A shocking lack of accessible subtitled screenings across the UK means I have to spend weeks or months offline to avoid (Photo: Marvel Studios)
‘Don’t spoil the Endgame,’ the directors of the latest Marvel movie plead as the follow-up to last year’s Avengers: Infinity War hits cinemas. Yet for deaf cinema goers like me, it doesn’t mean much.
Spoilers are bound to surface online over time, but a shocking lack of accessible subtitled screenings across the UK means I have to spend weeks or months offline to avoid them. This is all while I’m on the hunt for the limited screenings available near me in Bedfordshire like a desperate Thanos searching for infinity stones.
The satisfaction that comes with truly immersive cinema is something felt by everyone, even me if subtitles are available. Endgame’s prequel, Infinity War, was my first-ever subtitled screening. The sense of being immersed in the action, rather than the familiar feeling of being lost with no idea of what’s happening, was incredible. It was no longer a case of admiring the stunning visuals of a film, but also getting really invested into the heart of a story.
When a film is released most people are in the same position, carefully navigating social media platforms and muting key words to avoid the plot being given away. But when a deaf person has a movie ruined for them and they have had no opportunity to see the film, it only makes the situation all the more frustrating.
If I’m not waiting weeks or months to view the first showing that’s accessible, then I’m looking to find the next one as a result of the previous screening taking place at an inconvenient time. Subtitled showings often take place on busy weekdays rather than weekends, the time of the week most convenient for families and those who work. Deaf people work too!
The sense of being immersed in the action, rather than the familiar feeling of being lost with no idea of what’s happening, was incredible (Photo: Liam O’Dell)Other times I am left to make do, like with last year’s Spider-Man: Into the Spider Verse. After waiting weeks I saw the film without captions in the end, instead opting for the cinema’s in-house headphones but these are super uncomfortable and I still don’t hear everything.
It isn’t just spoilers – it is the segregation between the hearing and deaf communities whenever a new blockbuster emerges that is more upsetting. The hype around the biggest movies is often a part of what makes the experience so engaging. With the new Marvel movie being the conclusion of over 10 years of films from its Cinematic Universe, Endgame is no different.
I spent yesterday evening scrolling through Instagram as I saw friends attend midnight showings across the country. Only one of them was subtitled.
Instead I am left to wait until Sunday, three days after the film opened in cinemas. Such a short time frame may well be manageable in terms of spoilers, but the bigger problem lies with the buzz. Hashtags, tweets, memes and images fizzle out in the fast-paced world of social media and people have moved on to the next big conversation. I am catching up behind them.
I am isolated and out of the loop as I catch up behind them. It’s a feeling not too dissimilar from normal conversations, where I’m sometimes told, ‘it doesn’t matter,’ if I miss what somebody says. It’s the same uncomfortable sense of loss and confusion.
The solution to all of this is simple, a case of putting on more subtitled screenings across the UK for deaf people and anyone else who benefits from them. Some cinemas and organisations are already doing this and looking into technical solutions, and credit must be given to them for doing so, but more must be done to include deaf people.
I remember when one cinema manager emailed me directly to ask when I would like to see a showing of Deadpool 2 with subtitles, and it was exactly the right thing to do. Involve deaf people in the process and creating a relationship with us.
Whether this is through meetings or a conversation online, cinema chains need to open up a dialogue with those who benefit from this form of accessibility so they too can enjoy the magic of cinema.
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