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Netflix Subtitles Suck

Netflix is my only form of television. I don’t have broadcast, cable, or satellite. I don’t even have any other streaming services. Until recently, I didn’t have the ability to play any of the DVDs I own. I love Netflix. I prefer to any other form of television, but I have a bone to pick with them and it can be summed up in one word: subtitles.

Why They Matter to Me:

I’m not hard of hearing or deaf, but I do have comprehension problems. I typically need two forms of taking in information to understand that information quickly. I tend to repeat what people say to me to confirm what I’ve heard. It’s called echolalia. I tend to reread the same sentence three or four times. So it makes it much easier for me to understand and follow a movie or T.V. show if I can read and hear the dialogue. I can barely stand to watch movies and T.V. shows without subtitles or captions. I’m not big on watching foreign films because of this. I’m not the only person who needs subtitles or captions to fully enjoy television. Those who are hard of hearing or deaf need it even more than I do. A customer who needs this service needs it to be accurate to get the same experience as those who don’t need it.

Problem One: Inaccurate Subtitles

Some shows and movies on Netflix have a very high rating for error in their subtitles. Arrow is the first to come to mind. In one episode, Oliver with his back to the camera says “Thea, I have something to tell you.” but the subtitle says something else entirely. The majority of the time this happens with voiceover or back to the camera shots. This means anyone who is deaf is getting a completely different dialogue than someone who can hear. That’s crazy. Where do these subtitles come from if not from someone watching the show? Most likely they come from a script that the subtitling company was given. It’s a very lazy way of doing subtitles.

Problem Two: Weirdly Placed Subtitles

The show on which this happens the most is American Horror Story. Weirdly, the subtitles are off to the bottom left and some of them are missing, suggesting that the placement of the subtitles has some of them not on screen. Again, it’s like no one watched the show with subtitles to see if the work they did was well done. It’s called proofreading. I do it even months after I’ve posted an article just to make sure I caught all my mistakes. They don’t seem to care to check for mistakes once the subtitle update goes live. Much like Microsoft and how they could giving a flying fart if millions of people find “Dark Grey” a sarcastic taunt and still an extreme eye strain. But I digress. On titles like Lost and Arrow that have people speaking in non-English languages with embedded translation subtitles, it’s kind of strange and infuriating to see [speaks Korean] over the translation of what Jin is actually saying. Thank you so much Closed Captioning Services, Inc.

Problem Three: A Lack of Foreign Translation Subtitles

Closed Captioning Services, Inc. screws us in another way. My favorite scene in all of Lost is in “Exodus Part 1” wherein Jin and Sun reconcile when she gives him the translations from Korean to English. But Netflix says “Screw That!” because there are no embedded subtitles nor Netflix subtitles for that scene. I went online to YouTube to find the scene with subtitles because it was an itch I could not scratch. But this isn’t the only title with this problem. In Galaxy Quest you can’t see what the weird, childlike aliens are saying (though you can if you watch it on T.V. or DVD). Then there is The X-Files which has so many scenes with people speaking so many different languages. Not a single damn translation. Half the episodes of American Dad with Toshi don’t have translations. This is the most infuriating as these subtitles are part of the title. A year or so ago, Netflix did something different with the subtitles and suddenly these translations were gone. This effects everyone who doesn’t speak those languages.

Problem Four: Too Many Foreign Translation Subtitles

In some scenes of Lost (Closed Captioning Services, Inc. strikes again!), we get the embedded subtitles and Netflix subtitles at the same time. This is rare, but it’s kind of hard to read one or the other when they are on top of each other. I’m not even sure how something like this could happen. Is it really so hard to erase all the embedded ones and replace them or how about this? Don’t erase any of the embedded subtitles! Leave them alone. They are part of the title.

Problem Five: The Runaround

Why am I airing my grievances here on my blog instead of to Netflix support? Because every time I report an issue with the subtitles, they don’t seem to care, to have an answer, to understand what I’m talking about, or tell me “they don’t have the rights to those foreign translation subtitles” which sounds like a joke. I’m tired of them not fixing these issues. If they outsource their subtitles, then they should look to hire some other company. If they are in house, then they should fire the person in charge, because they sure do screw up a lot.

Problem Six: Spending Time Doing New Things No One Wants, Instead of Fixing the Problems

Recently, there have been a lot of changes to Netflix. At one point they changed the Recently Watched to Continue Watching. Anything we had watched to completion like a movie would disappear from this list. I hated this change. Upon it happening, Netflix customer support immediately heard how much I disliked it, until they brought back the things I had already watched. Why would it bother me? Because I may watch a film four or five times in a week and I don’t want to go searching for it every time. Netflix most likely has direct data showing that lots of customers do this, so why take away the easiest way to rewatch a title? Now that they’ve put finished titles back in the list, that list order is all messed up. They aren’t in order of most recently watched like before. They are in a random order. Another change is that now when I finish a movie or all the available episodes of a show, Netflix automatically starts playing another title at random. I hate autoplay features, especially those I can’t turn off. I don’t want to watch Mission Impossible II, and Netflix can’t make me. It’s a stupid movie anyway. Then once, I went to play a title and Neflix played a trailer for another title beforehand. I’m sorry, when did Netflix turn into Hulu? (Burn!) They also have a stupid feature that skips Previously Ons and themes that can’t be turned off, even on titles like American Dad and Futurama that have a new and different joke during each opening theme. Once it skipped a Previously On which was fake from The Venture Brothers. Someone isn’t paying attention.

All of the changes came after the first time I brought up the subtitle problems to the customer service, so why did they waste time on these features no one wanted (because come on!) instead of fixing the problems? I know Netflix has caught crap before for censoring subtitles on shows like Breaking Bad, but that was a decision they made (and countermanded), these are almost all mistakes brought on by laziness, incompetence, and/or apathy. Another problem like this is how the video will not load but the audio will start playing for about ten seconds. Here’s an idea: don’t start playing the title until you are ready to play the title. Just a thought. All these problems or features are not an issue on every streaming device. For example, the Windows 8 app freezes the first subtitle and won’t load the rest, but through a browser this isn’t an issue. So don’t think because you aren’t seeing one or more of the problems I’ve mentioned that they don’t exist and that I’m crazy. It’s a matter of who is in charge of subtitles for each device. Different devices require different encoding, so different problems will happen. In fact, you may have noticed problems I haven’t mentioned, like incomplete subtitles (I know those exist).

Now, don’t get me wrong. Out of all the streaming services, Netflix is my favorite. I prefer it over any other. So why am I complaining? Because I don’t want it to get worse. I’ve seen changes that are moving away from what makes Netflix great, and I want Netflix to acknowledge and fix any existing problems brought to their attention by their customers. Otherwise, they are just turning into Hulu. Ooo, burn. Again.

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Posted by on June 25, 2015 in Uncategorized

 

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I Care About Your Work Not at All: When Characters are Not Interesting

 

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Yes, Google Tell Me

Recently, my husband started watching this show. My interest in this show was satisfied by two Google searches: 1) Who killed Rosie Larsen?, 2) Why did so-and-so kill Rosie Larsen? Now, I can continue not to care. Why so apathetic? says flat mouthed Joker. Well, no character was remotely interesting, and I didn’t like Twin Peaks the first time I saw it. Dual Spires was much more compelling (Yahtzee voice: Look it up!–Look him up!).

It’s not just this show that lacked any characters I could pretend were real people. After finishing all seven seasons of Supernatural, I wanted a new show to watch on Netflix (I do not have cable so shows are like days long movies that I watch until responsibility knocks, pesky jerk). I also tried Once Upon a Time–blech, then Terra Nova–rage quit, Being Human (U.S)–heavy sigh, then finally found something that peaked my interest in American Horror Story: Murder House.

Once Upon a Time (in Mexico? No, Storybrooke. Oh, I see what you did there, clever beyond repair) was half interesting, as in the current timeline was interesting but the fairy-tale land scenes were so unwatchable I felt my eyes needed Windex for all those horrible sets, costumes, and hair. Terra Nova was infuriating. Now the rant tangent begins (feel free to skip it):

Okay, end of the 22nd Century and the Earth is basically a ball of dust that rivals Mars in desert sunsetscapes. Humans are on the brink of extinction because they screwed the planet like it was a watermelon (picture it!), and to keep things going until maybe the problem is fixed there are population caps. Our main characters say “Screw you” to everyone else on the planet by having a third kid, and I’m supposed to like these jerks? Nuh-uh. Oh, but wait, they hop an illegal ride to the past so they can live together because since they broke the law the government is mad at them. But wait, there’s more (says the late Billy Mays)! When asked why they had a third child, dad says “It seemed like a good idea at the time.” Why? because you didn’t have a futuristic condom good enough and had to get your rocks off just then? because you hated everyone else on the planet? No answer? Fine! Then their teen-aged son starts acting like a self-absorbed jackass, and his parents get mad at him. Seems the apple doesn’t fall far from the self-absorbed jackass tree. And I’m supposed to root for these people? Suck it, Terra Nova.

Rant done. Being Human, one word: predictable. And, this is a big one, the vampire kills somebody within the first five minutes which was a totally avoidable action. He could have not tried to get laid. He could have pushed her off when he was having trouble and said something like “I’ve got to go to the bathroom” and pretended to have diarrhea (so less embarrassing than figuring out what to do with a dead body). But noooo, he’s got to try to get some. (Note: This scene represents what would have happened on Bella and Edward’s wedding night had the work been realistic.) And I’m supposed to root for him? Suck it, Being Human.

It’s not just T.V. shows that can lose me if the characters are not sympathetic as The Killing, Terra Nova, and Being Human were perfect examples of lackluster character attempts. Books and movies can do this too. The Lorax and Avatar spent more time trying to send me a message than they tried to make me actually care so my sighs through Avatar were justified by the predictable plot as well (And don’t tell me it is visually appealing. So is a lava lamp, doesn’t mean they should turn it into a movie. What are we, cats? Also, watch that movie on a screen less than twenty inches wide and the pretty lights don’t hold up).

I had this happen to me with a couple of popular books as well. I read the first two 50 Shades books (gasp, she admitted it!), got to the third, and became bored. The characters were just fairy-tale copies (a prince/thief–of virginity–and a princess, pure and chaste) and couldn’t hold interest for three books, even/coupled with sometimes good, sometimes way too freaky sex, pointless drama (said in a How-it-should-have-ended voice), and bad prose. I read the first Shiver book for a possible piece on Young Adult (not creative but journalistic) and started reading the second novel when I had to stop when my audible sighs became too annoying to my own ears.

But it’s not just modern pop work that isn’t immune to my demand for at least one compelling character. I want to read the classic pop novels and can’t do it. I get fifty pages in and cannot care anymore: The Lord of the Rings, Dune, Interview with a Vampire, etc. I’m not what sure goes wrong, but it does. I can’t figure out what I’m missing either, since I love the live-action versions of these things (not old Dune with Kyle MacLachlan, though this was my introduction to Dune, not the theatrical version but the extended version, which by the way is as long as all three Lord of the Rings extended movies put together–It has a lecture at the beginning, which I sat through as a very bored, insomniac fourteen year old).

Not even the classic novels are immune. Aren’t these supposed be good? Aren’t these writers supposed to be the masters of their craft? The only reason I made it through The Scarlet Letter is because I had to for an exam. Everyone in Wurthering Heights was irredeemable. Henry James is the perfect material to put anyone to sleep with (To read his work I need someone crashing cymbals at random intervals behind my head so my eyes don’t close and suddenly I’m George Bergeron). I am supposed to read Ulysses over the next few weeks and that scares me because it is (read in Carol/Cheryl Tunt’s fancy dinner party voice:) “the greatest novel ever written”, which usually seems to mean that you’ll need to read it one million times to understand it, when you probably won’t get through the first reading nor like it or find it enjoyable.

So can I not be satisfied? Actually, I can. I could go through a list of novels, shows, and movies I love, but that seems like a boring way to do this. I’ve already mentioned that I like Supernatural and that I was satisfied with American Horror Story: Murder House, and I’ll talk about the last one.

I watched all of this season in two days. I consumed it like it was chocolate cake with raspberry sauce drizzled on top (i.e. like a I was a Hoover). It wasn’t just the mystery (jeez, there’s more than twenty dead people by the end); the characters were also interesting, with the great exception of Vivian. Ben and Violet were compelling. They had flaws. They made mistakes. They wrestled with their humanity–sometimes they wrestled naked with others (what? sex is interesting and you know it!). Vivian was the worm in the character apple of that show.

Ben: I know you don’t want me here, but my patients see me here, so I’ll leave after my last patient.

Vivian: *really long mean rant followed by* You can see your patients here, but you will leave after your last patient.

Me: Did you not hear what he said? He literally just said that’s what he would do. Are you so self-absorbed that you can’t hear what he’s saying?

Husband: You know she can’t hear you, right?

Me: That’s my point!

I hope the writers bring just as much awesomeness to Asylum and leave off on the bad wife cliche.

Empathetic Characters

1) show emotion (unlike Linden of The Killing), 2) have flaws that they are aware of (unlike the parents of Terra Nova), 3) make mistakes and at least consider taking responsibility for them (unlike Vivian of AHS: Murder House), and 4) are mostly good people (unlike the vampire from Being Human–I can’t be bothered to remember/look up his name, that’s how little I care: not even a quick Google search level of caring).

Some of the problem works I mentioned have other, bigger problems than a lack of empathetic characters, but this seems to be the most important part to me. Without at least one likable character, the plot better be so damn interesting or compelling that I’m pissing my pants because I can’t be bothered to go to the bathroom.

 
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Posted by on March 19, 2013 in Craft of Writing, Empathy

 

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