An ASL expert points out the flaw in the sign language delivered by the Mad Hatter of 'Alice in Wonderland', saying 'His middle finger should have been reversed.'
Both Johnny Depp and Natalie Portman are accused of making a wrong sign language in Paul McCartney's "My Valentine" music video, but it's the "Pirates of the Caribbean" actor who's claimed to have made "the biggest error." According to expert Jami Fisher, he makes the wrong gesture near the end of the clip.
"For me, the biggest error was when Johnny Depp signed 'valentine' at the end [of the music video]," the ASL Program Coordinator at the University of Pennsylvania shares her thoughts on the matter in an interview with TODAY.com. "His middle finger should have been reversed, so it looks like he's giving the middle finger."
Depp is reported by U.K. publication, The Sun, that he says "enemy" instead of "valentine," but the speculation is cleared up by Fisher. "It doesn't mean 'enemy' though," she insists before adding that the blunder is "not as scandalous" as people reported. "[The video] is not literally English to ASL, it's conceptually interpreted, and appropriately so," she explains.
As for Portman, she is criticized for signing the word "tampon" instead of "appear." Fisher, however, defends the movie beauty by arguing, " 'Tampon' doesn't have its own sign; in context, it uses a classifier predicate to mean 'an object of that shape is inserted'. The video uses a similar classifier predicate with the same handshapes to mean that (s)he 'appeared.' They have similar conceptual representations ... but actual meaning is made based on context."
As to why people complain about the gesture made by the "Black Swan" actress, she reasons, "The disconnect between British and American sign language is probably coming from the British audience, not the American. That's my perspective. For a signer to watch this, they'd probably say, 'Oh these people just learned sign language for the video'."
Despite the differences, experts from both countries praise Mecca. A representative for The British Deaf Association says, "It's great that famous people such as Johnny Depp and Natalie Portman are highlighting the use of sign language." The rep, however, notes, "It would have been nice if genuine deaf people had been used. But it's still great."