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Why We All Need Subtitles Now

posted by Jason Kottke   Jan 23, 2023

Dialogue from movies and TV shows has become more difficult to hear in recent years, prompting many to switch on subtitles for much of what they watch. As this video from Vox details, the reasons for this shift come down to a desire for realism, choices that filmmakers have access to because of technology, and mediocre at-home sound systems on TVs, computers, and devices.

I dislike watching movies and shows with subtitles on (unless there’s non-English dialogue) because if there are words on the screen, they capture 95% of my attention and I find it extremely difficult to pay attention to all of the other things going on — physical acting, cinematography, pacing, effects, etc. Movies and TV shows are much more than plot-delivery mechanisms and all of that other stuff is important! But with dialogue harder than ever to hear these days (and with my mild misophonia), it does mean more rewinding and not watching anything unless I’m in a quiet room or using noise-cancelling AirPods.

See also Why Everyone Is Watching TV with Closed Captioning On These Days, Why Gen Z Loves Closed Captioning, and It’s not you - movies are getting darker.