The depiction of differently abled people in films has been notoriously sporadic. People with disabilities are seldom portrayed accurately and generally, the characters are very patronizing. It is rare to come across a character with disabilities that is significant to the narrative. Most such characters are relegated to supporting characters or more insultingly, comic relief. Cinema is evolving and more writers and directors are now striving to include marginalized characters. Not conventionally marginalized characters that have been prejudiced against because of race or nationality. Movies have exploited this trope to the extent of exhaustion and most depictions arise out of ignorance or what is commonly known as ‘Oscar bait’.
In the latest Creed movie which explores the exploits of Adonis Creed, the son of Apollo Creed who is trained by everyone’s beloved boxer, Rocky Balboa, a rare depiction comes up. Apollo Creed’s love interest, Bianca Porter who is played by Tessa Thompson in the movie, is suffering from a condition that has constantly been deteriorating her hearing. This was mentioned in the first movie and the writers, keeping continuity in mind, decided to include a subplot which focuses on her condition. Although Creed 2 was a typical sports film which shows an underdog going against a superior opponent, the subplot with Bianca was a breath of fresh air.
Bianca is a struggling singer who is trying to record an album at home while being fully aware that her sense of hearing is fading away. The small nuances which breathe life into a character are all present in Thompson’s portrayal of the character. The constant use of hearing aids, even subconsciously reflects the realistic depiction of someone struggling with the loss of hearing abilities.
Her hearing loss is not just a scene filler. She isn’t in the movie so that the audience feels sympathetic towards their family. She is shown to be dealing with her disability in a quiet and dignified manner. Her calm demeanor is not to be mistaken for passivity, just like her partner Creed, she is a fighter. She hopes to build a career in an industry where without her faculties of hearing, she cannot survive. This does not stop her from trying.
These alternate hearing loss storylines form a key part of Creed 2. The sensitive aspects of her condition are dealt with in a very mature way. There is one scene where she is getting her baby tested to see if the baby has inherited her hearing loss condition which is a very moving scene and essential to the narrative. Her disability doesn’t impede the progression of her life in any way. She fulfills her responsibilities and strives to achieve her dreams. For people who are differently abled, this film must have offered some respite from the general ignorance that has plagued cinema for so long now.
A good film doesn’t necessarily need to have a convoluted plot or narrative. Filmmaking, like other art forms, is basically storytelling. A good story has to be layered and should include deep and nuanced characters. The character of Bianca shows constant development throughout the film and progresses to maturity. When a film encourages viewers to take a free hearing test to check on their health, it has taken a unique step.