As a Street Fighter lore theorist, I have come up with theories that I have had to change to fit the evidence or otherwise drop altogether. Normally, this wouldn’t be an issue. However, there was a theory I’ve written in the past that I felt was just not complete. There was enough scientific evidence to build up a case but my conclusion was, I felt, lacking. The theory itself is one of my least known, and probably for the best, as despite the amount of research I did put into it, it ultimately led to nothing.
For close to two years, I have pondered my original theory looking up more information as I went. There was more evidence I could find where I could make a case, but I still have not found the conclusive, canonical, in-game element I have been looking for to be confident in my conclusion. So I kept this theory under wraps until the right time came.
The time has come, and I feel that despite my lack of a smoking gun, perhaps one of my readers will be able to provide the canon link I’ve been missing that will finally put my white whale to rest.
The original theory was written in 2018, shortly after Event Hubs featured the theory that started it all: The Truth About G and Q? I have pitched several theories to them over the years in hopes of being featured again, and this was one of them. Which one was it? In this theory, I examined my hypothesis on a character originally from Street Fighter III and I asked one question: is Elena deaf? https://manestreet.home.blog/2019/02/20/elenas-genetic-condition/
Elena had several signs that pointed to her having a mild form of a rare genetic disorder called Waardenburg syndrome. There were two key characteristics I pointed out. The first was that she was a white-haired, blue-eyed black woman. The most distinct feature of someone with Waardenburg syndrome is that the person has white hair and blue eyes. In Africa, there are several cases of children who were born with blue eyes, all of whom have the condition, and while it appears to be more prevalent in people with lighter complexions, white hair is prominent among those who have it.
The other key characteristic of Waardenburg syndrome was gradual deafness. I had concluded that Elena wasn’t deaf because of a scene in her Ultra Street Fighter IV intro. She seems to be able to hear just fine considering she is able to hold a conversation with her father. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t6VEHRrJ4gs
The thing is, looking back on it, this didn’t really prove anything. The idea that she could hold a conversation with her father only meant that she was able to verbally communicate, not that she could hear what he was saying. Also, while she can clearly articulate, there’s at least one instance in the media where a character is deaf and can convincingly pretend they aren’t: Dave Lyons (played by Gene Wilder) in the movie “See No Evil, Hear No Evil”. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_Io8x2_whJQ
Since there isn’t really a definitive moment that can prove that Elena is 100% deaf, instead we’ll have to look at the evidence that is there. Since Elena can verbalize full sentences, we can start with one of the more subtle pieces of evidence: her accent.
As Fandom states, Elena “has an unusual accent, which she refers to as something she got from her travels around the world in one of her win quotes in 3rd Strike.” The quote? “My accent? I must have picked it up during my travels!” https://streetfighter.fandom.com/wiki/Elena
Considering a person tends to keep their primary accent wherever they go, it seems a bit unusual that she herself would acknowledge it as foreign in the first place. She could have just said that she was Kenyan and let it be. It could be argued that Elena’s accent, as heard in her intro above, is Kenyan, or at least Kenyan-sounding. However, as Fandom also points out, “Elena’s voice actress speaks English with a Japanese-Australian accent, despite the character being Kenyan.” https://capcom.fandom.com/wiki/Elena
If Elena is deaf, then it would make sense that her accent is different from the other people in her tribe. She would have no idea what a Kenyan accent sounds like and would let her imagination fill in the gaps.
“Wait!”, you say. “Fandom also states, ‘Elena is also able to hear and comprehend various rhythms as well as the voices of the wind and trees.’ Wouldn’t that automatically discredit your theory?” Actually, no. In fact, there are many instances of where she claims to be able to hear and listen. Her Street Fighter IV intro is one. There’s a non-canonical instance she claims to be able to hear as well: her and Dudley’s Street Fighter X Tekken ending. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IkzR8mGZxkc
Elena approaches Pandora without caution and places her ear close to the box. She claims that it does not give off a bad vibe and that she is able to hear its rhythm. What I find very interesting is that this is something similar to what a famous composer once did in order to hear the notes he was playing. Ludwig von Beethoven, who suffered hearing loss, would press his ear to his piano to try to hear what he was playing, even going as far to hold a stick in his mouth and pushing it into his instrument to get even the faintest of sounds. So if Elena is deaf, then it stands to reason that she didn’t get up close to hear Pandora, but to FEEL it. She can feel the vibrations of the box and can judge in that way whether it was a threat.
As for her canon appearances, she talks all the time about how she can feel rhythm rather than hear it. Several of her win quotes allude to this. If Elena cannot hear what’s going on around her, then the way she perceives things would be different as, for her, hearing and feeling are exactly the same. She may not be able to hear the sounds, but she can feel them, and can still differentiate the sounds based on how they feel – for example, a human voice would feel distinctly different from the crash of an ocean wave. https://streetfighter.fandom.com/wiki/Elena/Quotes
This is also why she can perceive the emotions of the trees around her village. By feeling rather than hearing, and considering that trees are silent to human ears, she can judge what the trees are feeling as well as determine if there is a threat on the horizon.
Let’s say that you’re not convinced after all of this, though. Then there is one last thing to consider: if Elena can hear, she won’t be able to hear for very much longer. As I stated above, Elena shows signs of Waardenburg syndrome, and one of the symptoms is gradual hearing loss. Elena’s hypersensitivity to sounds could then instead be categorized as auditory hallucinations. As revealed in the abstract of the article Auditory Hallucinations in Adults With Hearing Impairment: A Large Prevalence Study, “auditory hallucinations are common among patients with hearing impairment, and increase with impairment severity.” https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/29554989/
While auditory hallucinations are also a factor of schizophrenia, Elena shows no other signs of it. She has good mental health and is able to function normally. As the princess of her tribe, the idea that her father entrusted her with going into the Street Fighter IV tournament alone is telling – a person who would be considered crazy would not have been chosen to represent an entire village.
This brings up another scenario: Elena would have to hide her affliction because she is literal royalty. Being deaf would be a handicap in a fight, and someone with malicious intentions could use this to their advantage, whether to kill her or even try to usurp her throne. On the other hand, a person who has all of their basic senses would be seen as a capable fighter with no obvious weaknesses to exploit. This would mean that staying quiet about being deaf would be in Elena’s best interests – it would ensure she wouldn’t be a target.
Finally, as I stated in my previous Elena theory, her theme song would have a deeper meaning. “Beats In My Head” would literally mean that the beats and rhythms she hears are all in her head – she may enjoy music, but she can only feel the rhythms of it and has to imagine what it sounds like. It doesn’t seem to affect her as much as one would think, but she can’t allow it to.
The beats, and her secret, must stay in her head.