The first time I heard about Children of a Lesser god was in the lyrics of a song by a very popular Spanish band from the 80s, Mecano. It was 1991 and their hit song “No hay marcha en Nueva York” was all over the place, with the lyrics “Como en Hijos de un dios menor traté de hacerme entender a un policía”. I was 12, probably I probably didn’t even know that it was the title of the movie, and if kids seemed like something that may or may not happen in a very very distant future, say the 2000s, having a deaf kid would have sounded like science fiction. But I understood that it referred to talking with your hands.
With the years, my knowledge of film expanded, and I know about the movie. But it wasn’t until 2012 that I put it on my Netflix queue.
That was the year when we got confirmation that our then youngest son had hearing loss. As many of you may know, I am the mom of a deaf 4 year old boy. I came to terms with it pretty much the same day we found out, and I haven’t looked back. My main goal since that moment was for him to be happy. Let me elaborate a bit. I wanted him to be able to communicate, one way or the other, but we decided from the beginning that we wouldn’t use any method that would make him unhappy. Whatever works, has been my motto. Whatever it takes. So far it has worked.
For that purpose, we decided to go ahead with a Cochlear Implant when he was two. He is also learning ASL. I wish I could say I am learning too, but with all his therapies, and two more kids, it hasn’t been that easy. Regardless, he is doing good progress, while learning three languages.
I have a tendency to let Netflix movies linger in our kitchen’s countertop for weeks. Sometimes even months. But none has stayed there so long as Children of a Lesser god has.
As silly as it sounds, I was scared of watching it. It may sound stupid, but I didn’t know what reaction I would have if it hit too close to home. I didn’t want to get too emotional, and suddenly feel sad about something that only made me feel sad for a few hours almost four years ago. I didn’t want to run the risk of double guessing my decisions. What if it did show me a much harder reality than the one I envision for my son? The funniest part is that, at the beginning of this journey, I watched some documentaries, including “Sound and Fury”, which has to be one of the hardest dramas I have ever watched. And I was OK with them. But for someone who, like me, has devoured books and movies since I can remember, sometimes fiction feels more real than reality itself.
I was pleasantly surprised by a great movie, where you see brilliantly acted characters evolve, with whimsical scenery as the background of what could have easily turned into a Greek tragedy. I liked it a lot. And I liked that it showed me how things could have been had my son been born thirty years ago. Or 7.000 miles away. Not better or worse, just different. It shows people still trying to make the best choices possible with the information they have available. People who make mistakes. But I am glad that we are beyond those times when children with special needs were not necessarily “accepted” by their families. My heart still breaks for all those who weren’t. And for those who had to struggle when dating someone from the other world, as in the movie the world of the deaf and the world of the hearing seem to be divided by a invisible line that makes it hard to understand to some that love can blossom between a hearing and a deaf person.
It is a hard movie to watch. There are some things that still stand today. There is still a division, now in the form of some people in the Deaf community who think that Cochlear Implants are an aberration meant to destroy their language and culture, and some in the medical/hearing community thinking that the aberration is to choose not to implant a kid.
I have tried to stay as far as possible from this discussion, and I hope that in the future my son will be able to interact with people from both worlds. That both worlds will become one. But for now, I will just recommend that you see this movie. It is a good one. And even if it wasn’t good for any other reason, there is a brilliant line that sums its whole message, and makes it worth your time:
“Only stupid hearing people think that deaf people are stupid”.