Deaf actress Lauren Ridloff wants to make sure that the Deaf community is able to get equal access to their favorite films when they head to theatres this fall.
Ridloff stars as the deaf superhero Makkari in the upcoming Marvel’s “Eternals” film. As her character communicates using sign language, captions have been provided to her scenes for members of the audience that may not be familiar with sign language.
However, for members of the Deaf community, it is often a hassle in order to try to get closed captioning devices so they can watch their favorite films in theatres. Although some theaters do have closed captioning devices that deaf and hard-of-hearing fans can attach to their cup holders, it often requires them to look back and forth from the cup holder to the screen.
Additionally, these devices are not always synced up properly to what is being said on screen, and sometimes, they don’t work at all. Ridloff, who has personal experience using these devices, revealed that the devices are “a headache because most of the time the devices don’t work.”
Already a superhero on-screen, Ridloff wants to use her position to encourage movie theaters to do better.
Which Movie Theaters Offer Open Captioning?
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Last month, AMC CEO Adam Aron decided to start offering open caption screenings at 240 locations in order to be more accessible to the public. Captions not only benefit audience members who are experiencing hearing loss, but they can also be beneficial to audiences where English may not be their first language.
Ridloff also pointed out that captions are beneficial for another reason, too. In the film, there are creatures called “Celestials,” which have names that are hard to pronounce. The on-screen captions allow fans to easily recognize the spelling of these character names, which could only otherwise be verified by sitting through the credits.
When Ridloff first accepted the role, one of her first priorities was to work with Disney to make the film accessible to everyone.
“It’s been an ongoing conversation since I’ve joined and they are aware of how important it is to subtitle, how important subtitling is to me, and to the deaf community,” Ridloff explained, nothing that she was “really proud of how accessible the premiere was.”
“We had interpreters floating, ready for any deaf and hard of hearing audience viewers to participate,” she added.
Ridloff Looks To Non-Profits To Promote Change
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Last month, Ridloff said that movie theaters “just need to be more willing to turn the subtitles on whenever someone shows up and asks for them whenever they ask for that accessibility.”
Gold House, a nonprofit collective that seeks to promote diversity on screen, launched a GoFundMe to provide more open caption screenings for the “Eternals” release.
“We know that the media directly influences what people see and believe — and ultimately how they are treated,” the fundraiser reads. “It is our responsibility to support authentic, dynamic, and multidimensional portrayals of diverse communities that can create lasting social change.”
The Walt Disney Studio Canada also worked with the Ontario Association of the Deaf to allow for open captions during an early screening of “Eternals.”
Although some people may not be fond of captions, they are a vital component to making films accessible for all audiences.
As “Parasite” director Bong Joon-Ho once said, “Once you overcome the one-inch tall barrier of subtitles, you will be introduced to so many more amazing films.”
— Variety (@Variety) January 6, 2020