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 it 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.