I’m here today with a question for you.
If you watch a film at the cinema and only discover on its commencement that it is subtitled, do you stay to watch it or complain and leave? And I’d best add that these will be English subtitles on an blockbuster film, for example, The Greatest Showman on Earth.
I ask because a lot of Hearing people complain, saying that subtitles are a distraction and shouldn’t be provided and I fail to understand their narrow-minded reasoning.
It riled me a few months ago when I heard about an issue with a subtitled version of Star Wars:The Last Jedi and Hearing members of the audience became vocal when a few Deaf audience members commented on a technical fault that the subtitles seemed to be having. The Hearing complaining about the Deaf exercising their rights under the Equality Act. Hmm…
Whenever I complain about subtitles to cinema staff and believe me, I have done, it is always because they are not working and I’m sick to death of Sarah and I being fobbed off by the “technical faults” every single time. Being given complementary free tickets isn’t good enough because those “faults” will just happen again and the excuses will be the same.
In terms of Hearing people complaining, what gets me is the double standards. If a cinema decides to show a foreign film (not dubbed) but has English subtitles, and people go to watch it, they’d get furious if the subtitles weren’t working because then they will/might not be able to understand the film. What then gives people the right to moan, complain, and get in a huff about cinemas providing subtitles for anyone d/Deaf and Hard of Hearing and them going to see a staff member when there is a fault?
How is it different?
From where I stand there is no difference because the principle is exactly the same. People need subtitles and someone asks to get them working. They’re being helpful, not a hindrance to someone’s enjoyment and relaxation.
If someone doesn’t like the accessibility and necessity of subtitles, and if they personally don’t need them, then there’s nothing to stop them from leaving and easily walking into another film. What’s unacceptable and deplorable is then badmouthing to the audience and cinema about their own ignorance. I remember hearing about the radio presenter Sara Cox watching a subtitled screening and afterwards, publicly vocalising her annoyance about the film having subtitles. What issue did she have with them? That they were actually working for once, that they were allowing more people to enjoy the film….? She might have eventually retracted her statement and realised her ignorance but the comment was already made and people heard her. It sparked two avenues of conversation – those who were furious at what she said (myself being one of them), and those who jumped on her bandwagon and continued to mock and poke fun. How does that increase awareness and break down the barriers we’ve all been working hard to demolish? It doesn’t and it’s infuriating.
We are in the age of the Equality Act, where it shouldn’t be necessary to think twice about granting people the accessibility and accommodations they need. At the cinema that means working subtitles on every film. It also means showing them at all hours of the day, and not just when it suits the cinema. I personally think if someone Hearing complains about the addition of subtitles to a staff member, they should be thrown out of the film, or directed to another screen so as to not disturb it for the people who want and need to stay.
Recently, The Limping Chicken blog started a petition to get multiplex cinemas to dedicate one screen to subtitled screenings. I’m fully on board with this. It’s about time cinemas stop pussyfooting around the issue, acknowledge that their “technical issues” are just an excuse, and deal with it before the outcry worsens. From the little I hear, there never seems to be any technical issues with the audio description for blind cinema goers so why are subtitles for anyone d/Deaf and Hard of Hearing so hard to get right? Okay, the audio description is delivered through headphones straight to the person so no one able-bodied will likely complain, but if an accessibility can be made and to a high level of expectation and standard, then it is not beyond me or anyone else to suggest the same be done for subtitles.
The thing is, subtitles also provide accessibility for people who’s first language isn’t English. Again that means going to the cinema is opened up for a much wider audience.
The more subtitled screenings there are, the less ignorant, obnoxious and facetious people are going to be.
Besides, none of us ever know if we’ll become d/Deaf or Hard of Hearing in later life so there’s no point in complaining about an accessibility that will be necessary for us.
Although my discussion and rant is now over, it’s still ridiculous we still have to fight over the right to have fully-working subtitles on every film.
What’s your opinion on this?
What would you do if you were watching a film with subtitles?
If you were with someone who was complaining about the subtitles, what would you say to them?
Thanks for reading and have a brazzle dazzle day!