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Saturday, September 19, 2009

Jennifer Aniston Plays Deaf in "Love Happens"

For my deaf readers, this is what he says in the clip:
"Excuse me, I'm sorry."
"Hi, uh. Do you remember me from the hallway upstairs? You dropped your pen." [She says nothing.]
"Um. Would you like to have a cup of coffee?" [She looks over his shoulder at a cardboard cutout of him.]
"Ah, right. Um. Well, we could bring him along if you want. Double your pleasure."[She signs her response.]
"I'm sorry. I..."

But what is she saying? What I'm seeing is that she's telling him it will "never work". Can you tell me more of what she's saying?

I'd also like to know what you think of the fact that Jennifer Aniston's character Eloise isn't actually deaf? I kept waiting for the movie to fill us in on how Eloise knows ASL. But that question is never answered in the film. At one point she and Aaron Eckhart's character go visit her mother and I'm thinking "Aha! Her mother must be deaf." But no, that wasn't the case. When the film has been seen in its entirety, the scene with her mother seems totally unnecessary. I left the theatre wondering if a subplot or two were left on the cutting room floor.

One review says "Learn from Jennifer Aniston a smart way to dodge Aaron Eckhart's approach through a new clip from Brandon Camp-directed romantic drama." Oh right, so young beautiful girls will now be learning sign language to discourage unwanted romantic attention. To me this whole scenario implies that there's something unattractive or off putting about being deaf.
Here's a comment from Jennifer herself on the scene. The source is an online article about an interview she did with Good Morning America on September 9th.

During one scene in the movie, Eloise pretends to be deaf to ward off the advances of Dr. Burke Ryan (Aaron Eckhart). Mathison asks Jennifer if she herself has ever pretended to be deaf to get rid of a guy and Aniston replies, "No, I have not, but I thought that was kind of clever."

What do you think?


Jonathan said...

I'm not fluent with ASL, but I do work in a setting where ASL is one of the two languages that are used on a regular basis.

I will admit I had some difficulty understanding what Jen signed. I had to check what other people have commented on that particular youtube clip to see if what I was getting is what someone else was also getting.

That person on youtube said that Jen signed "Clever shutup on chair tomorrow Asia work"

I thought, Jen signed: Wise guy table chair tomorrow _____ work. Then she added tomorrow with an attitude of "see ya later".

However, I'm not sure if she actually signed "guy" because it should be signed closer to her forehead. I can see why someone else thought that she said shut up.

Her sign for table (or on as someone else said) was poorly executed, but maybe it was because she was trying to hold flower with that arm.

I'm totally clueless what she signed between tomorrow and work.

I don't know if this is much help.

Perhaps I need to see the movie to get the full context of what Jen is conveying in ASL.

SpeakUp Librarian said...

That helped, Jonathan. It looks like she's signing "smart a** shut up". Then I'm not clear on the rest but I am pretty sure that she's signing "never" before work.
Don't bother to see the movie, Jonathan for an explanation of the ASL. I went to see it at my girlfriend's suggestion and it was a fun girls night out kind of movie.

SpeakUp Librarian said...

I've watched it a few more times. Maybe she's indicating the cardboard cutout could never sit at the table. Heh.

Deb Ann and Hannah said...

I'm glad she signed in the movie. Well, her signing is really bad.

I tried to understand what she was saying. I guessed that she was saying: "Clever shut-up sit tomorrow work"

I think she meant that she can't join him, and she has to sit and work tomorrow.

Anyway, thanks for posting this video for us to see. Fun to figure what she's saying in ASL. :)

SpeakUp Librarian said...

Hi Deb Ann,
Thanks for giving me your thoughts on what she signed. I'm glad to know you think she signs bad. Of course, I'm not one to judge as my signing skills need a lot of improvement.

Do you think it's bad that she signed to him instead of just saying "buzz off" or whatever?

Anonymous said...

To me this whole scenario implies that there's something unattractive or off putting about being deaf

It sure seems like that to me, too.

Ugh. One more reason to be annoyed with Hollywood.

(Oh, and to my eyes, this looked like completely fake ASL -- like someone pretending to speak Italian by just saying a few random Italian words, and sticking 'a' sounds at the ends of others)

Deb Ann and Hannah said...


No, I don't think it's bad that she signs. I thought it was funny. It's neat. Really. I liked that when she played deaf on him. Thought it was funny.

My mom played deaf when a homeless guy coming and talking to her. I tried not to laugh, but I managed it well. She didn't want to talk with him...just made an excuse to get out.

Dan Schwartz said...

Would have been nice if the jerkwad who posted it to YouTube would have captioned it.

It's probably in the script itself what she is supposed to be signing.

Anonymous said...

Oh, and PS:

I'm not deaf... But I studied ASL for two semesters at the State University of New York at Stonybrook, 18 years ago.

SpeakUp Librarian said...

Hi capriuni,
Welcome to my blog. When I first saw it I wondered too if it was "fake ASL" like she was making random motions in the air. That's why I decided to post and see what others with more experience with ASL could tell me what she was saying. Thanks for your comment.
All the best,

SpeakUp Librarian said...

Hi Deb Ann,
Thanks for writing back. I'm glad to hear your perspective that it was funny, not offensive. Thanks for sharing the story about your mom. :)

SpeakUp Librarian said...

Here's a comment from Jennifer herself on the scene. The source is an online article about an interview she did with Good Morning America on September 9th.

During one scene in the movie, Eloise pretends to be deaf to ward off the advances of Dr. Burke Ryan (Aaron Eckhart). Mathison asks Jennifer if she herself has ever pretended to be deaf to get rid of a guy and Aniston replies, "No, I have not, but I thought that was kind of clever."

SpeakUp Librarian said...

Hi Dan,
Yes, if only...
I'd like to get a peek at that script to satisfy my curiousity.
Thanks for your comment.

ms toast burner said...

"To me this whole scenario implies that there's something unattractive or off putting about being deaf."

I interpreted her signing as a way to ward off the attentions of that man but I didn't think of it in a negative light.

To me, her using ASL is like when I've pretended that I can't speak English when I've been on the receiving end of unwanted attention.

SpeakUp Librarian said...

Ms. Toast Burner,
You've done that! Ha, I guess I'll have to break out with "no hablo ingles" to keep up with you hotties. Of course with my luck the guy would be bilingual and I'd be busted in a minute.
Thanks for adding your opinion to the discussion.

jelly said...

I didn't know what the hell she was signing...something like 'shut up on chair sit tomorrow work'. lol
Apparently her ASL is horrible and I guess it was just for fun in the movie. (shrugs).

I don't think it was meant to be harmful, I think that would be reading into it to much, I think it was meant to be humerous, although personally I don't find it funny. lol

Oh well, that's Hollywood, I guess?

Interesting post.
Oh and I like the new photo of you and Rusty...cute.

Anonymous said...

It's not fake ASL. ASL is ASL, Signed English is Signed English. This is neither of those.

I hope that this scene is portraying someone who "thinks they know some signs and wants an easy out." That's what I think it is all about...

From many years of experience, looks like the following:

SMART/CLEVER BOY or SMART/CLEVER SHUT-UP (hand placement is incorrect: should be in front of mouth for SHUT-UP/CLOSE-YOUR-MOUTH or in front of forehead for BOY, so it could be either) I suspect they meant to say "Shut up dude" - who knows...

She then signs either ENGLISH or NIGHT, but again, placement is incorrect. Maybe a BAD attempt at TABLE...

She also negated it by shaking her head. huh ?!

SIT - she did that o.k. Did she mean SEX? see below...

TOMORROW - clear, signed it properly.

ALASKA with wrong handshape, or NEVER with wrong PLACEMENT! or???? I suspect it was meant to be NEVER.

Then she signs WORK, without the proper movement. Or Habit with out the downward movement... I thinks she says "It will never work."

So, in my opinion, this is clearly set up to be a funny! Any of you that know ASL or Signed English, etc., will see that there is a lot wrong here. A spoof I suppose. Yet for all those hearies, or people that get excited about seeing signing - well, they think it looks cool! If this was meant to make an impact or statement, I would like to think that there would be a consultant on hand. Clearly there was not one.

Smart A$$, TONIGHT SIT/SEX (if placement is wrong on SIT),TOMORROW(with you) NEVER WORK (will never happen)Bad translation/ Interpretation...

$0.02 - my 2 cents or sense....

SpeakUp Librarian said...

Hi Jelly,
It would be interesting to know the screenwriter's thoughts when writing the scene that way. When making a movie, lots of edits are made which affect the storyline. As I mentioned in the post, I kept expecting them to refer back to her "use" of sign language but it never happened. Perhaps I'm reading too much into it.
I'm glad you like my new photo. I decided to make a post about the dog walk where the picture was taken.

SpeakUp Librarian said...

Hi Anonymous,
Thank you for your two cents! I appreciate knowing your interpretation of what was expressed or intended to be expressed. When I wrote this post, I was really hoping someone like you with more ASL experience than I have would comment here. Thanks!!!

Anonymous said...

She is pretending to sign, or copied someone very, very poorly. I got "smart" "shut up" "sit" "table" "work" -- what the hell? Anyway, I think putting someone off by pretending to be deaf is obnoxious as hell, and pretty typically for movies, the whole scenes is audist. His reaction sucked. I hated this scene and I am not seeing this movie. BIG thumbs down.

SpeakUp Librarian said...

Thank you, Anonymous.
Good to see that someone else agrees with my assessment that this whole scenario implies that there's something unattractive or off putting about being deaf.
You will not miss anything by seeing this movie in my opinion. Although to be fair to anyone else reading this, I should add that my friend (who is hearing and romantically minded) loved it.

Danielle said...

I wanted to say I am a fluent Signer and what Jen signs in this movie isnt Clear... and isnt asl or Signed Exact English. In my opinon they really should of taught her the correct signs..

Hope this helps.

SpeakUp Librarian said...

Thanks, Danielle! Would this scene put you off of seeing the movie?
P.S. I haven't given up on Facebook. I'll try again tonight.

bitz said...

i am really unhappy both with the message of this scene and how poorly executed it was.
her attitude while pretending to be a deaf person makes deaf people look stuck up. "how dare you approach me" attitude
then his reaction to her being deaf is to be embarassed? wonderful. thanks for teaching the public never to approach or try and interact with a deaf person.
i know many people have already commented on how poor her signing was, but i mean come on, thanks for phoning it in jen.

for the record, people, it is never Ok, cute, or funny to fake being deaf. it's rude, exposes your ignorance and disrepsect for Deaf culture and ASL, and misrepresents the Deaf community.

this is getting longwinded- but i also find it offensive that the movie never explains how she would know ASL (if the movie did indeed intend for her to look like she knew what she was doing). The general public's understanding is that ASL is something easy you can pick up in a snap. or that it's just like speaking english with your hands. it's not. it's a completely different language. non-native signers spend decades becoming fluent. since this movie doesn't bother to explain her years of ASL study or any connection to the Deaf community, the movie insuinuates she is just another layman who effortlessly picked up sign from a book or maybe youtube videos... it's infuriating.

if anything positive comes from this clip it shows that ASL is NOT easy cuz look how crappy a job jen did saying one sentence.

..the end

GAMAS said...

OMG! Horrible signer, I mean I have seen all kinds and I have been known to be able to read anyone. Jennifer should NOT have taken up this deaf signing role at all. Either that or she could have practice well. Something tells me they used a book or something. ack!

She was saying she can't, but maybe tomorrow cuz she has to work. That is the best I could figure out.

SpeakUp Librarian said...

Hi bitz,
Thanks for sounding off!

SpeakUp Librarian said...

Hi Gamas,
I certainly feel better about not being able to understand what she signed.
Thanks for your comment!

Allie said...

I don't think that this scene is sayin that there is something unatractive about being deaf, i just think they're saying if someone was deaf it would be diffucult for a hearing person who does not know sign language to communicate and hold a relationship unless much effort was given. I also personally wish that they would have written Eloise deaf. I just think it would have made for a better story. It was quite strange to see Jennifer Aniston signing. lol :)

SpeakUp Librarian said...

Hi Allie,
Jennifer Aniston's character Eloise wasn't even going to give that guy a chance. She signed to him then breezed out the door. He really didn't have much time to recover. I think for me it was the look on his face and the "I'm sorry..." that gave me that impression.
Thanks for your comment!

rakeback said...

I absolutely adore Jen and she did a wonderful job in this movie once again. I'm sure she made a few mistakes with the sign language, but besides that she did a very believable job in her portrayal.

Anonymous said...

It could be that its not ASL or exact. Could be ESL, or another varient. Or she could be using slang too. Theres a lot of sign I've seen used that isn't textbook ASL but a regional slang. (I doubt you would find "Yo, yo, whazzup dawg" in a sign textbook, but I knew kids that would use it (and yes they were deaf)).

Also I think its a little rude to expect an explaination for how she knows sign. There are plenty of people who know sign without having to know someone who is deaf. Youd don't have to have a specific reason to learn it same as with any other language. You don't see movies explaining how a girl knows french or spanish or italian.

Also I don't think that it implies that being deaf is off putting by any means. Its just something that can be awkward when someone isn't expecting it. My impression of the scene is that she just made him feel like an insensitive jerk for assuming that she understood him. Which moreso to me makes a comment on hearing people being arrogant in not thinking about anyone else...

but thats just my perspective

Anonymous said...

I know this entry is quite old, but I stumbled upon it randomly and thought to comment on it as I find the topic of discussion interesting.

In regards to whether or not the use of sign language in this manner is appropriate is rather subjective and worth a more critical look.

On the one hand, it is pretty clever and I'm sure there are many people out there who can hear just fine who have done this. Hell, I'm positive there are some deaf people out their who use their disability to their advantage just like this. I know I've faked not being able to speak English when it's been convenient (I also speak French fluently, so if they call me on it, I'm safe :P ). And strictly speaking sign language is just a language like any other. Point being, the situation is relatable and that makes it funny.

On the other hand, the problem stems from the context. She is faking a disability to make herself seem less attractive to the advances of the opposite sex. And we're supposed to laugh about it. There is a lot feels very wrong about that.

Like anything else, the decision lies with the viewer. Either they will think it's a clever throw-away gag, in which case I doubt they are going to suddenly go through the effort to pretend to be deaf when simply telling them off is much easier. What do you do if it turns out they know sign language and call you on it?
Or they will see an underlying subtext that they don't like and they will actively avoid promoting such behaviour in themselves and others, in which case I think we're pretty safe (again) from an increase in people "playing deaf".

And I guess my opinion lies somewhere in the middle. I don't find anything inherently wrong with the joke. I find the context a bit tasteless, but I could see the same joke being used in a different context being quite funny.

Whew. I apparently had more to say than I thought :P

TazKnows said...

i don't think they meant to say being deaf was offputting or unattractive, just that in order to get away from someone you could pretend to not understand (in this case, not hear what they're saying) and then make them think you had to go before they had time to try and convey their message differently.

Grace said...

Hi! I know this is an incredibly old thread, but I came across it and thought I might add what I think.
Given the context, she knows the guy is there for just a couple days. I think what we are conveying as the sign for "sit" she is actually signing "can't"
I think she's saying "clever guy/smart ass. I can't tonight or tomorrow. It would never work."

It's also possible she was going along with the joke and "night" is actually table and she's saying the cardboard version of himself wouldn't be able to sit and join. It would never work.

Just a couple of ideas! As we have already established, it's signed terribly.