Lydia Callis, NYC Mayor Bloomberg’s ASL interpreter, is fantastically animated. She makes quite a striking juxtaposition with Bloomberg, possibly one of the least expressive people on the planet. She’s become so popular that she even has her own fan-tumblr, and according to Kambri Crews of the Huffington Post (also a Child of Deaf Adults, or CODA), Callis’ expressiveness is not play-acting at all:
The only harmful editorial I’ve seen in sharing clips of Callis in action aren’t criticizing her or her skills or uncovering a widespread hatred of deaf people or their language. Nope, they love her and are fascinated by ASL. Instead, their “negative” comments are borne from unfamiliarity with ASL as a language assuming Callis is being “over-animated” or hopped up on Red Bull.
For example, these folks on Huffington Post, excited to share her awesomeness said she’s “mugging for the camera and gesturing wildly“. If you read the full post, you’ll quickly surmise they are big fans of Callis. But in their description of her interpreting, they show their ignorance on how ASL works.
We speakers of ASL know that her exaggerated expressions are key to conveying tone, meaning and emotion. DUH! Sure, it’s a bit lazy on the writer’s part to not research something before making comment. They meant no harm. It was a fun piece. What’s to research? I get it. But many, probably most, people who aren’t familiar with ASL don’t realize Callis’ emphatic signing is an essential attribute of the language.