Appropriate Method for Appropriation

Reading Time: 3 minutes

Let’s say it’s a perfect world. How would have the whole “Tina & Paul” Signalong gone down, in a way that has the full support of the Deaf and signing community? Here’s what I think.

paultinasignalongFirst, a little bit of background for those out of the loop – in a nutshell. A cute couple, an ASL interpreter and her husband who has learned a few signs from her, filmed themselves signing in their car – apparently just for fun, impromptu. The video went viral, and now they’ve started a whole “Paul and Tina Signalong” thing where they’re making more videos, being invited as guest performers to various events, and even started a crowdfunding campaign raising funds to create more videos.

This has created something of an uproar in the Deaf and signing community. Many people support them, arguing that it is a positive benefit for more people to be exposed to sign language, more parents of deaf children will be inclined to learn sign language. And many people are against what they are doing, saying they are doing cultural appropriation, making profit unfairly when there are many many Deaf entertainers who struggle to make a living.

What should they have done right, what would have been the appropriate (pun intended) approach? This is my opinion – do you agree or disagree? First, the definition of appropriation and cultural appropriation:



noun: appropriation; plural noun: appropriations
  1. the action of taking something for one’s own use, typically without the owner’s permission.

Cultural appropriation

Cultural appropriation is the adoption or theft of icons, rituals, aesthetic standards, and behavior from one culture or subculture by another. It generally is applied when the subject culture is a minority culture or somehow subordinate in social, political, economic, or military status to the appropriating culture.

It’s quite simple, really. VERY simple.

Of course it’s natural for Paul and Tina to say to themselves, “wow look at all of this exposure we’re getting. Let’s make something out of this.” Nobody can blame them for thinking this.

Where exactly did they go wrong? When they decided to keep the limelight on themselves – instead, they should have looked up Deaf and hard of hearing entertainers who are trying to do this for a living, and turned the spotlight onto them, saying “you think we’re good, look at the BEST.” They could have started a series of videos of themselves learning from Deaf and hard of hearing entertainers, performing together…. the possibilities are endless.

THAT shows true heart for the ASL language & culture.

Instead, when the community started complaining to them, what did Paul and Tina do? Ignored the complaints, blocked them on Facebook, completely disregarded them. What would have been more appropriate would be to listen, to engage and rethink their approach. Clearly, we are NOT giving them permission (see definition above, about permission), with all the complaints pouring in, vlogs being made, and even a satire video.

Now, my philosophy is to adopt an approach of understanding, give them the benefit of the doubt. Maybe they haven’t really looked at it from this perspective – in terms of “how can I turn this around to benefit us and the people whose culture we are appropriating? Let’s work with them and do the right thing; create opportunities for creative professionals to get jobs working with us.”

Latest posts by Lisi (see all)


Elise is a former  journalist turned web developer turned event planner. She is deaf, advocates for accessible technology and ASL literacy, and very opinionated. Her passion is her family - husband Lee, sons Logan and Lucas - and her business.

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58 Responses

  1. Chris says:

    Paul and Tina were trying to start up a non-profit webpage to encourage hearing folks to learn and enjoy sign. Deaf people need hearies to learn sign if they want communication access. How is this cultural appropriation? Paul and Tina are certainly not enemies to the Deaf World.

    • Elise says:

      Chris, it started to become appropriation when they ignored valid concerns that were brought up.

      At least three people told me they were really nice and civil in their posts bringing up a concern, and they got called “haters” and blocked.

      My only point in this article is that they should have realized “oops, this doesn’t fly very well, we didn’t realize that. How can we adjust course so that it’s win-win for everyone? How can we find out more about what the main complaint is, why is it such a sensitive issue?”

      I understand why many people don’t understand how it’s a sensitive issue. That would require a whole SERIES of blogs to explain.

  2. Nancy Sullivan says:

    Thank you, Noah!!!!! I appreciate the guidance.

  3. Gene says:

    I loved it I hope you two can keep going with it !!

  4. jerriskinner says:

    Excellent points Elise. I wish they would put the spotlight on all the wonderfully talented Deaf performers out there and on YouTube that are struggling to get that kind of response.

  5. Tina Jo says:

    Yes, that! Thanks for pressing on!

  6. kayayker29259 says:

    Paul and Tina became a Sensation, with the Sign-a-long, if they make thus a Successful career, they going forward for themselves, I don’t think they stole anything, Paul is Deaf, Tina is his Wife, an Interpreter for the Deaf! The Business World is Vicious, Too much hit or miss. Everyone has to do it for themselves, and see how far they can take it! If they become successful, the Credit is theirs! I don’t know Why; The Deaf have so much outrage on this issue??? All I see is Deaf bring Jealous, hurt, because they haven’t Perfected their own acts! I don’t like all this infighting that starts when the Deaf can’t agree on issues like this; so I will say this; Not everyone is successful, but that doesn’t mean they have a right to attack others for own Failure!

    • Nicole says:

      To Kayayker,

      First of all Paul is NOT deaf. He learned a few signs so they can do these songs as they have said in their own posts.
      Secondly, the D/d ( deaf and hard of hearing) community is that of one that has been oppressed for centuries. Just to get ASL to be acknowledged as it’s own language has been a HUGE hardship for them. For someone hearing to come in and make a profit and a mockery of it is just wrong. I say mockery because Paul, not even knowing ASL and trying to make videos representing the D/d community is a mockery. I feel the author was correct in that they should of given credit where credit’s due. There are thousands of D/d artist struggling to make it why not show them some gratitude?! If you do some reading on the deaf culture and some of the struggles they’ve had to endure you may think a little differently on this subject. The credit is not nor will it ever be theirs. It’s not their language and it’s not something to be flippant about and no one appointed them the people to teach others ASL. Also it’s THEIR interpretation of the song at hand so don’t take some of their signs and think you know a certain sign for a certain word. That’s not how it works. (just throwing that last part in because i’m sure people watch the video’s and think oh.. now I know the word for “ohh ohhh ohhhh” or whatever lol)

    • Tori says:

      I’m deaf and yes I do agree deaf people are jealous and think everything is me me and I believe everyone’s should be equal.tina and Paul did nothing wrong!!! I feel like if deaf people keep being mean,oppressive on people name calling etc and I do not want to be part of this deaf culture that if they continue that doesn’t share doesn’t accept people….I agree the credit belong to Tina and paul and they did awesome! I think the deaf should not attack…everyone share languages and not it and be equal..deaf needs to stop discriminating hearing people and everyone and I’m starting to think I do not enjoy deaf culture much anymore because deaf culture is so mean ,etc!!!! And I wish deaf culture is to stop judging. People and me me culture..enough is enough

  7. Mona says:

    To the comment above mine.. Kayayker29259… You sound ridiculous. That the Deaf are jealous and hurt? Read the article again. If done correctly, they would’ve supported T&P. Paul is NOT deaf but understand.. There is nothing wrong with him signing. It’s the fact that they are trying to make profit for a language that has decades of history and rich in culture. People are outraged because of them not acknowledging the concerns and inviting the community since that’s where it’s from. Instead it’s coming off as greed.

  8. Allison says:

    I’m sorry if you feel that something has been stolen from your culture. I’m sure that wasn’t the intention of Tina, Paul, it any of their followers.
    Years ago there was a Tejano singer named Selena who became very famous for her Spanish language songs. Many people became outraged when they found out that Selena didn’t even speak Spanish. She wasn’t one of them so why should they listen to her? Well, Selena also got the English speaking world to listen to her, thereby bringing more attention to that genre of music. This seems to be the same type of case. People like Paul & Tina because of their fun personalities, not because they’re hearies. Also, try to understand that the deaf community can be a little intimidating to a hearie. But, I’m still sorry if your feelings were hurt. Incidentally, Tina & Paul did post a Signalong video from a deaf camp earlier on their Facebook page.

    • Smurfette says:

      I see your point but Selena’s situation is very different. She was Spanish in her blood and she sung well. I think you miss the whole point. It is not about the song they sign in video. We understand and we don’t care if they were good or bad, same for people having fun sign with music on youtube. Totally fine for them to share the language with people and encourage people to learn ASL. This is about something else that you may not get it.
      T and P posted the video from deaf camp… it means psychological manipulation. They are manipulating the viewers and “fans”. It is a shame that the interpreter knew better than that. Not only deaf people got upset. Many interpreters and hearing children of deaf parents are upset as well. Seem to me that T and P are going too far and it is about them, not about the deaf community. Do you really know anything about deaf culture? Do you know ASL? Probably not. I think Tina is very selfish. Please, don’t assume that deaf people are jealous because they are doing their business. That is not the point.

    • Elise says:

      Allison – that actually is a valid point you are making. The difference is, Selena did not claim she was going to start teaching Spanish to English speakers. Did she? I don’t know anything about her story. 🙂

      • Kell Brigan says:

        Most teachers of Spanish in the United States are not native speakers of Spanish, and are not Spanish or Mexican. This is because two-thirds of the country isn’t Spanish or Mexican. It seems reasonable that a good number of teachers of ASL would be hearing, and that that percentage would increase in any situation where signing would become more common. There are many reasons for ASL to be taught in schools, for example, that are not directly related to deafness and that wouldn’t have any immediate benefit for deaf people, i.e. improved brain functions; like any other second language, it helps people learn parts of speech, etc., in their first language as well; to help people get over primitive avoidance of anything having to do with disabilities; because it’s beautiful intrinsically. And, a good many people doing that teaching would be hearing. I can understand someone saying, “Yeah, but it’s harder for deaf people to become teachers!” but I don’t get how keeping ASL in a closet that only deaf people have a key to is going to help fight discrimination battles, or help people get through college, etc. If anything, it would probably make everything else harder. I don’t know of any other language that’s been limited in that way. If anything, languages are continually in flux as populations interact. The only way to keep them “pure” is to keep people isolated from any outside infuence, i.e. Japan. Is this really a battle between small-d and large-D deaf people, i.e. those who want ASL to happen only when deaf people are involved? If so, then wouldn’t that degree of control over ASL also require that deaf people become even more socially (and economically and academically) isolated?

        • Punky says:

          I totally agree with you, Kell. this is exactly what Ive been doing. helping them become be aware of Deaf Culture, spreading ASL to others, in turn, others are preserving our ASL Culture. We do not want ASL to die out just because hearing THINKS cochlear implants are the way to “repair” our Deafness. we despite voice.. we prefer ASL to be shown we communicate!!

    • Elizabeth says:

      Another difference, other than what has been said already, is that Spanish, while part of the Hispanic culture, is not nearly as closely connected as ASL is to the Deaf culture.

  9. RP says:

    I really don’t understand why people feel the need to bash them. They didn’t do anything wrong. Yes, it would be nice to use this opportunity to spread even more Deaf awareness and ASL…but do they HAVE to? No. Absolutely not. This is equivalent to saying good amateur Youtube singers that become famous are somehow required to recognize pro singers (that they don’t even know) that arent getting enough gigs. Do you understand how this would be a ridiculous thing to expect from people? Nobody owns a language. Language belongs to the world.

    • Elise says:

      RP – In response to “recognizing pro singers” – I was only giving an example, not saying it should be a norm or expectation.

      The problem is not about what they did, or are doing, it’s about how they handled it when a few people started approaching them basically saying, “hey it’s bad politics in the Deaf community to try and make money from sign language, there’s a long history of oppression and profiteering.” All they had to do was open a dialogue and go, “oh wow, I’m learning something new about the community, I did not realize that. What can we do?”

      It’s a VERY sensitive issue, there have been dozens of anecdotes of hearing people profiting from “helping” deaf people when they were hurting more than helping (see my response to the following comment below) in many cases.

      ANYWAY, your analogy is not entirely accurate, because amateur singers who make it big through youtube usually make it big because they show exceptional talent. T&P are NOT exceptionally talented in signing ASL songs. All the hearing people who are going gaga over them is like a bunch of tone-deaf kids going gaga over a terrible singer that’s all flash and pop culture.

      Try this on: in the mainstream, lip syncing is fine in general but definitely not fine when the singers are earning millions from concerts and fooling the public that the voice is theirs. Right?

      I hope that helps clarify. The intent is not to bash, but to go “hey wait a minute, something’s wrong with this picture here.”

      • Kell Brigan says:

        “…oppression and profiteering…? Really? I’m hearing and don’t sign, and this is all news to me. You said above it would take a series of blogs to explain some of the emotions and history behind this discussion. If not blogs, then how about one documentary? Or a book? Seriously, my instincts are telling me this story needs to be told. For instance, I don’t get why it would be a bad thing for P & T (or anyone) to teach sign to hearing people (quoting your remark above about Selena). No, I don’t get it, but I do get that there’s more to this story that’s worth knowing about.

          • Kell Brigan says:

            I’m well familiar with political terminology from activism theory. I don’t think it helps. In this case, no one is an “oppressor.” Everybody’s a human being. I think stories from human beings about human beings would help a lot. All the political labels do is set up a “You’re guilty; we’re victims.” game, which is absolutely useless and destructive for everyone involved. (And, I’m fat, female, disabled, and, now, old, and I know plenty about being on the receiving end of bigotry or having to circumvent or plow my way through other people’s bigotry. “Identity politics” is a waste of time.)

          • Kell Brigan says:

            And, a P.S. about “appropriation…” Finger spelling was created by monks, and was “appropriated” by deaf people. Therefore, I believe all deaf people should either take vows or stop using finger spelling altogether [NOT].

    • Tori says:

      Rp,yes I do agree with you!!!!! No one owns the language…I’m deaf by the way…it is wrong to bash them..they didn’t do anything wrong!

  10. John says:

    Thank you for this insightful article, Elise.
    i admit this is the first time I heard about Cultural Appropriation. I am from Philippines, which is a non-native English speaking country, but where in there a lot who could speak — and sing, albeit exceptionally well — in the English language. Is it considered Cultural appropriation if say, a Filipino singer would win in American Idol by singing an English song?
    Also, as a sign language interpreter who is also into performing arts, a group of us SLIs here are planning to start a series of Signalong videos, to encourage more and more hearing people to learn sign language, which I think was also the outcome of T&P’s video. My questions are: (1) is the increase of people who would like to learn sign language because of the video’s influence not enough benefit for the Deaf community? (2) is it inappropriate for SLIs to be posting such kind of videos? I am now in doubt whether to push through with our plan of doing videos with having that good intention in mind, if only in the end we will be the enemies. Hope to hear from you. 🙂

    • Elise says:

      Thank you John for your thoughtful comment! You’re doing it right, with this first message – opening a dialogue and discussing this. Beautiful!

      Go for it with your plans. Just find a happy medium – invite guests who teach it or Deaf performers, find talent and feature them.

      I believe the main issue is from many years of Deaf people struggling economically and seeing hearing people making a healthy profit off of deaf services, their language, etc etc but they don’t bring the money back into the community or hire deaf/hh people. There’s also a long history of hearing people speaking for the deaf and assuming they know what the Deaf needs. It’s like a white person telling the world what it’s like living as a black person.

      Here’s a case in point — one time I had an idea about doing some kind of a networking interpreter certification where interpreters would be exempt from some of the usual interpreting ethics that make networking with an interpreter by one’s side really awkward. Instead, the networking interpreter would be trained to be more outgoing and aggressive with meeting people, initiating conversations, and introducing the Deaf person. I emailed three agency owners about the idea; two deaf, one hearing.

      Both of the deaf owners responded that it was a very interesting idea, something to think about. The hearing owner responded “well, I don’t know if the interpreting community will go for that.” Really?? THEY get to control the kind of access we get? Whatever happened to meeting the customer’s NEEDS? What happened to creating access? It’s a long tense history between the “advocates” and the Deaf community.

      Improvements have been made, a lot of hearing people are awesome, some Deaf people do “discriminate” – it’s not a perfect world, unfortunately. 🙂

      It truly is a new century and we are making many strides and leaps and bounds, building more trust, better relationships, Deaf people taking control of those decisions about their needs. There’s still some ways to go.

  11. Just wanted to let you know that, in the spirit of saying “you think [they’re] good, look at the BEST” I posted a link to the ASL 1–10 Stories Facebook Page. I called it “Signed songs may be the appetizer, but ASL poetry is the dessert” after I posted “Paul & Tina’s Signalong: Haters gonna hate” yesterday. I still hold with what I said yesterday, but I saw your comment on my Facebook post, read your post here, and agree with the idea of pointing people toward Deaf signers who really are masters of ASL. Owners of ASL? That’s another debate. But pointing people in the direction of Deaf people’s artistic expression? Definitely.

    • Kell Brigan says:

      I checked out the ASL 1-10 link. I tell the truth because I love, folks. It’s not accessible to people who don’t sign.

      This thread, as I understand it, is about ASL as a form of dance, as an entertainment accessible to everyone, not just fluent signers. As an example, the ASL 1-10 stuff may be great if you know what’s going on, but it will never have the same type of audience as for signed song. They’re different art forms.

      An analogy. (This won’t work if you’re fluent in scriptural Chinese, or are blind, but read along with me anyway.) You don’t know Chinese from shinola, but you’re watching a calligrapher paint a scroll. It’s a poem, but you don’t know about what, but it doesn’t really matter, because just watching him paint is wonderful, and resulting scroll would be gorgeous even if it were a shopping list. Next to him, someone is typing Chinese on a laptop. They’re admirably proficient at it. Someone nudges you and says, “He’s typing out a masterpiece!” You nod, and say, “That’s cool,” and then move on, because watching some guy type isn’t really that riveting, masterpiece or not. Is the man painting the scroll doing something less beautiful because people who don’t read Chinese can still enjoy it?

      • In another post earlier, you said: “Finger spelling was created by monks, and was “appropriated” by deaf people. ”

        That is not true. It’s actually the other way around. The monks discovered Deaf people’s signed language/alphabet, and learned it and then (in some cases) used it to teach Deaf people education, since the monks were concerned that uneducated Deaf people’s souls would not be saved and would go to Hell.

        • Kell Brigan says:

          You’re saying deaf people spontaneously created finger spelling? Where’s your PROOF? (Notice, I’m talking about FINGER SPELLING, not some precursor to sign language.) Finger spelling was created by monks to use amongst themselves long before it was even consider for use with the deaf. Pedro Ponce de Leon was the first monk to conceive of using it with deaf students in 1550. Finger spelling was created (or, at least, first mentioned in writing by) Saint Bede the Venerable in the 7th Century. When fantasy-based political correctness leads you to try to ignore history, it’s time to dump the “hive mind” and start thinking for yourself.

          • Adrean says:

            Kell — I’ve seen your comments to other Deaf people in this thread. A few ASL classes do not give qualification to contradict people who are at home in Deaf and ASL culture. Be respectful.

          • Kell Brigan says:

            Actually, I have no ASL classes whatsoever. I am still a human being, and still someone who cares about historical accuracy, especially when it’s threatened by naive political correctness. Calling for proof for an extraordinary claim like this is not disrespect. If you want to be “taken seriously,” then you have to reason and debate like adults.

          • Kell, “debate like adults”? I don’t know if you know this, but far too many hearing people historically have treated Deaf people like children, and Deaf people have never appreciated this, and it’s not appreciated now in this discussion. I am perfectly willing to discuss this with you, but as Adrean Clark says, you do need to refrain from such insults (“hive mind” was another one, BTW).

            You need to re-read the source link you provided us. In that same source link, it clearly says on the first page of the article: “ In Greek and Roman antiquity there are recorded references to the use of the body
            and hands to represent the alphabet…” This predates Ponce de Leon…and oh, by the way, if you read “The History of Special Education: From Isolation to Integration” by Margaret Winzer, it says that Bede wrote about three different forms of manual alphabets used by Greeks, Egyptians, and Romans.

            You asserted that we Deaf people supposedly “appropriated” the manual alphabet (fingerspelling) from the monks. Your own source link and the above book both clearly show that that’s NOT the case at all. The monks appropriated fingerspelling from Greeks/Egyptians/Romans…and we also need to remember that history is always written by oppressors/majority, through their lens. For all we know, the Greeks/Egyptians/Romans could have learned the manual alphabet from Deaf people.

            Additionally, when the monks used fingerspelling to teach Deaf people, they GAVE Deaf people permission to use fingerspelling as a bridge to hearing people’s voiced languages. Deaf people were also TOLD to use fingerspelling in order to learn the phonological system of voiced languages in writing and speech (remember, fingerspelling was often used in conjunction with speech instruction, even with strong oralists like Braidwood, Pereire, Tarra, etc). There’s no appropriation involved in this situation, since we Deaf people have used (and still are using) fingerspelling in exactly the way the monks intended, which obviates your claim of appropriation.

  12. RP says:


    I was just saying I think the way that the Deaf/interpreter community is handling this unreasonable and in a sensitive manner. I mean, it’s just a video. Not a world war. From what people in general have been saying,I do believe that many of their comments they received were from “haters”…not all…but many. It also is the performers’ decision on how to deal with the critiques. I dont know them personally but I hardly doubt they wanted to steal any fame or fortune from actual interpreters.

    Btw, this is coming from someone that is hearing but also very involved in the Deaf community…so yes I can see where both groups are coming from 😉

    • zxvasdf says:

      It’s not about stealing fame or fortune from interpreters. It’s about cultural appropriation. Think about it. If the couple in question were not HEARING or INTERPRETERS, would the video have gone viral? No. It’s only because she is a HEARING signer, along with the aww factor of her husband lamely and gamely keeping up. This is feel good fluff for hearing people who don’t know anything about ASL; they relate somehow, and go, hey, maybe I could learn this. They don’t realize that as an interpreter, her signing skills are nowhere close to the level you find in highly qualified interpreters.

      There are many videos of Deaf people signing songs beautifully in fluent ASL, but not one of them has gotten the attention the Sirimarco duo have garnered. Do you think a gofundme page by a Deaf artist would receive the same amount of cash and attention?

      Deaf culture is the only culture whose identity is entirely based on its language. ASL sprang from the breasts of generation after generation of Deaf who found solace in this shared voice from a world that chose to see them as broken things to be hammered and sawn into place. ASL is precious because we grew it ourselves, and it allows us to be our true selves with others who are like us. To take this, and do it badly while profiting from it, is sacrilege.

      It’s obvious that the Sirimarcos enjoy what they do, and they’re running with a good thing while it lasts, but it’s important to acknowledge and encourage the source of their livelihood. Otherwise, they’re insincere profiteers who care more about personal fame than doing the right thing.

      BTW, even if you’re involved with the Deaf community, you are still hearing. Your understanding of Deafness is secondhand, not experienced directly. Your objectivity is automatically compromised.

      • RP says:

        “They don’t realize that as an interpreter, her signing skills are nowhere close to the level you find in highly qualified interpreters.

        “There are many videos of Deaf people signing songs beautifully in fluent ASL, but not one of them has gotten the attention the Sirimarco duo have garnered. Do you think a gofundme page by a Deaf artist would receive the same amount of cash and attention?”

        -These phrases listed above ,as well as many on this board, do a very good job of summing up the many critiques that the couple are receiving. Whether intentional or not, this makes it sound like “highly qualified interps” and “Deaf individuals” are just jealous of the attention they are receiving.

        Also, yes i am hearing, ( and a CODA and an interpreter). And I still think that to an extent people like me are some of the best for seeing both sides of the issue, as I as I have been surrounded by both cultures since birth. In a both a professional and personal setting. Not trying to brag or anything. Just letting you see where I’m coming from with this 🙂

      • Kell Brigan says:

        First, I didn’t know anything about them when I first saw the video, i.e. who was or wasn’t deaf or an interpreter. All I saw in comments was people upset that the husband was signing while driving. It’s a “feel good” video because it’s fun. I like it because her husband’s “style” is no-nonsense while she vibrant and animated. This would still be funny even if he sang it that way (He’s make a way better Danny than Travolta, that’s for certain.) They’re just people goofing off and having fun. Hearing people watching it are just having fun. They’re not researching sociology or politics. They not analyizing “communities.” They’re just enjoying the song.

        • RP says:

          Exactly the point I’m trying to get across. Too many people are taking this way too seriously. It was just a video. Maybe if the couple had claimed they were trying to educate everyone with the video or that they are master signers this would be a different issue. Until then…they were just having a little fun! Some people seem to think they have committed murder.

  13. Allison says:

    Elise, thank you for taking the time to discuss this issue rationally. Too many times lately, when people try to discuss a sensitive issue, it devolves into name calling and insults being thrown.
    I appreciate knowing your side of the story. I hope that there will be many more opportunities like Signalongs and shows like Switched At Birth that will bring ASL to mainstream hearing culture.
    I’m just beginning to learn ASL but I’ll get better with practice.

  14. Kell Brigan says:

    Great article and discussion. However, the Facebook link on the VAME page is busted! Woman, please! I have people I’m trying to pass links on to ; ).

    I’m hearing (More or less. At 54 and with migrainy stuff going on in my hippocampus, my acuity is getting worse by the day. The good news is, what I think I hear people saying these days is way more entertaining than what they’re actually talking about. Anyway…) The good/bad/weird/hard/cool/strange thing about signed song is that it’s an art form that deaf and hearing and all the tweens people can all enjoy, even if sometimes for different reasons. And, since we’re talking about songs, a hearing person is going to be involved in that project one way or another. I confess, I don’t know of any other performance-centered art (other than stuff with captioning — which we’ve needed way more of for decades, and that includes movie theaters Cinemark!) that’s accessible both for the deaf and for non-signers. I’d be very surprised if there isn’t great stuff out there that’s accessible, but I can’t even think where to look for it. Once in a while, someone on Broadway or locally will do a live play or musical with signed/spoken performances, but that’s usually all or mostly hearing performers, and not usually a regular thing.

    Third: As for Paul and Tina, we’re seeing so many people jump on the crowd-funding bandwagon in all sorts of media & art forms, good & bad & WTF?, that I have little energy left for condemning anyone. If you think this arena’s bad, try being someone who writes fiction! (Maybe you are?) I’ll spare you the wars about “self-publishing,” et al. that I’ve gotten in to, but, the bottom line is that people have to learn to be their own gatekeepers, to pay close attention to the level of vetting (if any) performed by various networks/publishers/producers, to build networks for sharing reviews based on the *quality* of artistic works, and to vote with their cash and their likes.

    Second + Third: the good news is this shows there’s an audience for signed performances. Everything else sign language is, it’s also very, very cool. It’s like kinetic typography for your body! It makes everybody talk like they’re Italian! So, maybe the world needs a few solid reviewers or bloggers or YouTube networks (or whatever other phase of social networking I’m not hip to yet) devoted to hooking up deaf & hearing & HOH & weird hearing (that’s me) people with cool stuff that’s accessible to all of us. Stuff like the Paul and Tina phenom is just another way to bring people together, and help build an audience for those deaf & HOH performers who aren’t currently visible to the hearing world. Maybe, for now, they’re making some cash, but they’re also providing the possibility of free advertising.

    End of musing…

    • Elizabeth says:

      One thing you still have me wondering is how would spreading knowledge be helpful if it is inaccurate? Neither are skilled at signing.

      Also there are Deaf theatre groups around the country interpreted for the hearing, if you are interested in that.

  15. Allison says:

    Why can’t discussions on Facebook be like this?

  16. KRaeh says:

    Okay, I’m a hearing person, once an interpreter now a teacher of ASL on the high school and college level. The way I see it is this… for more than 20 years I have sat back and watched deaf people bash us hearing people for stealing their jobs as teachers. “Why don’t they hire a deaf person?” Well, the answer is simple, there are not enough qualified deaf teachers to do it. They would hire deaf people if they were out there, but deaf people do not fill out the applications. So they will hire from the applications on hand. These places are not going to go searching for a deaf person to fill the job, they don’t do that for hearing people, so why should it be any different for them? If it were not for hearing teachers in the school systems, ASL would not be as popular as it is today!

    We have been told for years that they have the same capabilities as we do. Just because they don’t know how to do something that is entertaining, isn’t our fault as hearing people. I’ve been involved in this community for over 20 years and the Deaf community is always screaming when a hearing person wants to be successful in this field. If they want success, they need to work for it! Why should we hand it to them on a silver platter just because they are deaf. I’m all for having respect for deaf people and their culture, but I think it’s only fair they start to have respect for us as well. If someone like Tina and Paul have a good thing going, why not let them ride the ride… Why should they have to share it? Why can’t they just be happy their language and culture are getting attention? When you talk about performers, there is always someone better out there according to most people. It’s all a personal decision.

    • zxvasdf says:

      Fair enough. Keep in mind that the Deaf are a minority. There can be as many as one Deaf person in an entire town. You might not appreciate the ease you pass through life without a language barrier.

      Most disabilities are obvious. Blind people are blind. People in wheelchairs can’t walk. While they do get their share of disrespect, they don’t have strangers screaming at them because they “ignored” them. They don’t have people refusing or providing odious service at drive throughs. They don’t get mocked at with gibberish gestures. You don’t deal with people getting angry or facetious with you based on their perception of a “flaw” in you. How easy is it to respect a constant barrage of people like that? The worst are people who claim to be supporters but expect you to make do with subpar services and conditions. While it is understood not everyone is as cruel and ignorant, it’s hard not to develop an “us against them” philosophy.

      IT’s easy to stand where you are and call us whiners. And you do. Because you haven’t lived it. So you sign? Go to an unfamiliar place. Try the drive through. Request assistance in finding something at the store. Ask for directions. Spend an entire day speaking with anything but your voice.

    • Kell Brigan says:

      What’s not been said yet is that Tina & Paul are a hit because they are Tina & Paul. (And, this is true, I think Stephen Torrence as well.) What I mean is that they are popular because they are good entertainers. They’re not doing sign with the primary purpose of communication. (In the case of songs, most of the phrases are repeated; if communication were the point, they could sign do phrase, as a bunch of “ditto” marks, and everyone could go home.) They’re people who look good on camera, are fun, and charming, and a little goofy, and, especially, have an individual identity that people can connect with. I’ve been surfing around and following links, and one barrier is that many of the deaf performers I’ve found links to are part of generic sites that are devoid of any critical evaluation. In most cases, the signers aren’t even named. For better or worse, we’re talking about individuals being fans of individuals. Are there deaf signers out there doing really fun videos? Probably. What are their individual names?

      • Adrean says:

        No, Paul and Tina are a hit because of their shiny fingers in the air and hearing people’s fascination with anything new and exotic. Bonus: those people voice in English!

        Meanwhile Deaf people are being pushed aside because whatever they have to say pops the bubble of hearing imaginations.

        That is exactly why most hearing people don’t know the names of Deaf performers — because hearing privilege blinds you. It is not our responsibility to have names at the ready to prove something to you. If hearing people were involved with the Deaf/ASL community they would most certainly know.

  17. RP says:

    Thank you, KRaeh. This is the point I’ve been trying to get across for years. Just because there might be someone better at signing, playing a sport, singing, etc does not mean you MUST reference them or even respond to criticism. If anything, discussions like these are just bringing more awareness to the language which makes me very happy. Bad comments or not

    • Kell Brigan says:

      In response to what RP said, and essentially in agreement with it, I would like to float the suggestion that it’s a good idea to carefully rethink the whole idea of “identity politics.” Thinking of oneself primarily as a member of a “victim group” can frequently result in the rest of the world turning in to nothing other than One Big Oppressor.

  18. Adrean says:

    It bothers me a bit to see comments about the “proper way” to discuss topics. To me that invalidates the emotional truth of many deaf people. We all know that there are some things that we feel in our gut and have trouble expressing — what’s more Deaf people have been indoctrinated from birth by the hearing mainstream that the proper way to communicate is via English. That is emotional oppression for lack of a better word.

    The fact is, who decides what is the proper way to express and communicate? People are messy beings, and that is something we need to accept about each other. Focusing on arbitrary “rules” over emotional truth only supports audism and other oppressive acts against Deaf people.

    That said, yes there is room for open dialogue. It requires willingness on ALL parts — Paul and Tina have shown zero interest in that so far. Sadly that is par for the course.

  19. Evelyn says:

    Would somebody please post some of the names of these Deaf performers? Are they on YouTube? I would like to look them up

  20. Pi says:

    So would it be considered a cultural appropriation if all of the sudden they both are deaf or hard of hearing and still perform this sign-along for monetary profit?

  1. October 18, 2016

    […] Elise. (2014, Sept 6). Appropriate Method For Appropriation. [Web log comment].  retrieved from: […]

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