As is my custom on Tuesdays, when I’m home, I’m watching television. I had planned to write, but my smarts took the night off, so you’re stuck with a question — or is this an observation? — instead. (Okay, my smarts are fine, but I didn’t feel like ‘writing on demand.’ Sometimes it feels like a job, so I’d rather assume the position until inspiration kicks me hard in the ass.)
Tonight’s menu has included one of my guiltiest pleasures, Boston Legal. During the course of the program, there are a couple escorts included in background banter as William Shatner and Freddy Prinze Jr. chat in a bar.
I watch TV with the closed captioning on, for a few reasons. One of them being that I’m hearing impaired. Yes, you heard it here. I wear hearing aids. Always have. Itty-bitty in-the-ear ones, but they’re there. Such is life. Genetics, they fuck you every time, my friends. The loss is not overly severe, but enough that it cramps my style.
Anyhow, I also have worked in closed captioning, so I’m not deaf by any stretch. Back in the day when I did caption, we always would refer to unnamed persons by their profession first, if known, and if not, then by their gender. These identifications would be used in off-screen IDs for speech when a person wasn’t seen, and in character-specific SFX occurences.
So, there was this sound FX caption — done when action occurs off-screen that is distinguished by sound and is plot-pertinent — of [women giggling]. It was the escorts giggling. Their professions were known: They were escorts.
My question to you is, why wasn’t the caption reading [escorts giggling]? I mean, it was a crowded bar. There were other women. These women, the escorts, it was their giggling that was pertinent to the plot, not that blond ditz hanging off the bar with a Mai-Tai in hand.
Now, fair enough, my captioning house was one of the finest on the continent. My above-average grasp of grammar and such is evidence of that, no? Snicker. Right. Captioning styles vary from house to house, but when you have many, many women in one area and only two of them are pertinent, the tradition is to distinguish them. “Escorts” was the only way to do so, particularly when they had just been introduced to the viewers as “They’re not girls, they’re escorts,” by the always sharp-tongued Denny Crane (Shatner).
I find it interesting that the captioning house in question (the rather uninterestingly named “Closed Captioning Services, Inc.”) has opted to sanitize things for the viewers, when the producers of the program sought specifically not to do so.
But that’s the world we live in. A battle of ethics on every corner, a moral war written on every page. Only who is it we’re protecting from what, and why? Why not call a spade a spade when it is, evidently, a spade indeed?
The scriptwriters call it a spade. After all, the “escorts” are referred to later as “hookers.” A spade is a spade is a spade, it seems.
Is the reality of sex being so readily for sale so offensive that to see the suggestive words themselves written outside of dialogue is somehow even moreso?
Ah, who the fuck knows. We’re going to hell in a handbasket people, and the neocons are doing the navigating. Take a Right up here, folks. There ain’t no turning back now.