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Deaf Humor and Intersection of Disabilities in Deafies in Drag's videos

helenaff's picture

Deafies in Drag’s videos are a mix of deaf and general humor. The video “Nine Worst Interpreters!” falls more under the general humor category, presenting over the top caricatures of irresponsible, unreliable, and boring interpreters. It reminded me of caricature-based sketch videos by other YouTubers like Lilly Singh. However, there are details in the video that stood out as significant because of some background knowledge I have about ASL and deaf culture (and there’s undoubtedly tons more that went over my head!) The most interesting thing that I noticed was that relatively half of the portrayed caricatures don’t use their facial expressions for signing, which is very telling to how important facial expressions are when effectively communicating in ASL.

However another video that I watched, “FAKE INTERPRETERS!” is much more saturated in deaf culture/humor. The premise of the video is that the 2 (deaf) drag queens break into an interpreter's office and receive a video call from a deaf client who needs the interpreter to make a phone order for them. The drag queens prove themselves to be incompetent as interpreters, and so the client (after being very patient) insults them, signing “I’m sorry that you have tourette’s syndrome.” After this a full on signing fight ensues, because of course, “Did you see what she said?”

It took me a bit to figure out the set up of this video, because having to contact an interpreter to make a phone call is not a part of my everyday life like it can be for folks in the deaf community.

But more importantly, this connects to what Franny said in class about how deaf culture has ableist elements to it. The use of Tourette’s suggested the queens’ signing was sloppy and unprofessional, at the expense of another disabled group. This use of Tourette’s as an insult and the catalyst for conflict really surprised me, because it challenged the idea of a coherent disabled community where disabled people are respected, regardless of their particular disability.