We’re Making Good Words Go Bad

So as I’ve mentioned a number of times, we got in the habit years ago of watching television and movies with the subtitles turned on, because when Dennis the Vizsla got to be a Little Old Man Dog he would, on occasion, decide it was Time To Go To Bed, and when he decided that, he would stand in the living room loudly proclaiming it. (His brother Tucker, on the other hand, when he was a Little Old Man Dog, would just hie himself off to bed and burrow under the covers on his own. Tucker liked to take the initiative that way.)

Now, while it’s the case most streaming services and DVDs/Blu-Rays (yes, we still get those in red envelopes) include subtitles that are actually curated and provided by services that, presumably, have copies of the script, it’s also the case that some services auto-generate subtitles based on voice recognition of what’s being spoken by the people in the video. This is not unlike the voice mail transcription function on one’s smartphone, in which the system will, with varying degrees of success and varyingly hilarious degrees of failure, attempt to figure out what the person on the other end of the line was saying.

YouTube is one such service that has the capacity to auto-generate closed captions. In general I don’t have them turned on when looking at YouTube because, really, who needs closed captions for videos of cats doing cat things or goats making funny noises or horses being afraid of rabbits? (Well, okay, that last one has enough talking to make subtitles worth it.) However, I did happen to have the auto-generated closed captions turned on when I saw a trailer at Ars Technica for the new season of Doctor Who, which was good, because for some reason the dialog seems to be mixed pretty low in this video—maybe not as low as in Last of the Mohicans, but low enough to make it a little difficult to understand. And apparently I wasn’t the only one who had trouble making out the words, because YouTube’s algorithm also got them a little bit, uh, wrong.

In case you were wondering: No, that is not your ass* in the middle picture. That is Yaz, the current Doctor’s longest-running companion, now that Graham and Ryan have decided to stay behind on Earth, because Earth is so much more interesting than the entire rest of the universe I guess. I’m mildly surprised that the captions didn’t think that Dan’s name was Stan, and mildly disappointed that nobody in the trailer was singing “Purple Haze” so that we could see the captions come up with “‘Scuse me while I kiss this guy.”

Anyway, since the initial premiere of the trailer a few weeks ago, it seems like it must have been given some actual closed captions, because now said captions include both capitalization and punctuation instead of just one giant run-on sentence, and the Doctor is no longer being all like “Yeah this your ass” while snapping her fingers in a Z formation.

But really, wouldn’t it be pretty badass if she did?

* I would be absolutely astounded if any episode of Doctor Who had ever contained the words “your ass”, not even the ones from the 1970s and 1980s where they would routinely kill off every character except the Doctor and his companions over the course of like a 12-episode story arc.

3 thoughts on “We’re Making Good Words Go Bad

  1. What bizarre timing. I just sent off my complaint to a UK streaming provider today for their awful subtitles (closed captions). In many series, every other line is missing. MISSING! None of the shows have lines to identify that two or more different people are talking. Most of the time songs get mixed into the character dialogue. I’m not deaf, but so many shows are mumbled or too fast and my jumbled up brain can’t figure out what’s what, hence the use of subs. It’s 2021 and subtitles are nothing new. Accessibility in this way should be a done deal. It’s funny to see the odd mistake though, but not fun for deaf people to be left out of watching anything because half of it’s missing. xx

    Liked by 1 person

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