Wednesday, 15 August 2018

Deaf Girly and subitled Mamma Mia: Here we go again

Regular readers and my followers on Twitter will know that recently I've been talking a lot about the lack of subtitled showings available at UK cinemas.

And I am not alone in my rage or my quest to change this. But we are hitting brick walls.

Anyway, last night, I finally got to watch Mamma Mia 2 with subtitles at the cinema – Vue only provide subtitled movies on Tuesday and Sunday because apparently according to Vue, 'Our research showed deaf people prefer those days', which to me translates as

'The other days are important moneymakers for our hearing customers so we don't want to jeopardise this by showing films with subtitles.'

Of course, I might be wrong – but I have no way of confirming this, because Vue won't speak to us or offer any transparency on the issues around subtitles. And you see, for me most conflicts occur because of a miscommunication between two parties. So far our conflict is that Vue won't communicate with us at all.

But where was I?

Ah yes, dosed up to the eyeballs on Lemsip due to a sore throat bug I've had since Saturday and because I couldn't miss this only subtitled showing of this movie local to me, I headed to the cinema to watch Mamma Mia. I've learnt the hard way not to buy snacks at the cinema anymore – the number of times I have had to dump open nachos or popcorn because the subtitles have failed – so I had a bag of home snacks and rather reluctant (because Mamma Mia really isn't his thing) but super supportive FJM in tow.

He laughed at my excitement as we took our seats and we scoffed our Maltesers before the trailers had finished. Then, as the opening credits rolled, he squeezed my hand – an amazing acknowledgement of how special cinema trips are for the both of us.

And then, the subtitles didn't work.

At first I wondered whether it was simply that they weren't going to subtitle the singing but then the speaking happened and still no subtitles. And so calmly and quietly, I put down my chocolate-covered raisins and walked out of the cinema to find someone to ask what the fresh merry hell was going on.

I quickly found a manager who in all fairness dropped everything to sort the issue out. While I was there, a girl in her early twenties who was also wearing hearing aids, came out of the cinema and asked the same question as me.

'This happens all the time!' I said to her.

'Does it?' she asked, 'I hardly ever go to the cinema as there are so few subtitled shows!'

And we stood there rolling our eyes at the whole stupidity of the situation.

Eventually the guy came back and said he'd sorted it, but the lovely girl I was with hadn't followed. He didn't clock this, so I let her know and we walked back to the cinema.

'I am so glad you were with me,' she said as we waved goodbye to head up separate aisles. 'I would have been so nervous to do that on my own.'

'It was my pleasure' was my reply and I meant it.

But as I sat down I realised that while now, I will boldly assert my right to things when they are not right and ask for things and vocalise my needs, 15 years ago I would have also been nervous.

I wanted to give that girl a massive hug and tell her that she should never be nervous and that I will ALWAYS fight for her, me and any other deaf person who needs fighting for.

As I sat back down and the movie re-started with subtitles, I grinned at FJM as he mouthed 'I am so proud of you!' at me.

And I was proud of me, too.

But I am not there yet. Together with Deafie Blogger and a few other amazing people, we are trying to get to the bottom of the whole subtitled cinema conundrum. While we have theories about the lack of subtitles, we want to hear from the cinemas themselves and get transparent truthful answers about why they think it's OK to tick the accessibility boxes in pencil rather than with a flourish of pink Sharpie pen.

Why by showing one or two crappy movies a week at completely inappropriate times of day – Deaf people have jobs, you know – they feel they are doing enough for us.

I just want to understand.

When the world is made accessible to me as a deaf person, it gives it a third dimension. It gives it colour, vibrancy, and makes it such a nicer place to be.

Yesterday, walking out of the cinema with FJM, so full from all the snacks, eyes puffy from all the emotion – MAMMA MIA 2 IS THE MOST AMAZING MOVIE – I was walking on a cloud of happiness.

I'd had a date night with my husband at the cinema. It was wonderful. It was different to just watching Netflix at home. It means that I can now talk to my colleagues and friends about how brilliant Mamma Mia 2 is. It's helped me feel more included and happier.

That's what subtitled cinema gives me. Not just access to the latest movies, but a third dimension to my life.

And if that's not worth fighting for, I don't know what is.

Want to help us fight? Sign Deafie Blogger's petition here and tweet your hopes, wishes and frustration about subtitled cinema using the hashtag #subtitled cinema.


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