Academy Award winning actress Marlee Matlin, who is deaf, called out “Saturday Night Live” for its parody of New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s sign language interpreter Lydia Callis, calling the skit “childish” and “insulting” to the deaf.
Callis went viral last week after her animated expressions caught the eye of those watching television for Bloomberg’s updates on Hurricane Sandy.
Matlin, a member of the National Associated of the Deaf, said poking fun at deaf people is appropriate parody, but their language, American Sign Language, should be off limits.
“Millions of deaf people use sign. Why poke fun/fake it? Poke fun at ME but not the language. Would they do that to Spanish or Chinese? FAIL,” Matlin, 47, wrote on her Twitter account, where the “Celebrity Apprentice” finalist and Oscar winner has more than 244,000 followers.
“I'm referring to sign language parodies. Sign is not mime; it' is a legit language. That's why I developed an App #MarleeSigns to teach it,” Matlin continued. “As I've said, I don't mind fun poked at me, as I poke back. But at the language, that millions use? It feels childish and insulting.”
In the “SNL” skit, Callis’ animated expressions are mocked by SNL actress Nasim Perdad, who uses fake signs to act out Bloomberg’s words, such as pretending to hold a hose for “firemen” and shooting guns for “police officers.”
“Here's my point. Deaf people HAVE a sense of humor. Ever see me on Family Guy or Seinfeld? But faking signs that we use isn't the same,” Matlin wrote. “Imagine if a show started making fun of Spanish (using fake Spanish) or Japanese. Do you think they'd actually get away with it? Uh, no … The jokes about sign cold be funny if done right.. Seinfeld, Family Guy, My Name is Earl WERE funny. This stuff is just dumb.”
Matlin took one final shot at “SNL” before going to sleep Saturday night.