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  • Closed Captions: Because Deadpool's Too Quick and Tenet's Too...What?

Closed Captions: Because Deadpool's Too Quick and Tenet's Too...What?

Hollywood writers are even better than you think

I’m pretty sure she can pronounce her own name - source Roderick Eime via Wikimedia Commons

The first time I noticed the closed captioning effect was in the Modern Family pilot, when Phil wonders whether Lily, as an Asian baby, will be able to pronounce her own name. I thought I misheard it, ‘Did he really say that?’, but there it was in the caption! I get that that and other Modern Family jokes haven’t aged well, but I took it to reveal Phil’s idiocy, not as a jab against Asians. Either way, I laughed. Modern Family is 10% funnier with closed captions!

Another time, I was watching a rerun of Boston Legal and noticed that Denny Crane, played by William Shatner, had a hilarious habit of introducing himself, “Hi, I’m Denny Crane” even when he was offscreen. I only noticed this because of the closed captioning (aka subtitles).

Closed captions are awesome, and not just for the hearing impaired. Sean Kernan in a recent twitter poll found that 84% of respondents used captions while watching movies or TV shows. My wife and I started using them regularly years ago as a way to keep down the volume of TV shows we were watching at night when the kids were sleeping, then we got hooked. Now if we watch a movie that doesn’t have captions available, we’ll find a version that does, or watch another movie.

When I saw Tenet in movie theatres, the lack of captions made the movie completely incomprehensible. When it later came out on streaming platforms and I was able to watch it with captions I realized that it was still completely incomprehensible, but I had wasted two and a half hours of my life wondering if either my hearing or my brain had gone offline. At least I would only have watched it once if theatres had subtitles. Tenet is 0% more comprehensible with subtitles.

Tenet is 0% funnier with subtitles - source Wikimedia Commons

Here’s the thing, when you hear something AND read it at the same time, your comprehension rises, and the mental load to process the information actually drops, allowing for a greater appreciation of the humor. The science behind why closed captioning is so awesome is fascinating, but you don’t have to know how it works for it to work.

Deadpool is a great example of a movie where closed captions allow you catch many jokes that are just too rapid-fire to process at the time they’re spoken on the screen. Deadpool is 20% funnier with captions on!

Lines like “I want to die a natural death at the age of 102 — like the city of Detroit”, are so unexpected that the only chance I have to absorb them is through subtitling.

I had another Liam Neeson nightmare. I kidnapped his daughter and he just wasn't having it. They made 3 of those movies. At some point, you’d have to wonder if he’s just a bad parent

Wade Wilson - Deadpool line you might miss without subtitles

I’m saying something funny, but you can’t hear me because I’m wearing a mask — created with Midjourney

I grew up around Bollywood movies that I couldn’t understand. For years I just ignored the movies that my parents watched, but when DVDs became a thing, closed captions were suddenly available and I started watching Bollywood movies like Kuch Kuch Hota Hai and actually enjoying them. The amazing kicker is that I started picking up the language I’d been hearing at home my whole life, but couldn’t be bothered to actually learn. Nowadays closed captions in movie theatres, on airplane entertainment systems and on streaming platforms make a worldwide hit like RRR globally accessible.

More great reasons to use closed captioning include getting song lyrics, getting descriptors like ‘thunder rumbling’ or ‘door creaking’ that you won’t catch if the sound is turned low, and you even get to hear what the other person is saying on phone calls! The benefits just don’t stop.

You may find it a little annoying initially having text block part of the screen while you’re watching. And there are good and bad implementations of subtitling that can make this effect worse. If you haven’t already started, I encourage you to try turning on closed captioning the next time you watch one of your favourite shows, and stick with it for a few days to get used to it.

I hope you try out closed captions and enjoy them. You might enjoy some old favourites even more if watched with captions. Especially Deadpool.

Thanks for reading!

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