With Echo, Marvel has marked a lot of firsts. Not only does it feature Maya Lopez as the first Native American character to lead a Marvel series, Alaqua Cox is the first Deaf actress, and the first amputee, to lead a show for the franchise.


While there's no doubt it's a huge moment for representation, just how authentic is that representation and what will it mean to disabled viewers?

Talking to RadioTimes.com, social media star Milly Pickles, who speaks online about her own experience as an amputee, said that while she enjoyed Maya's portrayal, she thinks Echo could have opened up more opportunities to educate audiences.

Focusing in on the fight scenes, Pickles explained: "I think it's incredible that she's shown as this strong and powerful character and, despite her disabilities, she's still doing amazingly, I really love that about her character.

"But I also think there was an opportunity to educate people more. As she was doing all the crazy fights and kicking people, I was like, 'She must have been in so much pain filming this'.

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"Even [when I'm] running, the impact on my leg, it really hurts. So with her doing all of this – I don't know if she had a stunt double or not, I kept looking to see if she did when she was doing these shots – I kept looking at her leg. I'm so intrigued. Is she in pain? How is she doing this?

Alaqua Cox as Maya Lopex in Echo kicking a villain. They are in a green-tinted room with a claw machine in the background.
Alaqua Cox as Maya Lopex in Echo. Chuck Zlotnick/Marvel Studios

"I thought it would have been useful if there was a point where, when she'd [finished] fighting, she had to take her leg off and you could see that she was in pain. Because I think then it would have been a story of not only strength, but resilience – because, despite her disability, she's still trying, she's pushing on. We can then see that, but also, obviously, educate other people.

"So I feel like they showed [Maya's experience as an amputee] well – and it's not her whole identity. But then at the same time, I would have liked to have seen more and had more education around it."

Also speaking to RadioTimes.com, Rebecca Mansell, Chief Executive Officer of the British Deaf Association, said: "Deaf culture was portrayed really well and having so many characters who sign in the series is a reflection of the life of the Deaf community which we are proud of.

"We have a language, ASL in America and BSL/ISL in the UK. We can do anything as Maya/Alaqua has proved. However, beneath the glitzy show lies a different reality. Families of Deaf children have, for generations, been told differently.

"The advice given to these families has been biased towards the auditory-oral approach while completely excluding signed languages. Too often this is incorrectly presented as the most effective approach."

She added: "The BDA’s position is that Deaf children learning BSL should be celebrated for embracing a rich and dynamic language that is an integral part of their cultural identities.

"The World Federation of the Deaf (WFD) emphasises the importance of sign languages as complete languages with their own communities, histories, and cultures. By fostering a positive linguistic and cultural environment, Deaf children can grow up with a profound sense of identity and pride in their Deaf heritages."

Calling on British TV to follow Marvel's example, Mansell went on to say: "Like the BDA, Alaqua has been an advocate for better representation of people with disabilities in the entertainment industry. She believes that people with disabilities should be represented in all aspects of the industry, from acting to writing and directing.

"Marvel have done this superbly and the British Deaf Association are calling on the British entertainment industry to follow suit since Rose Ayling Ellis's and Tasha Stones's successes on reality shows."

For both Pickles and Mansell, the casting of a disabled actress was essential.

Pickles said: "Oh my God, I love it. I think it's crazy that in other TV shows, people who are disabled aren't actually disabled in real life. That blows my mind. The people that know how it feels are the people that actually have that disability, so why are you not being used? So the fact that she has been used in this, I think is incredible."

Alaqua Cox poses on the red carpet for Marvel Studios' Echo.
Alaqua Cox poses on the red carpet for Marvel Studios' Echo. Tommaso Boddi/Variety via Getty Images

She added: "The employment rates for disabled people are so low, it's really bad. I feel lucky that I am self-employed, and I have the job that I do. But I have a lot of amputees and lots of disabled people in general coming to me, and expressing their concerns on what to do as a job because, honestly, there are so many stigmas around having a disability.

"I always want to help but I don't really know quite what to do. So the fact that there's an opportunity, and people can see that this is [an amputee in a leading role] here, it gives people hope and will then help them strive forward for more because it's achievable."

Mansell added: "The British Deaf Association (BDA) applauds the casting of a Deaf indigenous character in Marvel's Echo.

"It is rare for Deaf people to land major leading roles and historically, hearing people take these roles on and learn sign language. Having authentic representation makes a huge difference to comfortable viewing as a Deaf viewer. Although we use British Sign Language (BSL) or Irish Sign Language (ISL) in the UK, which is a different language from American Sign Language (ASL) used in the series, I relied on the subtitles for much of the time, occasionally picking up on some of the ASL.

"It goes to show that around the world we celebrate our unique sign languages and being Deaf or an amputee isn't a barrier to success. Alaqua is a superb role model to all the young people across the world to aspire to achieve their dreams."

You can find more about Milly Pickles on her website. You can also find out more about the British Deaf Association and its work on its website.

Echo is streaming now on Disney Plus. Check out the rest of our Sci-Fi and Fantasy coverage, or visit our TV Guide and Streaming Guide to see what’s on tonight.


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