D-PAN Releases “Beautiful” by Christina Aguilera in ASL

Anyone remember that ASL music video from last year, “Waiting on the World to Change”? D-PAN has done it again with Christina Aguilera’s “Beautiful.” According to their website, D-PAN (Deaf Performing Artists Network), based in Detroit, “exists to bridge the existing gaps between the deaf/hard of hearing community, the entertainment industry, and the public at large.”

After watching “Beautiful,” it’s quite clear D-PAN keeps improving their idea of how to best translate music into ASL.

I thought their first video, “Where’d You Go” by Fort Minor was awkward to say it nicely–I couldn’t even follow one line with all the lip-synching, signing, and subtitles all happening at the same time, and their cutaways were ill-timed.

The second video,  put D-PAN on the map (they had a cover story in the Detroit Free Press among lots of other publicity). The signing was vastly improved; however, the graphics in the video left me feeling like I had just watched an amateur Powerpoint presentation. Still, the central message of struggle and liberation was clear, and I thoroughly enjoyed watching the signers.

This video, “Beautiful,” is their best one yet. Not only are the signers great, the graphics are monumentally better and are as critical an element of the video as the hands. After reading the lyrics, though, it’s clear D-PAN took enormous liberty in interpreting the song (it reads totally different in English, I think), but you know what? That’s okay! The theme is still there: that words hurt people. The ending is somewhat hokey, but overall it’s a pretty good production.

Now I’m ready to see D-PAN try something different. Sure, I’m fine with Deaf Liberation themes–let the world change! stop putting us down!–but next, try something more edgy. A real rock’n’roll song. Something sexy. Something that isn’t about social justice. I want to see Deaf people try that. Such as Mariah Carey’s “Touch My Body” which is on the top of the charts this week or something.

On a side note, the comments below the video are rather interesting; some are criticizing the producers for cropping out the signers’ heads throughout most of the video, arguing it’s a critical aspect of ASL. I think it’s fine–all in the spirit of experimentation, right? And others are saying, wow, hearing people are not all mean to deaf people. I didn’t think the video made that point, but it’s interesting to see their reaction nonetheless.

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