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Kraigmo's avatar

Do Captioning companies condescend down to deaf people?

Asked by Kraigmo (9114points) June 5th, 2017

Ever notice when watching a movie with the captions on… that not only are the words captioned, but there are also additional captions that describe the theme music playing?

Do deaf people find this helpful? Or is it a condescending annoyance because it just adds pointless clutter to the screen?

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8 Answers

Espiritus_Corvus's avatar

Yeah. They do it purposely to offend deaf people.

A big part of the film experience is the music, for example, when it builds to crescendo in a scene to enhance the stress value. Spielberg used that quite effectively in Jaws. Describing this is an attempt to include the deaf in the experience—and for those who had seen the movie when they were still able to hear, will remember that thrilling, or romantic, music whereas they might not without the reminder. I think the deaf appreciate it and it either means something to them, or not. But the experience is described on screen in case they do.

JLeslie's avatar

In my opinion it’s not condescending. It lets you know all the sounds going on in the show.

johnpowell's avatar

Not sure how it would be condescending. I’m not even sure how you could think it was condescending.

The idea is to put sounds into words or symbols.

JLeslie's avatar

I think the OP thought it might be condescending, because for deaf people they don’t hear doors opening, or footsteps approaching, so their real world is absent of those things. If the movie shows the door opening, then the deaf person has seen it happen, they aren’t blind.

stanleybmanly's avatar

The cues on music probably add nuance for those formerly able to hear.

Strauss's avatar

I’m not deaf, but my hearing is impaired by tinnitus, and I find myself relying on closed captions to understand the dialogue.

Personally, I think the more descriptive captioning is a good trend. As mentioned above, it describes “sound cues” that might add more to the scene than dialogue alone.

I cringe, though, when I see grammatical and typographical errors, such as using the wrong homonym (“there”, “their” and “they’re”, for example)

linguaphile's avatar

What is really condescending is the omission of lyrics and this new use of AI captions.

In the 1980s-2010s, when captioning was starting out, and before all the lawsuit over rights—if something was captioned, then all the information was captioned. The debate was on whether to simplify language or type everything, but the sounds, lyrics, all that was included. That just seemed to be a given.

Then along comes the movie “Walk the Line.” I put it in the DVD player and 90% of the movie is captioned as “SINGING.” I went back to the Redbox, rented another one. Still “SINGING.” I remember this distinctly because it was the first time the caption gods made the decision to withhold vital, enjoyable information.

Deaf/HH people have been fighting since but our objections are falling on deaf ears—the movie houses won’t caption lyrics if the songwriters don’t release the rights to the words, even if the vocally sung lyrics and music are included.

Now the new thing? AI captions. Gibberish. I just tried to watch a movie with AI captions and couldn’t make sense of anything. It’s funny that something from 1985 works helluva lot better than 2023.

Then there’s Stranger Things. Their sound descriptions are the best.

JLeslie's avatar

@linguaphile That is interesting! I watch with CC a lot of the time and when they show the words to a song I often find it distracting and annoying, but I often find background music distracting and annoying. A movie like Walk The Line the songs are pretty important.

I hadn’t noticed that the music is not always translated. I’ll have to watch for that.

What’s hard for me is I don’t read quickly, so if I have the sound off it’s sometimes difficult for me to keep up with the reading.

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