This is not the first time Karamo Brown has expressed support for people with disabilities. (Facebook: Karamo Brown)
Deaf and hard-of-hearing people are speaking out about inaccurate Netflix subtitles on some of their favourite shows including Queer Eye.
In an impassioned Twitter post, the culture host of the show, Karamo Brown, has vowed to take steps to enable accessibility of the program for all.
@KaramoBrown: Reading everyone’s comments breaks my heart. I don’t know how much power I have but know, the next time I’m at Netflix I’m going to bring up this issue internally
Brown’s tweet was prompted by a slew of comments from activists who were not getting the full experience of the program because the service was simplifying, censoring and misrepresenting the show’s dialogue.
@MortuaryReport: “I really wish @netflix captions for #QueerEye2 weren’t bleeping profanity AND changing the profanity used in the aptions. it’s really not awesome”
Fans noted that while the show already censors profanity, in the captions these words are replaced entirely, and in other cases phrases are shortened or altered which they argued changes the experience for viewers who are deaf or hard-of-hearing.
In one episode, stylist Jonathan Van Ness says “except for one that didn’t get cancelled and break everyone’s heart” but is captioned only with “except for one that didn’t get cancelled”.
@alley_mason_: “As a short example, what @jvn says is ‘except for one that didn’t get canceled and break everyone’s heart’
In another instance, Van Ness says “Oh my God babe, I can’t believe you didn’t know what an edge was” which is captioned simply as: “You didn’t know what an edge was?”
As ABC Language expert Tiger Webb notes, Van Ness is known for his creative interjections, as well as for borrowing from drag culture.
But the absence of accurate subtitles leaves deaf and hard-of-hearing viewers short-changed and without the full experience hearing people get to enjoy.
In the same episode, one of the show’s participants says “Shit, I look sexy” which is captioned as “Darn, I look sexy” — and similar instances are repeated in later episodes where profanities are replaced with the words “Crap” and “Darn”.
The streaming service replaces the word “shit” with “darn” in an episode of Queer Eye. (Supplied: Netflix)
In another episode Van Ness says, “that’s really where you can get yourself in a world of hurt” which is transcribed as “that’s where you can hurt yourself”, completely changing the intended meaning.
But Queer Eye is not the only program Netflix users have noticed captioning issues with.
Fans of RuPaul’s Drag Race, which streams on Netflix in the United States, noticed the catchphrase “sickening” being translated to “Simply no!”.
While users also pointed out that spoken dialogue by Jamaican characters in Luke Cage were “translated” to English or rephrased entirely.
One Twitter user asserted that federal FCC regulations require Netflix to run captions verbatim and told the media company, “you know better.”
Netflix said it would work to fix the issue, in response to Brown’s tweet.
“We’ve heard about the caption issues on the service, specifically for Queer Eye. After looking into it, there’s lots of dialogue missing from the Fab 5 that shouldn’t be,” Netflix said in a statement on Twitter.
“We’re fixing it. In some cases we do bleep incidental profanity from our unscripted series.”
@netflixhelps: “We’ve heard about the caption issues on the service, specifically for @QueerEye After looking into it, there’s lots of dialogue missing”
It is not the first occasion that Brown has spoken on accessibility issues.
Earlier this year, he posted a video on Twitter with closed captioning to urge people to embrace all people with disabilities.
“I’ve noticed we often don’t know how we can support ppl w/ disabilities. So I’m committing to making small changes in my life. U will now see my videos captioned for my deaf/ hard of hearing friends,” Brown said.
@KaramoBrown: “Dear friends, as a culture I’ve noticed we often don’t know how we can support people with disabilities”