My sister thinks it’s strange that I watch TV with the volume turned low and with the closed captioning on. She thinks it’s funny (not “Ha, ha” funny more, “That’s…hiLARious). I’ve never really thought all that much about it, but it occurs to me that I’ve been watching TV like this for some time now. A few years at least.
Reasons why are plenty, come to think of it:
1) We have the technology, better than it’s ever been (for the moment).
2) I live in a small place and having the TV turned up loud dominates the whole house. Really, it just takes over everything.
3) I have trouble hearing/understanding fast dialogue (i.e. Gilmore Girls), unfamiliar accents (i.e. Harry Potter movies) or languages (i.e. German as well as High Valyrian).
4) Descriptions as well as dialogue: [ominous whooshing] [boisterous chatter] [SCREAMS] [muttering] [whistle shrieks] [romantic music] [LOUD PROTEST] [softly]
5) Comparing the dialogue with the captioning, following along and seeing where they diverge or witnessing how faithful they are to one another is strangely fascinating. Closed captioning can be wildly uneven (i.e. done by people, a service, bots, in-house or outsourced; done for real-time broadcasts, live shows or streaming services) – at times it can be quite daunting to follow, let alone rely upon for transcription, interpretation, translation.
6) There are also styles of closed captions, pop-on/block (words appear in rows/complete sentences with add-on rows as you go), and roll-up/scrolling (words appearing left to right, one line at a time) being the two main ones. Depending on the method and quality, words on screen can move along with the action or ahead of it or lag woefully behind (if they appear at all).
7) Weird questions of censorship: “swear words” (however so defined by those involved, yet their intent is obvious from the proverbial get-go) left out in some places and some shows, but not others. Whose responsible for that? Why do they care? Why would they? Fucking prudes.
All those reasons, and also, because of them, this: a vast and growing dissatisfaction with the way some shows, movies and broadcasts are, for lack of a better word, paraphrased by the closed captioning, and often badly. So badly done, actually, that it’s just wrong. Hacked-up. I can tell the difference, but then I am an abled person whose hearing is not impaired.
All those absent words, all that incomplete action, all those pieces of the story missing, gone and/or rendered completely nonsensical. Where’s the context? What’s the rhyme or reason? Where’s the nuance?
Why set out to do something if only so that you can do it wrong? Don’t be cheap. Don’t make it cheap.
Word-for-word, it matters.