Wednesday, 5 April 2006


The things you learn about deaf people from TV schedule coordinators

Having one of those silly little job thingies to go to first thing in the morning, I tend not to stay up all night watching TV. Forgo your "awwwws, really it's OK"; rarely there's anything good on during the wee small hours anyway so I don't feel too deprived. That said, under a blue moon anything can happen. The other night there was a film showing during the graveyard shift which piqued my interest so - having regained my composure following this reality-assaulting mishap - I set my computer to record it.

When I settled down to watch it the following night I was disgruntled to discover that the lower right corner of the screen was obscured by a prancing pixie. He was waving his limbs about vigorously and feigning interest in the plot by means of exaggerated facial expressions; sign language I believe it's called.

If it was subtitled, deaf, or hearing impaired people could read the script to stay in the loop, and everyone else could disable them to fend off inescapable eyeball ensnarement. But oh no, that would be far too logical; let's instead have a drama school drop-out rooted in the corner of the screen throughout the film thesp-ing his way through an overly hammy rendition of Feel-Good Community Theatre for Junior Schools. Why the transition? Surely much of the dialogue (and a sizeable chunk of screen real estate!) is lost in translation. I find it hard to believe deaf people prefer this mode of delivery.

Why is it you never see 'signed' films being shown during the day? Are we to believe that deaf people by virtue of living in a silent world are all somehow blighted by photo-sensitivity disorders, sleeping during the daylight hours and awakening from their crypts to watch TV as soon as the sun goes down?

Maybe when the TV execs get together to discuss the upcoming schedules they reason that they can get away with showing celluloid detritus at night because there will only be deaf vampires watching who, also by virtue of being deaf, have poor taste and so will watch any pap you throw at them.
The next thing I learnt about these deaf, jobless (they're unemployable too apparently - that's another reason they don't need to sleep at night) night-crawlers is that they're a bit simple. This I gleaned from watching a scene in which the protagonist went on a date with the girl of his dreams and didn't commit any major faux pas. He was so chuffed with the outcome he skipped around a field, jubilantly waved his arms in the air, and clenching his fists in triumph shouted, "yes, yes, yes, woo-hoo", or words to that effect, as a footballer might after scoring a goal. To convey this intricate and subtle emotion to the deaf (and therefore dimwitted) members of the audience, our screen-squatting pixie mirrored the actor's celebration, albeit with the vigour of John Coffee walking the Green Mile for the last time. Good job too; without him filling in the blanks, the hapless deaf viewer might have missed this nuance of the narrative.

And what about all the work which goes into creating the right ambience? If two lovers are on screen watching the sun go down from a candle-lit balcony overlooking an idyllic seashore paradise you can really do without having some muppet flailing about in the periphery like a drowning puppy. Look up 'mood killer' in the dictionary and I bet you this scenario will feature in the definition.

Despite his best efforts, the signer didn't ruin the film for me - I decided it was drivel long before he got the chance to boil the blood in my veins to the point of a lethal eruption, turned it off and unceremoniously deleted the file.

To be fair to him, he wasn't entirely without redeeming qualities; he did have the good grace to vanish from the screen whenever the cast fell silent after all.


Anonymous said...

Heh, a deliberately offensive post, very nice. But seriously, what were you watching? "Bubble" interpreters are extremely rare these days; they're most often seen on religious channels.

dreamkatcha said...

Offensive to who? TV execs? I'm sure they're thick skinned enough to withstand a bit of gentle ribbing. ;)

It was a film called Miranda starring the guy from The Lakes (John Simms) and Christina Ricci. Decent cast, duff film.

Remember I'm in the UK so how and when signers are used on TV is likely to differ to the US.

So that's the technical term, interesting. This is the first time in ages they've blighted my TV viewing experience, but my dad tells me they're superimposed over his fishing shows all the time. I'm not quite sure how you can ruin a programme about torturing slimy, smelly creatures by hauling them out of the water on a barbed hook for 'sport', but there you go.