The Impact of CODA’s Best Picture Win at the Oscars

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Apple TV+’s CODA took home three Oscars at the 94th Annual Academy Awards this past March, becoming the first film distributed by a streaming service to win, as well as the first film starring predominantly Deaf actors to win Best Picture.

CODA (Children of Deaf Adults) is a coming-of-age film starring Emilia Jones as the seminal CODA and the only hearing member in her Deaf family. The movie grappled with the issues of communication breakdowns between the hearing and Deaf worlds, as Jones’ character was torn between helping her family’s fishing business, and pursuing her aspiration of being a singer.

CODA’s success at the Oscars was a big win for the Deaf community, as it served as a way for light to be shed on an underrepresented community. Mr. Brendon Feagans, American Sign Language teacher and Deaf advocate, explained the impact CODA had on him, as well as what he had noticed within the Deaf community.

“The win was an opportunity to show an authentic, current, contemporary cultural event that’s going to make big waves in the Deaf community, and for my ASL students and my Deaf friends,” Feagans said.

Feagans hopes that CODA will aid in the process of normalizing Deaf culture in a primarily hearing world.

“I hope that [hearing people] see that Deaf people are just people,” Feagans said, “[Deaf people] can do all the same things that hearing people can do… and I hope that the U.S. can start to see the validity of learning more than just English,” Feagans said.

Third-year ASL student, Briseida Sandoval, watched CODA when it was released on Apple TV+. She explained the significance of what it meant to her, as an avid learner of the language.

“I loved seeing a movie about a Deaf family appear on the big screen. Not only that, but seeing the impact it had on people who knew sign language, and people who knew nothing about sign language, alike,” Sandoval said, “[CODA] has gotten so many people talking, which has led to more people becoming interested in learning more about ASL and Deaf culture, which is the beauty of exposure from awards ceremonies as big as the Oscars.”

Since CODA’s win, the Deaf community has gained a worldwide spotlight. Progression has been instilled in terms of accessibility in the real world. For example, the inclusion of ASL interpreters was a new feat. at the 94th Annual Grammy Awards, which allowed Deaf and Hard-of-Hearing people to tune in, and experience the ceremony for themselves.

To a community that has fought adamantly for equality for years, and continues to do so, CODA’s great achievements at the Oscars allowed steps towards inclusivity to be taken, representing the Deaf, Hard-of-Hearing, and CODA communities veraciously.