(First, HI CHANTAL!)
Alright, now let’s start Sarah’s regularly scheduled blog post!
As I mentioned in last week’s post, I watched A Quiet Place and loved it. It was scary and so incredibly well done with its portrayal of familial love, determination, and probably the best and most surprising thing is that the movie is told almost entirely through American Sign Language with subtitles on the screen so that audience members know what the actors are saying to one another. I think during the entire movie there was only 10-15% dialogue, everything else was communicated through ASL and subtitles translating the ASL.
This weekend I saw Isle of Dogs (AND LOVED IT) and, since the movie is set in Japan, a lot of Japanese actors were used who speak their lines in their native language. Most of the time these lines are translated in English and most of the movie does communicate using the English language, but some parts aren’t. The lines are said in Japanese without closed captioning, and it is up to the audience to watch how the characters are communicating with their body language and vocal tones to figure out what they are saying.
Personally, I think Isle of Dogs could have benefited a lot by using subtitles like A Quiet Place. I know it’s an American-made movie, but it is heavily inspired by Japanese movies and goes so far as to cast white actors in the roles of Japanese characters. Considering Japanese actors were hired to voice some Japanese characters, it makes no sense why an all Japanese cast couldn’t be hired to do the voice work with subtitles being present to translate. Well, it does make sense. Wes Anderson is a big name American director and a big name director needs big name American actors.
But the subtitles in A Quiet Place and the lack of it in Isle of Dogs got me thinking about how we tell stories and who we want to tell stories for. I read a post recently on Twitter or Tumblr (I can’t remember where) that focused on how important A Quiet Place was because it is accessible to deaf movie goers, and it was the first time I realized how inaccessible movies are. As a privileged and able-bodied person, I am usually completely unaware of areas of inaccessibility around me. Before reading that post, I had never thought about the inaccessibility of watching a movie and how it can in part be fixed so easily with subtitles.
Now, it’s very easy (and again, privileged) to say that deaf movie goers or people who need subtitles to watch a movie can just wait for the movie to go on DVD/Blu-Ray/Netflix/etc. and use subtitles to watch it from the comfort of their own home, but we all know it isn’t the same. Sure, watching a movie at home is fun in its own way, but there’s something about going to see a movie with friends, of enjoying it together in a crowded theatre. There’s some sort of atmosphere, some collective of a movie theatre that makes it enjoyable in its own way.
Why can’t everyone experience that?
Why aren’t movies shown with subtitles? It’s such a simple solution that could make movies so much more enjoyable for so many people, and we haven’t done it. I have no idea why either, is it because of able-bodied people like me who just don’t think about it? Is it because so many people complain about accidentally turning the subtitles on while watching T.V.? Subtitles are something that moviegoers can easily get used to, and if it makes it more fun and accessible for other people, then why not do it?
I don’t have any answers, and I don’t know if there actually is a way to fix it. You could write up a petition on Change.org, get your quota of signatures, and let the Cineplex and other movie companies say “That’s cute” to all your signatures and all the people who want change but ultimately do nothing about it. You could write to the papers, do a news report, make a blog post to get the message out there, it’s a start. And people might read it and they might agree with you, but how do you actually get things to change? What do you have to do to get people to listen?
I’m still figuring that out.
(Screenshot of A Quiet Place found here.)