uses a hearing aid. Lauren Ridloff and her role as Makkari have allowed for more representation and diversity within future Marvel projects. She made history as the first-ever deaf female superhero to hit the big screen, and in turn, made space for other heroes with disabilities to be seen.