Steven Spielberg: Subtitles Are Racist
12/04/2021
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As the overseas movie market grew enormously in the 21st Century, Hollywood responded by adding more scenes in foreign languages with subtitles in English. A typical American thriller these days might have a 90 second scene with the bad guys conspiring in Russian or the government officials discussing how to help the American astronaut in Chinese or whatever.

But now Steven Spielberg has declared subtitles racist.

From CNN:

Adapted by playwright Tony Kushner, the film — described as a “reimagining” of the original — possesses a grittier edge, directly connecting gentrification of New York’s slums in the 1950s to the two gangs battling over their shrinking turf as if their lives depend on it.

1950s gentrification? Was that really a thing?

I was under the impression from Stephen Sondheim’s lyrics that the turf battle in NYC was instead due to Malthusian population pressures in Puerto Rico spilling over to the mainland:

Always the hurricanes blowing,
Always the population growing …

Rosalie: Hundreds of flowers in full bloom.
Anita: Hundreds of people in each room! …

R: I’ll give my cousins a free ride.
A: How you get all of them inside?

By the way, judging from “America” and “Officer Krupke” (“I’m depraved on account of I’m deprived”), will the late Sondheim eventually get cancelled for being a closet conservative? (And here’s Mark Steyn’s analysis of the rare Sondheim song with a catchy tune “Send In the Clowns.”)

CNN goes on:

The casting and subtle touches, like not subtitling the Spanish dialogue, also possess considerably more cultural authenticity than a period where non-Latinx actors would be cast in pivotal roles.

What could be more culturally authentic than the word “Latinx?”

Anyway, the point of translating more of Arthur Laurents’ dialogue into Spanish and then not adding subtitles that Otherize Spanish-speakers is to show that English only-speakers don’t own America anymore and should therefore be unable to listen in to the Sharks’ side of the dispute with the Jets. You are just supposed to assume that they, being nonwhite, have the better of the argument.

On the other hand, Spielberg, being a master showman, also rushes to assure English-only audiences that even though there are no subtitles, they’ll still be able to understand the Spanglish just fine, what with how much Puerto Ricans wave their hands around and mug shamelessly for the camera. Or something.

Interestingly, Spielberg apparently is not making the mistake of a 2009 Broadway revival of West Side Story that commissioned Lin-Manuel Miranda to translate two of Sondheim’s lyrics, “I Feel Pretty” and “A Boy Like That,” into Spanish, only to give up on the experiment in mid-run. Have you looked at the price of Broadway tickets? Not a lot of Spanish-speakers can afford them.

On the other hand, Hispanics buy a lot of movie tickets.

On the other other hand, my impression from going to the movies frequently in the heart of the Van Nuys barrio (at the Plant 16 complex that Tom Selleck’s family built and used Tom’s popularity with the cops to get an LAPD police facility to co-locate in their parking lot), which I suspect Mr. Spielberg doesn’t do, is that Mexican-American youth find Spanish in movies to be uncool. Sure, they’ll take their grandmother to a Eugenio Derbez comedy in Spanish, but Robert Downey Jr. rattling off wisecracks in English as Tony Stark in a Marvel Avengers movie is their favorite.

Subtitles (or, to be precise, supertitles) have done a lot to preserve the popularity of opera over the last generation. For example, the low cost Pacific Opera Project in Los Angeles frequently puts on operas like The Barber of Seville and La Boheme in the original Italian, the language that Rossini and Puccini wrote so well for, but fills the English supertitles with hilarious jokes about contemporary SoCal.

But this genial recent Silver Age of opera revivals is under threat from Wokeness. POP’s recent production of Madame Butterfly at the Japanese cultural center in Little Tokyo featured Pinkerton singing in English and Cio-Cio-San singing in Japanese, but it would probably have been better letting them sing in the original Italian, as unrealistic as that was.

From Slash Film:

Here’s Why Movie Dialogue Has Gotten More Difficult To Understand (And Three Ways To Fix It)

BY BEN PEARSON/NOV. 30, 2021

Reason Number One is director Christopher Nolan who has long been at war against intelligible dialog. Another is mumbly actor Tom Hardy, who played in Nolan’s Dark Knight Rises, Inception, and Dunkirk.

More systemic problems:

Mangini says that in the old days, “you could count on an actor’s theatricality to deliver a line to the back seats.” But acting styles have changed so dramatically over the years that it has become much more difficult to capture great sound on the set. …

Movies have become more visually exciting. And because of that, it is less likely that you’re going to be allowed to put that boom mic right where the actor is, because it’s probably going to drop a shadow because it’s in front of a light that the camera team insists has to exist to get the perfect look of the shot. So [the visuals have] taken precedence over what we hear.” …

The anonymous sound pro also pointed to what they view as an increase in the amount of music in modern movies compared to older films, bemoaning directors’ over-reliance on music as “pushing emotion” on audiences and the way music and dialogue are forced to jostle for prominence in the mix.”

Back in July, I asked about what kind of lenses I should get when I have cataract surgery on my eyes. I received many informative responses.

Some have recently asked recently which I chose and how the operations worked out.

But, it turns out, I had a lot of home repair expenses come up and ran out of discretionary money for the year. So 2022 will hopefully be the year to get my eyes fixed.

In the meantime, I need to raise some money.

Here’s me at the house Richard Nixon grew up in, which has been transplanted to the Nixon Library in Yorba Linda, CA.

I went to a wedding reception at the Nixon Library recently. It’s a fine place for a wedding reception with a life-size replica of the East Room in the White House

Thanks to everybody who contributed to the last iSteve fundraiser back in August. I am grateful for your generosity.

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