The Rocky franchise has broken the Hollywood mould by confronting big-screen stigma of hearing loss, says Oliver Lamb.
This week the seventh installment of the renowned Rocky boxing movie franchise hits cinema screens, serving up a series of wince- inducing fight sequences for both die-hard fans and a newer audience too young to remember the originals.
The champ that really caught our attention in the movie, however, was the musician living with progressive hearing loss played by female lead Tessa Thompson. It stands out as one of the rare occasions a reference to hearing loss makes it into mass popular culture.
Speaking about her character in a recent GQ magazine article, she said: “There’s a parallel, in the sense that boxers have a shorter lifespan in this thing that is their complete, you know, passion. And there is something about Bianca kind of having a limited lifespan in her pursuit [of a career in music] because of her deteriorating hearing loss.It made her feel kind of like a perfect counterpart to what he faces”.
Hearing loss doesn’t get much screen time in Hollywood – despite 15% of the world’s population having some level of hearing loss* . Tessa suggests that the insight to show a new angle on hearing loss stems from Director Ryan Coogler, whose fiancé is a sign language interpreter. As ever, increasing knowledge about hearing loss and exposure to the issues surrounding can help to confront stigma and start to normalise a more positive attitude to hearing health.
This stigma is not just a Hollywood problem, but a society problem. At the NCHA we try and combat this by working with all stakeholders to make sure hearing health becomes a social norm in much as the same way eye and dental care are today. It will however take more than health policy and enlightened film-makers to battle the barriers in the way of normalising hearing health. It is a fight we are all willing to fight and a little bit of back up from Rocky is never a bad thing.
Read the full interview with Tessa Thompson by GQ Magazine